September 28, 2023 10:45 AM

Singapore PM’s Brother Sued by Indian-Origin Ministers Over State-Owned Bungalow Dispute

Last Updated: September 03, 2023, 09:00 IST

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at the International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan, September 29, 2016. (Reuters File Photo)

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at the International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan, September 29, 2016. (Reuters File Photo)

Singapore ministers sue Lee Hsien Yang for defamation over bungalow rental, sparking a legal battle. Get the latest updates on this political controversy

Singapore’s two Indian-origin cabinet ministers have sued Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for defamation over allegations relating to their rental of two state-owned bungalows. The case conference will take place on Tuesday (September 5) at 9 am, according to a hearing list on the Singapore Courts’ website, Channel News Asia reported on Saturday.

The two ministers – Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan – had sent lawyers’ letters to Lee Hsien Yang in July, saying they would sue unless he apologises, withdraws his allegations and pays damages relating to the colonial-era bungalows in Ridout Road.

In a Facebook post on July 27, Shanmugam said Lee Hsien Yang had accused him and Balakrishnan of ”acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road”.

These allegations are false, Shanmugam added. Lee Hsien Yang and his wife left the country after declining to attend a police interview in July 2022 that relates to lying in judicial proceedings about the will of his late father and founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Shanmugam says he rented Ridout Road property to prepare for sale of family home, not profiting from rental. The issue surrounding the rental of the two Ridout Road state properties surfaced in early May when opposition politician and Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam questioned if the ministers were ”paying less than the fair market value” for the bungalows.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) was tasked to investigate whether there was any misconduct related to the transactions and found no wrongdoing.

The CPIB report, released on June 28, said the two ministers did not benefit from getting any privileged information. They were not given preferential treatment and their rental rates were comparable to that of neighbouring properties, the report stated.

The issue was debated in parliament on July 3. Lee Hsien Yang has made at least eight Facebook posts on Ridout Road before and after CPIB’s report and the parliament debate, according to the channel report.

A Facebook post on July 23 resulted in a correction direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), with the Law Ministry saying that it contained untrue statements. Although Lee Hsien Yang had put up a correction notice as required, he also published a new post two days later saying he stood by what he wrote.

Pointing out that his post was made in the United Kingdom, Lee Hsien Yang said, “If K Shanmugam and V Balakrishnan believe that they have a real case, then they should sue me in the UK.” Although Lee Hsien Yang is overseas, he can still be sued in Singapore, according to the media report.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)

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