The last time ex-PM Lee Kuan Yew spoke to a PAP politician about corruption, the man took his life.
In November 1986, then Minister for National Development Teh Cheang Wan was accused of receiving two cash payments of $400,000 each as bribes.
Phey Yew Kok (left) and Teh Cheang Wan (right)
When investigations started, he asked to see then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, but Mr Lee replied that he could not see Teh until investigations were over.
On 15 December 1986, Mr Lee received a letter from Teh which said that he felt responsible for the “unfortunate incident” and as an honourable oriental gentleman, he felt it right to “pay the highest penalty” for his mistake.
He was found to have committed suicide after overdosing on Sodium Amytal.
On December 10, 1979, he was charged in court on four counts of criminal breach of trust and another two charges for investing trade union money in a non-approved company. A total of $704,173.93 was involved in the case.He pleaded not guilty to all six charges and was released on bail of $100,000 with two sureties. He subsequently failed to show up in court after the case was fixed for mention on Jan 7, 1980. Investigations revealed that he left Singapore by train and proceeded to Bangkok, where he remained at large for 36 years.
On 22 June 2015, he turned himself in at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok and was brought back to Singapore to face the six charges he first heard on December 10 1979.
Speaking about Phey’s return, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that there will not be a cover up in the investigations, “even if it is awkward or embarrassing for the Government.”
Most people have speculated in the past of how Phey was paid to leave Singapore in order to silence him from revealing too much about the case.
Now that he has returned, shouldn’t we question why?
Is it to clear his name? (Assuming he was innocent) But if it is so, isn’t it a little too late – many of the witnesses would have died of old age, or have clean forgotten the circumstances by now. Even if he was acquitted, it would not have been a believable case.
Is it because he was ashamed/afraid of facing up to his ex-boss, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew? And now that the ex-PM has also passed on, he decides to return to lift his guilt?
Was it because he finally wanted to see his family? His children refuse to speak with any media about his return, so we can’t count on finding out from them.
What we do know, he started off his 36 year old court case with the following claim: that the money from the unions did not end up in his bank account.
With that claim, the Public Prosecutors and the CPIB are going to have a very tough time reviving this old case.