PM Lee asks TOC editor to remove allegedly defamatory article & issue apology within 3 days
The letter states that PM Lee not suing his siblings should not be taken as a free license to "repeat and spread false and defamatory allegations against him".
On September 1, 2019 at 6pm, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary sent a letter, on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to The Online Citizen’s (TOC) editor, Terry Xu.
The letter asks for the removal of the article, and Facebook post of the article “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members”.
The letter states that the article repeated “several false allegations against PM Lee” that were previously made by his sister, Lee Wei Ling.
The specific points of contention appear to be that the TOC article alleged that PM Lee had “misled” Lee Kuan Yew into “thinking that the 38 Oxley Road property had been gazetted by the Singapore Government”, and that it was futile for the elder Lee to “keep his direction to demolish it”.
The letter says that these allegations are baseless, and states that PM Lee had given a full account of the situation in parliament.
Other false allegations that the letter says the TOC article made included how Lee Kuan Yew, in 2013, had removed PM Lee as “an executor and trustee of his will” after finding out that the Oxley Road Property was not gazetted.
This the letter says is not true, and that Lee Kuan Yew had excluded PM Lee as “an executor and trustee of his will” from 2011 onwards. This was, according to the letter, due to Lee Kuan Yew not wanting to put PM Lee “in a difficult position” if the “Government were to acquire the property”.
The letter further states that PM Lee not suing his siblings should not be taken as a free license to “repeat and spread false and defamatory allegations against him”.
According to the letter, “PM Lee asks that you remove both (the article and the post) immediately”.
PM Lee also called for an apology to be published within three days (September 4, 2019) on TOC’s website and Facebook.
Here is the letter in full:
“1 September 2019
Mr Terry Xu Chief Editor
The Online Citizen
1. I am writing on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in connection with false allegations in:
(a) an article entitled “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members” on your website (at https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2019/08/15/pm-lees-wife-ho-ching- weirdly-shares-article-on-cutting-ties-with-family-members/) (the Article”); and
(b) a Facebook post on the “timeline” of your Facebook profile page containing a link to the Article (at https://www.facebook.com/theonlinecitizen/posts/on-wednesday-14-aug-ho-ching-the-wife-of-prime-minister-lee-hsien-loong-lhl-took/10157577806071383/) (the “Post”).
2. The Article and the Post repeat several false allegations against PM Lee that were previously made by his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling. In particular, they allege that PM Lee misled his father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, into thinking that the 38 Oxley Road property had been gazetted by the Singapore Government, and that it was futile for Mr Lee Kuan Yew to keep his direction to demolish it.
PM Lee thereby allegedly caused Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who had originally wanted to demolish the house, to consider other alternatives to demolition, and to change his will to bequeath the house to PM Lee.
3. These allegations are completely without foundation. In July 2017, after his siblings made similar allegations, and accused PM Lee and his Government of abuse of power, PM Lee gave a full explanation on these matters
He reaffirmed that Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s personal wish was for the 38 Oxley Road property to be demolished after his passing. However, after hearing Cabinet’s unanimous views that the property should not be demolished, Mr Lee eventually came to accept that the Government was likely to preserve the property in the public interest. He was consequently prepared to be flexible and contemplate options short of demolition.
With the rest of the family’s knowledge, he approved plans to redevelop/renovate 38 Oxley Road to remove the private spaces.
4. The Article and Post also make other false allegations. One such false allegation is that after it was revealed to Mr Lee in late 2013 that the 38 Oxley Road property had in fact not been gazetted, he removed PM Lee as an executor and trustee of his will.
The truth is Mr Lee had not included PM Lee as an executor and trustee in any of his wills from 2011 onwards. Mr Lee had explained to PM Lee that he did not want to put PM Lee in a difficult position, if the Government were to acquire the property and his siblings took issue over the compensation.
5. These allegations in the Article and Post are libellous. PM Lee has chosen thus far not to sue his siblings. As he told Parliament, suing them would further besmirch his parents’ names, and was therefore not his preferred course of action.
6. PM Lee also made clear to Parliament that under any other circumstances, he would have sued immediately, and that his decision not to sue his siblings then did not mean that he would not ever take legal action, should this become necessary.
7. However, PM Lee’s restraint in suing his siblings should not be misinterpreted by others as free licence to repeat and spread false and defamatory allegations against him, as the Article and Post have done. He has to rebut and deal publicly with such scurrilous attacks on his integrity and character, if necessary through legal action. This is especially as such attacks are also directed at his fitness to hold office as Prime Minister and to lead the Government.
8. The Article and the Post continue to appear on your website and Facebook timeline. PM Lee asks that you remove both immediately, and publish within three days, i.e. by 4 September 2019, a full and unconditional apology, plus an undertaking not to publish any similar allegations, prominently on your website (at https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/) and on your Facebook timeline (at https://www.facebook.com/theonlinecitizen/).
9. Should you decide not to take the opportunity afforded to you by paragraph 8, PM Lee will have no choice but to hand the matter over to his lawyers to sue to enforce his full rights in law.
Chang Li Lin (Ms)
Press Secretary to the Prime Minister”
Image from Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images and Terry Xu