Singaporeans 'sick and tired of endless' Oxley Road allegations: Shanmugam

Singaporeans 'sick and tired of endless' Oxley Road allegations: Shanmugam
Law and Home Affairs minister K Shanmugam. TODAY file photo
Published: 8:09 PM, June 17, 2017
Updated: 2:06 PM, June 22, 2017

SINGAPORE —Saying that Singaporeans are "sick and tired" about the incessant baseless allegations that have been throw up amid the Lee family dispute, Law Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday (Jun 17) pointed out that the Government has serious business to take care of regarding citizens' welfare.

He also hit back at Mr Lee Hsien Yang for questioning his inclusion in the ministerial committee tasked to look at the options for 38 Oxley Road. Mr Shanmugam said he was "well aware" of the rules of conflict of interest, having been a practising lawyer for 22 years. "The suggestion that I am in conflict is ridiculous. If Mr Lee Hsien Yang seriously believes that I was in conflict, he can get a lawyer to write to me and I will respond," Mr Shanmugam said on Facebook.

He pointed out that he was "already a Cabinet Minister" when he spoke with some members of the Lee family, at their behest, and gave them his views. "They were not my clients. Nothing that I said then precludes me from serving in this Committee," he said.

Earlier, Mr Lee Hsien Yang had responded to a statement by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean which, among other things, identified some of the members of the committee including Mr Shanmugam, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu. Mr Lee Hsien Yang said he and his sister Dr Lee Wei Ling had "expressed specific concerns" on Mr Shanmugam's possible inclusion and "his conflict of interest having advised Lee Kuan Yew and us on options to help achieve Lee Kuan Yew's wishes, and the drafting of the demolition wish".

Mr Lee Hsien Yang added: "This represents a clear conflict of interest. When we raised this in writing, we were brushed off by Lawrence Wong with 'nothing you have stated precludes any member of the Cabinet from taking part in the Committee's work or its deliberations, with the exception of the Prime Minister.' We found the refusal to identify the members of the committee, and to confirm Shanmugam's recusal particularly troubling as he is an experienced Senior Counsel and Minister for Law who should well understand the problem of conflicts of interests. Only now do we find out that he is indeed a member of this Committee."

In his riposte, Mr Shanmugam also noted that there are "dozens of Cabinet Committees set up on a variety of matters". Some of these are permanent while others are temporary, he added. There are several cabinet committees sitting at any one time, overseeing areas such as defence, retirement adequacy and the economy. The compositions of the committees are not public and they report to the Cabinet, Mr Shanmugam said.

Mr Shanmugam's parting shot: "I am sure most Singaporeans are sick and tired about these endless allegations, which are quite baseless. The government has serious business to attend to relating to the welfare of Singaporeans."

Dr Lee responded in a Facebook post on Sunday, saying Mr Shanmugam's remarks on the conflicts of interest issue were "absurd and unethical". She added: "We were once very good friends and each had helped the other a great deal...It is sad to see how he has changed."