Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), the younger brother of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has alleged that Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan are pressuring him to issue a public apology that he perceives to be falsified.
In LHY’s Facebook post on Monday (31 July), he claimed the ministers demanded he make a specific statement: “I recognise that the Post meant and was understood to mean that Mr K Shamugam/Dr Vivian Balakrishnan acted corruptly and for personal gain by having the Singapore Land Authority give him preferential treatment by felling trees without approval and illegally and having it pay for renovations to 31 Ridout Road.”
However, LHY staunchly defends his initial words: “Two ministers have leased state-owned mansions from the agency that one of them controls, felling trees and getting state-sponsored renovations.” He believes his original statement does not equate to an allegation of corruption or personal gain, and criticizes the ministers for insisting on a “false apology” for words he claims he did not utter.
The dispute started last Thursday (27 July) when Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan announced plans to sue LHY over defamation allegations, unless an apology is issued and the statements are retracted. LHY is accused of suggesting that the ministers acted corruptly, receiving preferential treatment by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) through unauthorized tree felling and state-funded renovations of 26 and 31 Ridout Road. Both ministers have categorically refuted these allegations.
In a Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam outlined their demands: Mr Lee is to retract his accusations, issue an apology, and pay damages, which would subsequently be donated to charity. Non-compliance would trigger a lawsuit.
In response to these demands, LHY reiterated his initial statement in a post last Saturday, adding, “My post did not assert that Shanmugam and V Balakrishnan acted corruptly or for personal gain by having the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give them preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval and also having SLA pay for renovations for them. My post simply stated facts that were already widely published in the Singapore and international media.”
LHY further raised the stakes by challenging the ministers to sue him in the UK, where he believes their case will be subject to impartial judgement. As of now, no public statement from Mr Shanmugam or Mr Balakrishnan has been issued in response to LHY’s recent declarations.
The Facebook post which the two ministers took issue with discussed topics around the rental of properties from the Singapore Land Authority, which Mr Shanmugam – as Minister for Law – controls, the felling of trees, and state-funded renovations at 26 and 31 Ridout Road.
In the same post, LHY also levelled criticism against the People’s Action Party (PAP), accusing the current administration, led by his brother, of squandering the public trust inherited from their late father, Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore.
The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office, under the instruction of Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth and Second Minister for Law, had earlier directed LHY to issue a correction notice regarding his Facebook post discussing the ‘Ridout Road Saga’.
LHY complied with this order on Tuesday (25 Jul). Despite complying, LHY defended his post in a subsequent Facebook update, insisting that his original statements were not misleading.
The POFMA directive highlighted that the renovations at the cited properties were essential, and their funding by the SLA was not linked to the tenant ministers.
It was further clarified that independent arborists, following necessary approval from the National Parks Board (NParks), decided to fell trees at both properties for safety reasons.
The directive also refuted LHY’s claims about the SPH Media Trust inflating circulation figures, stating that this occurred under SPH Limited’s management before the formation of SPH Media Trust, which then addressed and investigated the overstatement upon discovery.