Singapore

Oxley saga shows ‘no man is above the law’: Chan Chun Sing

Chan Chun Sing: Even Lee Kuan Yew's wish for house is subject to due processes

The "silver lining" in the Oxley Road dispute is it shows Singapore is serious about the rule of law, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

The dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings over the family house at 38, Oxley Road, also shows that Singapore has leaders who tackle difficult issues head on, he added.

Mr Chan made these points at a lunch dialogue with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association, when he was asked by a journalist from Japan's The Nikkei for his views on the saga, which occurred in June.

Other topics covered included the fourth generation of leadership. 

He said the dispute showed "no man is above the law".

"Not even our founding prime minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, put himself above the law," said Mr Chan.

He was referring to how Mr Lee's earlier wish of wanting the house demolished was not executed by default, as it was subject to due processes under the relevant laws.

DIFFERENT SIGNAL

"If Mr Lee had put himself above the law, I think it will send a different signal to the international community on what you can look to Singapore for."

Moving on to the ministerial committee studying options for the house, Mr Chan said it shows the country has leaders who will "take it upon themselves to bear the responsibility for the decisions of their generation".

He also said: "If Mr Lee has his personal wish and no one in the current or future Cabinet would have the sense of responsibility to think through the issue... according to the needs of the society at the time, what would it speak about the quality of leadership in Singapore?"

Mr Chan added: "The fact that you have people who are prepared to sit down, look at the issue dispassionately, examine the options, put it to the people, it speaks well for the country."

While the incident is "unfortunate", he said the response to it bodes well for the country.

"The incident will not define us.

"Our responses to the incident will define us," he added.

Choice of next PM 'won't affect Singapore's overall policy'

No matter who becomes the next prime minister from the team of fourth generation leaders, there will be "business continuity" in Singapore, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

This is because the overall set of policies would have been "thought through by the team, carried by the team, owned by the team", said Mr Chan, one of the leading prospects for the post.

Factors such as personality and style make a difference "at the margins", but they do not affect the country's overall policy direction, he added.

"You are not going to expect that if Person A becomes the prime minister (instead of) Person B, the direction is going to be so diametrically opposite as to cause a huge discontinuity or disruption."

He also said the members of the current fourth generation team can cover each other as their strengths and weaknesses overlap, "as in playing football".

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said recently that the next PM is likely to be in the current Cabinet.

Those seen as front runners include Mr Chan, Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.

When Foreign Correspondents Association (S'pore) president Sharanjit Leyl of the BBC asked Mr Chan point blank: "Would you like the job?", Mr Chan said: "All of us have to be prepared to do the job when called upon."

The "bigger challenge" that Singapore should focus on, he added, is not the fourth generation of leaders, but whether younger people beyond the fourth generation will step into politics. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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Chan Chun Singoxley roadLee Kuan Yew