As executors of Elder Lee’s estate, his children Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had filed summons against the government claiming the right to have copies of the oral history transcripts of their daddy which were done in the early 1980s.
However, the High Court agreed with the government that it was not Elder Lee’s intention for his estate to have free use or custody of the transcripts, and that use of the transcripts was personal to him.
The court said the transcripts were protected under the Official Secrets Act and that the estate could not grant access, copies or use of the transcripts without the Government’s authorisation.
The transcripts were produced as part of a Government project in the early 1980s to record the oral history of the country.
They contain accounts of affairs of state as observed and experienced by Elder Lee when he was prime minister.
A two-key system was put in place governing ownership of the documents, with Lee retaining the copyright and the government having physical custody of the tape recordings and transcripts.
Lee also signed an agreement with the Cabinet Secretary and the Director of Archives in 1983 with specific terms governing the use and administration of the transcripts, which stated that the transcripts would be kept in the Cabinet Secretary’s custody until the year 2000 or five years after his death, whichever is later.
After that, the Government may hand the transcripts to the Director of Archives.
Lee died in March 2015.
During this moratorium period, no person should have access to, supply copies or be able to use the transcripts without his written permission, according to the agreement.