Lee Kuan Yew estate seeks permission to appeal certain court orders, including expunging of affidavits

The late Mr Lee in a 1980 photo. His estate’s executors,Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, claimed that it was entitled to use and have copies of the transcripts as it held the copyright after Mr Lee’s death. The oral history was recorded between July 8, 1981 and July 5, 1982.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The estate of Mr Lee Kuan Yew has applied to the High Court for permission to appeal against certain orders made by the court in relation to a case involving transcripts of interviews Mr Lee did with the Government in the early 1980s.

The executors of the estate - Mr Lee's children Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang - have sought leave from the court to appeal Justice Tay Yong Kwang's decision to disallow the filing of an affidavit setting out how the transcripts came into the possession of the Cabinet Secretary after Mr Lee's death.

The documents had been found at 38 Oxley Road, Mr Lee's home, by a family member shortly after he died on March 23, 2015.

The estate is also looking to appeal against the court's decision" to seal or expunge certain affidavits, portions of affidavits, and other Court documents, from the Court file", lawyers for the estate said in a statement on Friday (Oct 7).

Justice Tay said in his judgment last week that he had disallowed the filing of the affidavit setting out how the transcripts had come into the Cabinet Secretary's possession, as "those details were unnecessary and quite irrelevant to my decision".

"The details would only serve to distract from the real issues. The real issues were the interpretation of the Interview Agreement and whether the Official Secrets Act had any bearing on its interpretation," he said.

"Accordingly, I dismissed the Plaintiffs' application and expunged those parts of any affidavits and other documents which set out or referred to the same details."

Nonetheless, he noted the relevant background facts that while the transcripts were supposed to be with the Cabinet Secretary, they were instead found in Mr Lee's possession at the time of his death in March last year, but there was no record of why they had been transferred to Mr Lee.

He also noted that sometime in the six weeks following Mr Lee's death, a member of Mr Lee's family had handed the transcripts to the Cabinet Secretary, "thinking that the transcripts were official government documents". The family member was not named.

The court ruled that the transcripts are protected by the Official Secrets Act given the politically sensitive nature of their contents.

As such, the estate has the copyright to the transcripts, but not in the conventional sense that it is entitled to access, copy and use the transcripts.

Instead, it has copyright only for the purpose of ensuring the Government's compliance with the terms of the agreement that Mr Lee had signed regarding the interviews, which were done when Mr Lee was prime minister.

This article was first published on Oct 7, 2016. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.