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Lucien Wong appointed after thorough and rigorous process: Indranee

SINGAPORE— Senior Minister of State (Law and Finance) Indranee Rajah yesterday dismissed the Workers’ Party’s concerns of potential conflicts of interest over the appointment of Mr Lucien Wong as Attorney-General, after he had served as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal lawyer.

PAP MP Indranee Rajah speaks in Parliament on July 03. Photo: Parliament House of Singapore video grab

PAP MP Indranee Rajah speaks in Parliament on July 03. Photo: Parliament House of Singapore video grab

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SINGAPORE— Senior Minister of State (Law and Finance) Indranee Rajah yesterday dismissed the Workers’ Party’s concerns of potential conflicts of interest over the appointment of Mr Lucien Wong as Attorney-General, after he had served as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal lawyer.

She stressed that Mr Wong was appointed “after a thorough and rigorous” process: PM Lee had consulted Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Public Service Commission chairman Eddie Teo and then AG V K Rajah before arriving at the decision.

Mr Wong was also “widely acknowledged as a top legal mind (and) consistently recognised as one of Singapore’s best (lawyers)”, Ms Indranee noted.

The Council of Presidential Advisers had advised President Tony Tan to concur with the appointment while Dr Tan, acting in his discretion, also supported it, she said.

Mr Wong will not be involved in matters where conflicts of interest may arise, including 38 Oxley Road, she added. Likewise, Deputy AG Hri Kumar Nair, formerly a politician with the ruling People’s Action Party, has “abided by the rules of conflict”, she said.

Mr Wong was sworn in as AG in January, and Mr Nair took over as Deputy AG in March.

While WP chairman Sylvia Lim and her party colleagues asked if there were others qualified for these posts, Ms Indranee said: “As a lawyer of almost 40 years’ standing, Mr Wong would have had thousands of clients. There is no reason why this should be an excuse for us to pass him over, and choose a less qualified candidate. Similarly, (Mr Nair) is among one of the top six to seven litigators in Singapore today.” When Ms Lim repeatedly pressed Ms Indranee on whether she agreed that it was “desirable to have distance” between leadership in the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and the Government, Ms Indranee replied: “The correct question is, (do) the members and officers of the AGC act independently? In other words, if there is a conflict, do they … apply their minds and carry out their duties without fear or favour?”

Ms Lim and WP chief Low Thia Khiang also raised concerns over potential conflicts of interests involving Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam as a member of the Ministerial Committee looking into the options for 38 Oxley Road. They pointed out that Mr Shanmugam was a close friend of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as well as other members of the Lee family.

Ms Indranee noted that Mr Shanmugam’s friendship with the late Mr Lee “does not disqualify (him) from doing the Cabinet’s work”, including sitting on the Ministerial Committee. She pointed out that the Republic’s first Law Minister Mr E W Barker was “an old friend of Mr Lee (Kuan Yew)” and a partner in Lee & Lee, a law firm founded by Mr Lee. “This did not prevent (Mr Barker) from being a good Law Minister,” she said.

In her speech, Ms Indranee, who had weighed in on the Lee family dispute several times on Facebook in the past weeks, also touched on other aspects of the saga.

She noted that there would be concerns if Mrs Lee Suet Fern had drafted Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Last Will, which increased the share of the estate for her husband, Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

Ms Indranee also pointed out that she could not see what disagreement Mr Lee Hsien Yang had with the Ministerial Committee looking into options for 38 Oxley Road. Under Singapore law, the lawyer drafting the will is required to be independent, she reiterated.

On Saturday, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said “preservation of the house would be trampling on Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s values, and it would be an affront to these same values to develop a luxury ‘LKY’ condominium”. Ms Indranee pointed out: “Isn’t that exactly the same thing that Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had said? Leaving aside the values? In other words, no total preservation and no development?”

Both Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mr Teo agreed that the extreme ends of the range of options are out.

“So, if the Ministerial Committee is studying the intermediate options within the range, what is wrong with that? Nothing has been decided. How can studying these options be an abuse?” Ms Indranee asked.

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