I met Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) several times between April and July 2015. I informed him that PM Lee had recused himself on government decisions relating to No. 38 Oxley Road (“the House”).
I conveyed Cabinet’s deep respect for Mr Lee Kuan Yew (Mr Lee), and that Cabinet will take very seriously Mr Lee’s wishes regarding the House, as expressed in his Will, at a time when a decision has to be made regarding the House.
I also informed him that no decision is needed now. Dr Lee Wei Ling (LWL) is living in the House, and a decision made prospectively by the current government could not bind a future government.
From Mr LHY’s latest statement on 27 June 2017, he agrees there is no need for a decision on the House now. So there is no difference of views between Mr LHY and the government on when a decision is to be made.
A misconception that Mr LHY may have is that the Committee is bent on preventing the demolition of the house. This is not true.
The Committee was set up to study and set out the range of possible options for the House and present them to Cabinet. Cabinet will only decide on which option to choose, when the time comes for a decision to be made on the House. If, for example, Dr LWL ceases to live in the House next month, then Cabinet will have to decide next month. If she stays there for 30 more years, then the Government in place, in 30 years, will have to decide. The Committee had written to Mr LHY and Dr LWL to clarify that it would list the various options and study their implications. By way of illustration, we highlighted that converting the House to a park would require studying the implications on the area, including for planning and zoning. This is in writing.
I had also shared my personal views, verbally, on some of the options with Mr LHY, such as demolishing the House but keeping the basement dining room with a heritage centre attached. My objective was to let him know that government was not bent on retaining the house as he seems to believe, but that we are calmly and objectively examining a range of options. I do not recall whether it was Mr LHY or I who suggested a memorial park, but he is mistaken that I expressed reluctance. I said that I personally did not support the options on the extreme ends of the range – preserving the House as it is, or demolishing the House to redevelop it for new private residences. There are indeed a range of viable intermediate options between these. Mr LHY seems supportive of some of the intermediate options we are studying.
So there should be no need to disagree on studying the options for the time when a decision needs to be made.