Sunday, 9 July 2017

Oxley Saga (Let dead dogs lie) Part 1.

If small states should act like small states, so say Kishore, then after reading the papers today about the parliamentary debate, I think a similar posture for us would be this, Singaporeans should just act like Singaporeans, that is, let dead dogs lie. Here is why.
PM Lee and DPM Teo have spoken and that should be the end of it. It's Parliament and the voices that care have been given a proper ventilation (which continues today). So, let dead dogs lie. 
PM Lee said that the real abuse of power would be to knock the house down without going through due process "just because it was what my father wanted." So, let dead dogs lie.
DPM Teo has denied that the ministerial committee had abused its power. He said PM Lee had recused himself and he alone chaired the committee. Notwithstanding that there is the SD issue on the validity of the will and the alleged stonewalling of the committee when LHY and LWL made inquiries of its composition, DPM Teo insisted that there is no secret to the committee as it was set up to be above board. So, let dead dogs lie.
Then, there is the Deed of Gift, which is strange to be called that since it seems more like a conditional gift with its onerous conditions. Yet, it was signed and Lawrence Wong admitted that it was legally binding. It was signed between the executors and the NHB. But as PM Lee was one of the beneficiaries of the will (private capacity), and considering its onerous conditions that denies Singaporeans what is fair (public consideration), he somehow managed to secure the legally-binding Deed in his official public capacity. If it was anyone else, in matters concerning a will dispute, they would have to bring the issue to court. But since the state's interest is concerned here, the government has to act over private citizen's rights. So, let dead dogs lie. 
Throw in the conflicts of interest point raised, and comes in SMS Indranee Rajah who insists that there is no basis for concern. She said all lawyers knows to recuse themselves when there is a conflict, "there is no basis for any concerns that A-G has not acted in a manner that is entirely proper." Well, there is the issue of the law minister's role in the committee and his role as an adviser to the late LKY's Will and siblings, and it's what bothered the younger siblings. I guess their allegation is ridiculous? So, let dead dogs lie. 
How about setting up a select parliamentary committee, an independent inquiry or the court of law as a further and proper forum to deal with the matter since it is of such urgency and priority that PM Lee was prepared to wrestle the issues in public, before all publicly elected officials, and even lifting the whip for such an occasion. And more importantly, in such other forums (courts or public inquiry), his accusers would at least be cross-examined to test the veracity of their allegations. However, that would be time consuming, draggy and extremely distracting - so says one MP. What's more "there is no specifics, there is no evidence, there is no substance to the allegation," so yes, let dead dogs lie. 
Here's another doggy issue. PM Lee could have considered taking his siblings to court for defamation? However, he admitted, "in normal circumstances, in fact, in any other imaginable circumstances, than this, I would surely sue (as the allegations are a "very grave attack")." He strongly believes he has a strong case. "But suing my own Brother and sister in court would further besmirch our parents' the end of the day, we are brothers and sister, and we are all our parents' children." So, let dead dogs lie. 
(Pardon me, I can't help but feel that all the other defendants - mostly citizens - in the past defamation suits taken out by local politicians unfortunately fall either under "normal circumstances" or in the other imaginable circumstances).
And I will be leaving Ho Ching out of this when she took the things belonging to and under the purview of the joint executors without officially seeking approval from them as another dead dog that had already been put to deep sleep.
Lastly, PM Lee also reminded us that "when the dust has settled on this unhappy episode, people must know that the Government (under his leadership) operates transparently, impartially, and properly. That in Singapore, even Mr Lee's house and Mr Lee's wishes are subject to the rule of law." 
So, together now, LET DEAD DOGS LIE!
Lesson? Three.
Some may say that the Parliament session is a media circus. Some may say it is a place of ventilation. Others may say it is a whitewashing session. Still others may say it is where genuine debates get aired, examined and settled, and all parties go home with a clear conscience. 
The only issue here is that the dock is empty. His accusers, his brother and sister, were not invited or subpoenaed to defend themselves or be unravelled by fair scrutiny. 
But then, they are not elected officials. They represented no constituency, and therefore are not qualified. 
Alas, one way or another, yesterday's parliamentary session has admittedly gone some ways to clear the air. But in my view, it is that salted, heavy and humid air that we Singaporeans are all too familiar with since the airing started three weeks ago. Only the cloth pegs and lines have changed. The linens are still largely the same. 
Sadly, the speeches, arguments and fielded questions and answers all appeared "recycled" to me. 
And if there's one concern I have about such formal, media-frenzy parliamentary hearing, it is that it reminds me of three household machinery (as metaphors), and they will form my three lessons here. 
1) Washing machine. You can't deny that PM Lee has taken his family's dirty linens over to Parliament to wash and air them there. And the persil-white detergent are the touch-and-go questions and answers presented in pre-canned fashion in Parliament within a structured and stipulated time frame. 
One journalist said that sunlight is the best disinfectant and "the best antidote to the odour of suspicion is to open the windows wide and let the fresh air of facts in." 
Well, how I wish it is that simple. I have a feeling that the odour of suspicion is going to linger just a bit longer than one would have hoped.
2) Treadmill machine. This is the feeling you get when you walk for hours thinking you have made some good progress only to find out that you are back to where you first started. 
Personally, I fear that the Parliamentary debates have only deepened people's suspicion and prejudices. The divide between the siblings, the nation and international opinion is still there - gaping, wide and deep. 
Nothing short of an honest, direct and close-door mediation session would do to make some meaningful progress in the matter. If apology is required, so be it. 
The true Parliament in my book is not one amongst men and titles. It is amongst men who confront their own hearts. For you can't shake another person's hand in isolation or what's the use of saying sorry to a mirror.
3) Refrigeration machine. If it ends here, after one or two parliamentary washing and airing, with lots of walking around in circles, I am concerned that the matter would be warehoused in cold storage. 
The younger siblings will still air theirs in social media and PM Lee will do so in other media platforms. After a while, the public gets tired, bored and annoyed, and they mentally and emotionally switch off. 
The polarisation will no doubt continue, but the interest of the majority - who have better things to do - would naturally wane. 
Thereafter, it becomes another cold case to be stored away. PM Lee and his cabinet would continue with business as usual as he leaves barking dogs alone. 
This will be a sorry state of affair as there would not be any resolution, closure or finality to the issue. It would be swept under the rug and buried to be forgotten. In the end, none would be the wiser.
That's my three lessons and here's my conclusion.
I think PM Lee should have the last say here as I end. I can't deny that he gave a good speech yesterday and it is reported in the papers today. 
The best part of it is not so much about parliament as the right forum, that we are all equal before the law, that he will serve the country with all his heart, that the government is still trustworthy and reliable, or that we are governed by the rule of law. All that is debatable to some extent. 
The best part of the speech is about family. He said, "When Mr Lee was asked what were the most important things to him in life, he said "my family and my country." 
PM Lee went further to say: "It pains me that this episode has put both under a cloud, and done damage to Singapore." 
And with that, this is to me the most hopeful and inspiring part of the speech:- 
"I hope one day I will be able to resolve the unhappiness within the family." 
This reminded me of Matthew 5:24 when Jesus said, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar (or Parliament) and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar (or Parliament). First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." 
That to me is the most sensible, wise and proper thing to do as the oldest brother, the beloved son, and the respected leader of a developed nation. Cheerz.

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