As Teo Chee Hean noted in Parliament today, the book, The battle over Lee Kuan Yew’s last will, is the product of a year of research by my team of researchers and me. It does not include any primary interviews, because I didn’t want to interview only a select few family members. I believed that that would be a biased approach.
Instead, it is based almost entirely on the compilation of affidavits, pleadings, formal documents and submissions from the Law Society of Singapore versus Lee Suet Fern case—rich source material. In February last year, Singapore’s Supreme Court approved my request to access the case file specifically for this book. Presumably Teo would have preferred if it hadn’t.
Readers will see that the book is exhaustively footnoted. (It’s available freely for download here.) Others who wish to access the source material, which is referenced throughout, will have to make an application through the Supreme Court (Case C3J/OS 2/2020). Any citizen apparently can.
Teo has said that this book is an attempt to “to rewrite the facts”. But every single fact in the book is from the Supreme Court documents. I have not introduced any new facts. What the book does do is offer an interpretation of the collected facts that might differ from the interpretations that vested interests have, whether any of the Lee siblings, or others in the political elite.
As Singaporean society keeps maturing, I believe it’s important to encourage a diversity of perspectives on issues, and not to rely solely on those from people in power. I can understand why somebody like Teo might be uncomfortable with this notion.
Some of my main conclusions, based on the available evidence, are that:
– Lee Kuan Yew wanted his entire house at 38 Oxley Road demolished—nothing else—but he was aware that it might not be.
– The following people have been unfairly judged in this matter by their respective public critics: Ho Ching and Lee Suet Fern, Lee Kuan Yew’s daughters-in-law; as well as Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang.
– The formation and findings of the Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road (MC) are, in my view, problematic.
I realise our findings are inconvenient for Teo. That the evidence to me seems to exonerate Ho Ching means he can’t paint me out to be a stooge for the Lees whom he’s fallen out of favour with. And, as the head of the MC, he may feel that our argument is critical of his actions—and, in that, a rare instance in this whole episode, he would be correct.
I believe Singaporeans can read the book and make up their own minds about our team’s editorial rigour and impartiality with the material.
But I do think it’s important to show just two examples of how today’s parliamentary statement, particularly Annex C that scrutinises the book, is erroneous.
On p. 4 of WQ-2Mar23, in reference to the alleged lies under oath by Lee Suet Fern and Lee Hsien Yang and other judgements, Teo says: “Mr Thomas ignores these findings by the C3J and the DT, and the admissions made by Mr LHY and Mrs LSF.”
I urge readers to go to p. 28-29 of my book, where I lay out clearly the C3J’s findings, including the alleged inaccuracies offered by LHY and LSF.
The next point is particularly relevant for those interested in whether LKY wanted the house demolished. Refer to WQ-2Mar23: Annex C, p. C15.
Teo states: “Mr LKY did not have discussions with Ms KKL [Kwa Kim Li, his lawyer] about reinserting the Demolition Clause into the Last Will, and was not advised by Mrs LSF that the Last Will reinserted the Demolition Clause.
Mr Thomas states that the Last Will was based on Mr LKY’s orders and suggests that Mr LKY had made a conscious decision to include the Demolition Clause in his Last Will.”
Again, Teo is wrong. On p. 20 of my book, I state clearly: “there is no record of him [LKY] having asked anybody for the Clause to be reinserted in the seventh and last will.” Also, at no point do I say that LSF advised LKY about reinserting the Demolition Clause.
However, there are salient facts here that Teo has omitted. How do we know that LKY wanted the Demolition Clause in his last will?
Most importantly, there is the e-mail from Lee Wei Ling, the only child living with LKY, at 10.06pm, Dec 16th 2013, the night before he signed his final will, saying: “Papa says go back to 2011 will”. (The so-called First Will, including the clause. See pages 35 and 70 of my book.)
Singaporeans can ask themselves why Teo has chosen to ignore LWL’s words. Though the answer may not be obvious. It still isn’t clear to me why this house seems to matter so much to a few.
Perhaps they are clinging to whatever they can.