At least six Members of Parliament and Nominated Members of Parliament called for an independent inquiry into the allegations that have arisen from the Lee family feud, on the first day of the Parliamentary debate on the saga.
This ranged in form from a Committee of Inquiry to a Parliamentary select committee. The former is established upon request of a minister and includes at least one individual qualified to be a district judge. The latter is a non-partisan committee of a small number of MPs appointed to deal with particular areas or issues. Both committees are empowered to summon individuals who can be questioned in a public forum.
Earlier on Monday (3 July), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered a ministerial statement in Parliament in response to his siblings Hsien Yang and Wei Ling’s allegations of abuse of power against him. He called their accusations ‘entirely baseless’ and said that in normal circumstances, he would have sued them for defamation immediately.
Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh and Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera led the way in calling for a Parliamentary select committee. “Such a committee would have the advantage of leading a process that could determine the facts and recommend follow-up actions to Parliament,” said Perera.
The committee’s independence would be underscored by the presence of opposition MPs, said Perera, and this would enable accusers to testify and be cross-examined. If their claims were baseless, they would lose credibility in ‘a very public way’. Noting that several MPs had posed questions of Hsien Yang, the NCMP said, “How do we envisage Mr Lee Hsien Yang is meant to properly…respond to these questions (when) he’s not here to respond to them?”
NMPs Kok Heng Leun and Kuik Shiao-Yin echoed this call, with Kuik saying, “Since the prime minister has already made his statutory declaration, it would be most fair and helpful for Singaporeans to have an independent committee set up to request that his accusers also offer theirs.”
“If the allegations are true, then the accused must be held to account, and if the allegations are false, then the accuser must equally be held to account. Otherwise, how are we the people to make sense of those who are less powerful who have been sued or bankrupted for equally or less defamatory remarks?”
Kok went further in suggesting that the government “consider seriously setting up an independent ombudsman to deal with such disputes in future whenever it arises“.
The majority of the questions in Parliament centred on the Ministerial Committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
-Additional reporting by Hannah Teoh and Wan Ting Koh