Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered a ministerial speech on the 38 Oxley Road dispute, this afternoon. The statement made in parliament was a coordinated response intended to repudiate the bevy of allegations made by his younger siblings Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang who claim that their elder brother has abused his power as the PM in matters relating to their late father Lee Kuan Yew’s last willed desire to demolish their family home; that PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching harbour ambitions to build a “Lee family cult” and launch their son Hongyi into power; and that the PM used his influence to obtain a deed of gift between the younger siblings and the National Heritage Board.
Defending himself against these “baseless” accusations, PM Lee spoke about discussions on 38 Oxley Road both prior to and after Lee Kuan Yew’s passing and shared about where the matter stands today, besides clarifying why he brought the matter to Parliament instead of a court of law.
On Lee Kuan Yew’s desire for 38 Oxley Road
PM Lee suggested that the main bone of contention between his siblings and himself is that his siblings firmly believe that their father wanted to demolish the house without compromise, while he believes that while Lee Kuan desired for the house to be demolished, he was willing to consider alternatives if the Government decided against the demolition.
PM Lee reiterated that his father, who for many years desired to have their family home at 38 Oxley Road demolished after his passing, reconsidered his desire after public pushback in 2011.
Following this, PM Lee stated that his brother Lee Hsien Yang proposed that their father gift the property to Singapore, subject to the condition that the house be demolished and for a small public park to be built on the old premises instead.
PM Lee said that he offered another option that Lee Kuan Yew preferred, where the house is demolished, re-developed according to Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes and then sold off, with the proceeds going to charity.
The PM and his wife then apparently drew up plans to renovate the house and remove private spaces which Lee Kuan Yew accepted before telling the family in December 2011 that it was “best to redevelop 38 Oxley Road straightaway” without demolishing it after his death after he died. PM Lee stated that no one objected to these plans when he and Ho Ching proceeded to adhere to his father’s new instructions.
It is only when he discussed what to say about the house in Parliament, PM Lee claims, that Lee Hsien Yang objected to the plans that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had allegedly approved, as he wanted the house to be demolished immediately. Lee Hsien Yang and his wife Suet Fern are said to have vigorously objected to the PM reading Lee Kuan Yew’s willed view on what to do with the house if it is to be preserved.
Following Lee Kuan Yew’s death, PM Lee claims that he recused himself from all Government decisions relating to the house and divested himself of his childhood home.
Today, after the issue has blown up explosively in the public sphere, PM Lee stated that there is no longer anything for the siblings to dispute over as he no longer has an interest in the house since all the 3 siblings want is for their father’s personal desire of demolishing the house to be enforced.
On Harbouring Dynastic Ambitions for son Hongyi
PM Lee refuted allegations of nepotism, recalling that his son has publicly said that he is not interested in politics and that he will not push his son to join the political fray.
He also addresses concerns about his wife being CEO of Temasek holdings by pointing to her superiors – the Board of the organisation and shareholder, the Ministry of Finance: “If Ho Ching ever behaves improperly, I have no doubt that the Temasek Board, the President and CPA know what their duty is,” he said.
On the Deed of Gift to NHB
The PM also disagreed with Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang’s claims that he used his power to circumvent their authority as executors of Lee Kuan Yew’s estate by improperly obtaining a Deed of Gift that formalised his sibling’s donation of artefacts to the NHB.
On the contrary, PM Lee claimed that it was the siblings who improperly conducted themselves when they failed to consult him when they signed the Deed although he is entitled to be consulted as a beneficiary of his father’s estate.
On the “Secret” Ministerial Committee
Refuting allegations that he convened and secretly governs the Ministerial Committee that has been set up, PM Lee once again highlighted that the point is moot since he recused himself from all committee decisions:
“I had nothing to do with the decision to set up the Ministerial Committee. I do not give any instructions to the Ministerial Committee or its members. My only dealing with the Committee has been to respond to their requests in writing by formal correspondence, no different from my siblings’ dealings with the Committee.”
“This is the right and proper way to handle a conflict of interest,” he added.
On choosing Parliament as the forum to defend himself
In light of speculation that the PM deliberately chose an arena that is biased towards him, PM Lee claimed that Parliament was the proper setting to clear the air as the claims made against him have undermined Singaporeans’ confidence in the Government. As the most commanding minister in office under the constitution, PM Lee said that he had to promptly and publicly address the allegations in Parliament as he has “a duty to explain myself to MPs, and rebut in Parliament the allegations against me and my Government.”
He said that while he ordinarily would have sued for defamation as the claims against him cast doubts on the integrity of the whole Government, he did not do so in this case as he did not want to sully his parents’ name by taking his siblings to court: “…suing my own brother and sister in court would further besmirch my parents’ names. At the end of the day, we are brothers and sister, and we are all our parents’ children.”
“As the eldest son in the family, it is my duty to protect my parents’ and family’s reputation,” he said, “I did not expect that they would disregard the family’s reputation and air this matter in public, by making baseless allegations against me and the government. As the elder brother, I really don’t know what else I should or can do.”
Send in your scoop to firstname.lastname@example.org