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]