The Parliamentary debate on 38 Oxley Road ended exactly as expected: PM Lee Hsien Loong used the occasion to absolve himself of wrongdoing and announced ‘case closed’.
In reality, however, important questions remain unanswered. This is because when issues are addressed only by one side, no one is the wiser as to the truth.
Declaring himself clear of all the allegations without subjecting himself to questioning in court or in an independent panel is unworthy of a leader who has been accused of abusing his power.
In the 2015 general elections, Mr Lee Hsien Loong channeled his late father by echoing that “whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him”.
That he has resisted widespread calls for him to convene a Commission of Inquiry where he and his siblings can be questioned at length in order to get to the bottom of the matter shows just how little iron the current PM possesses.
Mr Lee said in yesterday’s Parliamentary session: “Why do we need a Select Committee or COI, and drag this out for months?…Select Committees to investigate every unsubstantiated allegation, every wild rumour?”
The allegations made by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang are hardly “unsubstantiated” and “wild rumour[s]”. To cite but one, Mr Lee Hsien Yang has accused PM Lee of making a specific falsehood in his speech in on Monday, 3 July.
This, and other issues raised in the last two weeks or so, are serious charges that merit a thorough hearing and, if necessary, investigations.
As it is, Mr Lee fails his own test that anyone who impugns the integrity of the government will be sued. His predecessor, Mr Goh Chok Tong, made the same claim in 1999: “…if a minister is defamed and he does not sue, he must leave cabinet…if he does not dare go before the court to be interrogated by the counsel for the other side, there must be some truth in it. If there is no evidence, well, why are you not suing?”
That the PAP leader now demurs from such a move reflects abjectly the state of governance in Singapore where policies and legal actions are not applied uniformly and consistently to all citizens.
The PM’s unilateral claim of victory in yesterday’s Parliamentary session, pronouncing that there is no evidence of abuse of power on his part is a show of utter contempt for the rule of law. It is a clear breakdown in the practice of accountability.
Ironically, instead of clearing things up, the Parliamentary hearing and the PM’s refusal to go to court or call for a formal inquiry has further questioned his ability to lead the country.
This is troubling especially in times of such uncertainty and grave challenges for our nation.