Should PM Lee sue his sister?

I had written that I thought PM’s response to his sister’s accusations to be a very measured one. I still think it is. But it is very out of character. PM Lee and Mr Lee Kuan Yew are known for suing people who accuse them of corruption or abuse of power. Roy Ngerng was the latest person to have been dealt with in that manner.

When it was first reported that PM Lee has sent lawyer letters to Roy Ngerng to take down his defamatory statements and also apologise, there was a sense that PM’s response was disproportionate, but expected. It was a set play from PAP’s standard playbook. It was something that some friends and I had hoped would change with the new generation of leaders.

But I had a friend who strongly felt that PM had compelling reasons to initiate legal actions against Roy Ngerng. His argument was that it wasn’t sufficient for PM just to come out to refute Roy Ngerng’s baseless allegations. Roy Ngerng had to unequivocally recant everything he has said, publicly apologise, and public state categorically he was wrong to have made baseless allegations against PM. My friend also argued that if PM hadn’t done so, then there is a possibility that some foreign institutions (e.g. governments, MNCs) may actually believe that there is a nugget, however small, of truth in what Roy Ngerng had said.

And so PM Lee went on to take legal actions against Roy Ngerng. Even though Roy Ngerng wasn’t someone who was particularly influential nor were the things he wrote widely read. And even those who read his stuff take it with enough salt to give you instant kidney failure.

But Dr Lee Wei Ling. She’s PM’s sister. She’s LKY’s daughter. She had written a column in Straits Times for many years. She has a fairly large following. The things she wrote (before this spat) are considered credible. Whatever she said would have had much greater influence and shape what people thought about her brother, the PM. As evidence of her influence, this spat has been extensively covered by foreign media. Even the BBC reported it.

Yes. Dr Lee had taken down the offending post. But she hadn’t publicly recanted what she had said and apologised for making a baseless allegation. If we were to accept the logic that Roy Ngerng had to do all of those things so that public and international confidence in the integrity and character of our PM would not be affected, then PM MUST take legal action against his sister to clear his name. Otherwise, the public and international confidence in our PM would be shaken to its core!

Of course, some would say, don’t be silly. PM’s character and integrity both locally and internationally won’t suffer because of what Dr Lee said. That is effectively also saying that there wasn’t a compelling reason to take legal action against Roy Ngerng. A simple refutation of what he said would have sufficed.

So if PM doesn’t take legal action against his sister, there are two possible implications. First, public confidence, both locally and internationally, in the integrity and character of PM would suffer. Secondly, there is double standard – if you belong to the FamiLEE, you get free pass in some ways. If you aren’t, then out comes the hatchet… I mean… If it was Dr Chee and not Dr Lee who made that statement about abuse of power etc, I’m sure he would be staring at a letter from PM’s lawyers by now…

So. What will PM do? Will he vigorously defend his integrity and character?

[Featured image: Dr Lee Wei Ling with her father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and her siblings PM Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Lee Hsien Yang at the funeral of Mrs Lee Kuan Yew in 2010. Image from ST]

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17 thoughts on “Should PM Lee sue his sister?

  1. My 2 cents. PM Lee will not sue for accusations of abuse of power. His wife Madam Ho Ching has been in charge of Temasek since a long time ago while he himself is chairman of the GIC board? How often have you heard online posts or comments remarking that THAT is an abuse of power? Yet he hasn’t sued anyone for saying it.

    God knows how successive PAP leaders set their benchmarks and who to sue and who not to. But my thought is that this is one thing he will not sue over, even if it weren’t from his sister.

    Might be wrong. But in any case you guys need to stop the hang up over Roy this, Roy that. I get that you are drawing a parallel, but seriously, if you want to advance political discussion, then there needs to be some balance with reality, and presentation of arguments. Its the way the world works. Happenings over the past 2 years have pretty much ensured that invoking Roy’s name isn’t going to be effective anymore. I’m not sure if you get what I mean.

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      • Definitely so. It’s the intention behind the accusations. Is it to discredit the person or in LWL case, to express the intentions of their dear father.

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    • That would likely to be the case, I can’t argue with it. Although as of now, PM has never sued anyone for questioning Ho Ching’s leadership of Temasek as an example of nepotism, and I believe there have been a few. His father did on such things, but not him.

      As with the Roy case, I always felt that if Roy had complied with taking down the posts and apologized, then PM should have foregone the asking of damages. Of course, we now know that Roy secretly reposted the articles elsewhere, but I am saying that PM’s approach to me, should have been to first issue the demand, and only press for damages if it were not complied with. That way is more consistent to me and he would not face questions on LWL now.

      But I would like to ask those who now claim that LWL should be sued. Is it a matter of principle now? Or is it for want of a tit for tat response?

      And I’m not judging those who want a tit for tat response. Anyone would be unhappy with double standards and call for the same to happen to others what happened to oneself. Its the same everywhere.

      But if bloggers, netizens and opposition figures now call it a matter of principle, that PM should defend himself, protect the government’s reputation and so on, then they are hypocrites for latching onto the PAP’s reasons now, don’t you agree?

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  2. I’m no legal expert. But I think technically it might have something to be with the … I don’t know … circumstances of comment? LWL made it pretty clear in that expose it’s her opinion of her bro as a person, and it wasn’t a major assault on the system. Roy, CSJ, and even good (bad) o’ JBJ were out to condemn the system, and if successful, would have gained a lot of political clout. Something like that. As in LWL had little to gain even if her opinions were big time embraced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nope… nothing to do with circumstance or whether there’s anything to be gained by the person making the defamatory remarks. So long as the plaintiff can show that there’s damage to his reputation, it counts as defamation.

      Liked by 1 person

    • @ Thessauron:
      That’s simply taking a partisan line. Haven’t you heard: One Law for all?
      In any case the recent commemoration of LKY’s first anniversary were made using taxpayers’ money. This is the REAL problem. If PM LHL commemorates and use his own money I will simply shut up and even laud him for being such a thoughtful son!

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      • You do know that there are different types of laws? Criminal and civil law etc, and which area defamation falls under? And thinking the PM has no case is being partisan? My, my … …

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      • Defamation falls under civil. PM definitely has a case. There’s precedent. LKY sued some foreign papers who said that he abused his power to get LHL to rise in politics. And LKY won

        Liked by 1 person

      • @rench00 – “PM definitely has a case.”***

        ***You would think that LKY was right to sue his opponents because he won every case in Singapore. But his track record in overseas courts was dismal. If PM attempts similar suits in other First World courts, he is likely to lose too!

        Here is a quote from Gopalan Nair’s blog –

        “The common denominator in all these cases is this. They were all sued in Singapore in his courts. Not a single individual or newspaper was ever sued abroad with one exception. There was one case some years ago when he sued a Canadian newspaper over statements made by his former colleague and president, Devan Nair. I understand that the Canadian court promptly dismissed his lawsuit reminding him that the Canadian courts are not his Singapore Courts”

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  3. That the comments have circulated worldwide, LWLhas done a LOT more damage to PM’s reputation than Roy could dream of doing in a million years! And since the remarks come from his sister, who would know better, what was said carries Far more weight, no?.

    Liked by 1 person

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