Retired diplomat Bilahari Kausikan erroneously suggested that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sold his childhood home to his brother Lee Hsien Yang for a single dollar and that the he only did so because the younger Lee “bitched” about it, in the comments section of a recent Facebook post.
The Lee family home, at 38 Oxley Road, has been the centre of controversy after Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Lee Wei Ling publicly accused PM Lee of trying to use his power as head of government to subvert their duty to have the house demolished as per their father’s last will.
The relationship between the Lee siblings has been fractured since at least 2017. The younger Lees say that they have lost trust in PM Lee, both as their elder brother and national leader. Mr Yang then joined the Progress Singapore Party after asserting that the ruling party that his father founded has lost its way.
Even though he decided against contesting the election since he does not believe that Singapore needs another Lee in power, Mr Lee actively lent his weight to the PSP on the campaign trail and urged Singaporeans to vote “fearlessly” for the opposition.
Mr Bilahari lashed out at Mr Lee in a Facebook post that was published on Cooling Off Day and claimed that Mr Lee was attacking the system even though he benefited from it because he was “prevented from monetising” his family home by his elder brother.
Calling Mr Lee a hypocrite for joining a political party while maintaining that Singapore does not need another Lee in power, the retired diplomat said that Mr Lee was “trying to cause trouble without responsibility” and that this was “cowardly”. He wrote:
“I have two comments/ questions: first, you are a beneficiary of the ‘privilege’ you now eloquently attack. Why? Because you were prevented from monetising the property your brother sold you?
“Second, if you are really so upset, why faff around the margins, trying to cause trouble without responsibility? Your excuse for not standing for election, that there need not be another Lee in politics is hollow: what are you doing if it is not politics? Cowardly!”
Mr Bilahari made his distaste for Mr Lee more apparent in the comments section of his post but perhaps his most egregious remark was when he claimed that the Oxley home was sold to Mr Lee for a dollar when he actually had to fork out 150 per cent of the house’s market value to buy it from his elder brother.
In the comments section of the post, Facebook user Lucy Tan asked Mr Bilahari whether Mr Lee was given the house or whether he bought it. Mr Bilahari responded: “His brother (PM) inherited the house and when LHY started bitching about it, sold it to him for SGD 1 dollar.”
The former Ambassador-at-Large even asked Lucy Tan to do her research when he himself was spreading misinformation:
Several netizens pointed out that Mr Bilahari did not have his facts right.
According to TODAY, PM Lee inherited 38 Oxley Road but sold the house to Mr Lee Hsien Yang at market value in 2015. Both brothers then each donated half the value of the house to charity. This means that Mr Lee Hsien Yang forked out 150 per cent of the market value of the house – 100 per cent went to his elder brother and the remaining 50 per cent was donated to charity.
Mr Bilahari seemed to acknowledge his error and justified it by saying he was “too upset over the sheer hypocrisy” and that his larger point remains valid, despite the misinformation he had earlier spread. In a subsequent comment he added, “I really do not at all mind disagreement but hypocrisy raises my blood pressure, particularly in this case!”
Interestingly, one of the netizens who Mr Bilahari gave credit to for clarifying the facts did not seem to have the real picture herself. The netizen, Josephine Lim, believed that PM Lee sold the house for half the market value and donated double this amount to charity.
She added: “the deal was sell to LHY at 50% on condition that when LHY monetise it, he has to donate the discounted amt to charity while PM donate the 50% he received. LHY went back on his words n refused to donate so PM donated the 50% of $23m plus $23m of his own $.”
These claims are untrue, according to the press. Mr Lee Hsien Yang was only transferred ownership of the Oxley House once he paid market price. He subsequently had to donate an additional 50 per cent of the sale price to charity.
Mr Bilahari continued to claim that Mr Lee Hsien Yang paid market value for the house in subsequent comments. One netizen, Beng Ee Chua, reminded him that Mr Lee had to fork out 150 per cent of the house’s market price to buy the property but Mr Bilahari did not make further comment.