(Reporting by Nicholas Yong, Hannah Teoh and Wan Ting Koh)
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that there is “no problem of conflict” in Lucien Wong and Hri Kumar Nair being made Attorney-General (AG) and Deputy Attorney-General (DAG).
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (4 July), PM Lee was responding to questions from Workers’ Party (WP) MPs about the propriety of Wong and Nair receiving their appointments. Wong had previously been PM Lee’s lawyer while Nair was a People’s Action Party (PAP) MP before taking up their new posts in January and March this year, respectively.
Amid the ongoing feud over the late Lee Kuan Yew’s Oxley Road home, PM Lee’s younger brother Lee Hsien Yang had also implied that Wong’s appointment represented an abuse of power.
Citing Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah’s comments in Parliament on Monday, PM Lee reiterated that it is “perfectly normal for lawyers to have existing clients and connections, and to encounter potential conflicts of interest when they change jobs”.
The solution then, he said, is for them to “recuse themselves when matters come up which they had previously dealt with in a previous capacity”.
Well qualified for the job
PM Lee said that while Wong had been involved in the dispute over the Oxley Road home, he no longer advises the government on the matter.
Defending his endorsement of Wong for the AG post, the prime minister said, “He (Wong) is known as one of Singapore’s top lawyers, and has a high international reputation, especially in corporate and banking law.”
PM Lee said he told the Cabinet that Wong being his personal lawyer would not be an impediment even though the opposition would “make an issue of this”.
Similarly, PM Lee’s said that his knowledge of Nair – “as an MP and lawyer” – gave him confidence that the latter would make a good DAG.
The prime minister also emphasised the importance of having a strong Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) comprising “best that are there”. He cited Malaysia’s recent filing of an application over the International Court of Justice’s judgement on Pedra Branca as an example of why a top-notch AGC team is needed to fight such cases.
“The appointments of Lucien Wong and Hri Kumar will contribute to building this team and make AG’s Chambers an event stronger institution,” said PM Lee.