Tuesday, 20 June 2017

PM Lee Hsien Loong apologises for damage to Singapore caused by family dispute over Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38 Oxley Road

• Decision on Oxley house lies with Govt: DPM Teo Chee Hean

• No mystery surrounding ministerial panel: DPM Tharman




PM Lee will deliver a ministerial statement in Parliament on July 3 to refute accusations
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 20 Jun 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong apologised to the nation yesterday for the harm caused by a protracted and publicly aired dispute with his siblings, which has affected Singapore's reputation and its citizens' confidence in the Government.

He will deliver a ministerial statement to refute the "baseless accusations" his siblings made against the Government, when Parliament sits on July 3.



PM Lee issued a statement and a video on the matter yesterday, on his first day back at work after a vacation. He expressed deep regret about the harm caused by the dispute with Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang over whether to demolish their late father Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road.

His siblings had released a statement last Wednesday accusing him of misusing his power in a bid to preserve their father's house, among numerous other allegations.

PM Lee yesterday said these "serious allegations" went beyond private and personal matters, extending to the conduct of his office and the integrity of the Government.

"Much as I would like to move on, and end a most unhappy experience for Singaporeans, these baseless accusations against the Government cannot be left unanswered. They must be and will be dealt with openly and refuted," he said.

PM Lee said all MPs will have the opportunity to raise questions after his statement next month, adding that he has instructed that the People's Action Party whip be lifted. This will allow PAP MPs to speak according to their conscience and not be bound by the party position.

PM Lee yesterday urged all MPs, including opposition MPs, to "examine the issues thoroughly and question me and my Cabinet colleagues vigorously" about the matter.

"I hope that this full, public airing in Parliament will dispel any doubts that have been planted and strengthen confidence in our institutions and our system of government," he said.



When contacted last night, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said he needed time to study his brother's statement and would respond later.

In his statement, PM Lee acknowledged that Singaporeans have been disturbed and confused by news of the private dispute between him and his siblings.

A day after his siblings released their statement, PM Lee made known his "grave concerns" and questioned the "troubling circumstances" surrounding the preparation of the late Mr Lee's final will in a statement issued by his lawyers.

His siblings hit back with multiple Facebook posts, disputing his account about the last will and alleging that PM Lee had used his position to influence the ministerial committee into challenging the validity of a clause to demolish the Oxley Road house in the final will.

That prompted Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean to reveal the members of the committee and detail their scope of work last Saturday.

PM Lee said he had "done everything possible to avoid this state of affairs". He noted that his siblings were unhappy after their father bequeathed the Oxley Road house to him as part of his equal share of the family estate. He said he tried to deal with their unhappiness privately, first by offering to transfer 38, Oxley Road to Dr Lee for a nominal $1. When that failed, he sold the house to Mr Lee Hsien Yang at a fair market valuation, and donated all his proceeds to charity.

"I had hoped that this would satisfy them. There should be no reason for any further quarrel, since I no longer own the house and I do not take part in any government decisions on the house," he said.

Besides pledging to refute the allegations, PM Lee assured Singaporeans that the dispute would not distract him and other Cabinet ministers from governing Singapore and dealing with more important national issues, including pressing economic and security challenges.

"As public servants, my ministers and I will always protect the integrity of our institutions, and uphold the strict standards separating private affairs from our public duties," he said. "We are determined to repair the damage that has been done to Singapore. We will continue to lead our nation and serve you to the best of our ability."















Oxley Road dispute: House debate will clear the air, say MPs and political watchers
MPs, political watchers say it will allow allegations of abuse of power to be addressed publicly
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, Joanna Seow and Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 20 Jun 2017

Members of Parliament and political observers yesterday said they supported the move by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to make a statement in Parliament about a dispute with his siblings over their late father's house.

Putting the issue under scrutiny in the House will allow the Government to address in public the serious allegations about abuse of power that have been made by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the younger children of the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

PM Lee, in a statement yesterday, urged MPs from both sides of the House to examine the issues thoroughly and to question him and his Cabinet colleagues vigorously.

Parliament has been the setting where contentious issues had been given an airing in the past, like in 1996, when the late Mr Lee and PM Lee, who was then deputy prime minister, were accused of receiving discounts for properties they bought from Hotel Properties Limited.

The late Mr Lee, who was senior minister then, gave a public account of what he described as open and above-board transactions during the four-hour debate.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, in a Facebook post, said: "Like PM, I hope this will be the chance for all of us to discuss things openly and thoroughly, dispel doubts, and strengthen confidence in our institutions and system of government."

Meanwhile, MPs contacted said it would be a chance to clear the air.

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun said: "The debate is important for accountability... There is so much reported in the news. Singaporeans do want to know what is going on."

He cited specifically the issue of the future of 38, Oxley Road, the house where the late Mr Lee lived for most of his adult life.

"The key questions are: What was Mr Lee Kuan Yew's wish? What is the Government looking into with regard to the house?" he said.



Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad said the move to lift the Whip shows that "PM Lee is not afraid to put the matter under the microscope".

He added that the debate in Parliament will be welcomed by Singaporeans because the serious allegations made have created a buzz in Singapore and overseas.

"The accusations go to the heart of the integrity of the Government as well as PM as the leader of the Government," he said. "Having it properly scrutinised in Parliament will hopefully put the matter to rest and assure people that whatever actions taken so far are above board, so that the Government can continue to focus on the pressing issues it has to handle."

Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh from the Workers' Party, noting PM's call for all MPs to scrutinise the issue, said: "We have already been doing that and will continue to do so, in order to raise questions in Parliament on July 3."

Others, such as Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo, said they would canvass views from grassroots leaders and residents so that they can reflect them in Parliament.

Political observers interviewed said it was important to thrash out the issue in Parliament as the family feud has been taken public.

"It would help to clear the air and set the record straight. It would also help in regaining the complete trust and fullest confidence of the people of Singapore," said Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, a research fellow at the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute.

He also said PM Lee's decision to apologise was "honourable".

Dr Norshahril Saat, another research fellow at the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute, said he hoped MPs would speak their minds when Parliament sits because they are no longer bound by party lines.

"Citizens should also encourage their MPs - PAP or non-PAP - to speak on their behalf and raise tough questions," he said.

He added that many Singaporeans would feel assured knowing that PM Lee has said the issue would not affect important government business and pressing economic and security concerns.

Political commentator Derek da Cunha, meanwhile, suggested a live telecast of PM Lee's ministerial statement and the Parliament debate.

He added, though, that even a parliamentary debate "might not see an end to the matter".

He said: "It is entirely possible that we have seen only a small portion of the private correspondence that could be disclosed. I would not be surprised if, during the parliamentary debate, more correspondence is disclosed online."
















'Baseless accusations against the Government cannot be left unanswered'
The Straits Times, 20 Jun 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made a statement yesterday about the allegations his siblings made on the dispute over their former family home at 38, Oxley Road. Here is the full text of his statement:

Over the last week, Singaporeans have been disturbed and confused by news of the private dispute between my siblings and me. I deeply regret that this dispute has affected Singapore's reputation and Singaporeans' confidence in the Government.

As your Prime Minister, I apologise to you for this. And as the eldest of the siblings, it grieves me to think of the anguish that this would have caused our parents if they were still alive.

I had done everything possible to avoid this state of affairs. My father left the property at 38, Oxley Road to me as part of my equal share of his estate, but my siblings were not happy about this. I tried to deal with their unhappiness privately. I offered to transfer 38, Oxley Road to my sister for a nominal $1. Unfortunately, that offer failed. I then sold the house to my brother at a fair market valuation, and donated all my proceeds to charity.



I had hoped that this would satisfy them. There should be no reason for any further quarrel, since I no longer own the house and I do not take part in any Government decisions on the house. However, my siblings have decided to go out and make serious allegations publicly. For example, they say that I am using my position as Prime Minister to influence the Ministerial Committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. These allegations go beyond private and personal matters, and extend to the conduct of my office and the integrity of the Government.

Much as I would like to move on, and end a most unhappy experience for Singaporeans, these baseless accusations against the Government cannot be left unanswered. They must be and will be dealt with openly and refuted.

When Parliament sits on 3 July 2017, I will make a Ministerial Statement to refute the charges. All MPs will then have the opportunity to raise questions for themselves and their constituents. I have instructed that the PAP party whip be lifted. I urge all MPs, including the non-PAP MPs, to examine the issues thoroughly and question me and my Cabinet colleagues vigorously. I hope that this full, public airing in Parliament will dispel any doubts that have been planted and strengthen confidence in our institutions and our system of government.

I want to assure all Singaporeans that this matter will not distract me and my Cabinet colleagues from our responsibility to govern Singapore, and to deal with more important national issues, including the pressing economic and security challenges we face.

As public servants, my ministers and I will always protect the integrity of our institutions, and uphold the strict standards separating private affairs from our public duties. We are determined to repair the damage that has been done to Singapore. We will continue to lead our nation and serve you to the best of our ability.
















Lee family spat: Many concerned about fallout
People worry about Singapore's reputation, but some say claims of abuse must be addressed
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2017

The public spat between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings over their father's will and the fate of the original family home at 38, Oxley Road has kept tongues wagging over the past week.

But as accusations continue to fly between the children of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, a majority of the 100 people polled by The Straits Times are urging the family to take the fight offline.

About 80 of those interviewed over the past two days said they see the feud as a family matter that should not be thrashed out on Facebook or the news media.

They called for a stop to the airing of the dispute in public, concerned that Singapore's reputation may take a beating.

But the remaining people polled said that given PM Lee's position, even personal matters must get a public airing. They want him to address Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang's allegations about his abuse of power.



The family dispute spilled into public view in the wee hours of last Wednesday, when the two younger siblings issued statements on Facebook accusing PM Lee of going against their father's wish to have the Oxley Road home demolished.

They accused PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching of wanting the house preserved for their own political gain - a claim PM Lee refuted, saying: "I will do my utmost to continue to do right by my parents."

Over the past week, as conflicting accounts and personal e-mail exchanges emerged, questions also surfaced about the validity of Mr Lee's last will.

Amid the exchanges, retired supervisor Mohammed Ishak, 68, and IT consultant Ravi Parthasarathy, 55, said they hoped the family would choose to resolve the issues privately instead.

Said Mr Mohammed: "I'm very sad that this is happening. For all the great things that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had done, and with me belonging to the pioneer generation, I'm shaken. This should be discussed in private. Don't air dirty laundry in public."

Retiree Sim Jui Gek, 72, added: "It casts a pall over family values which are so important for those of my generation."

Many were also concerned about the international attention the spat has garnered.

Administrative manager Lisa Ng, 59, said: "I used to be quite proud of our country's reputation. Now, I don't know how to explain what is happening to foreign friends."

While marketing executive Eqtaffaq Saddam Hussain Gudam Hussain, 22, found the episode entertaining at first, he has grown tired of it. "I feel a bit embarrassed because other countries are publicising this. We depend on our political reputation for our economy."

Communications associate Rachel Yong, 24, said especially damaging are the accusations about PM Lee abusing his position.

Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had said in their statement that they feared organs of state being used against them.

Ms Yong wondered if it may give pause to foreign investors, adding: "With so many things to worry about - global trade war, terrorism, the Singapore economy and weak labour market - we really don't need this family dispute to destabilise the country."

But financial consultant Rosette Alcantara, 37, felt Singapore's stability would not be affected. "I think it's more of the late Mr Lee's family being affected since this country has been very stable for many years."

There were also those who agreed with the dispute being brought to light, such as teacher Michelle Bakelmun, 45, and housewife Bee Cheng, 51, who felt the issues raised, such as misuse of power, must be addressed.

Agreeing, student Barnabas Teong, 21, said: "Now it's in the public domain, they owe us accountability."

Financial adviser Heng Wei Lian, 32, referring to an internal ministerial committee set up by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean to consider options for the house, said: "And because a ministerial committee has been set up, it's not really private."

DPM Teo has said the committee is not "secret" as charged by Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, and is not unlike other committees set up to consider specific issues affecting Singapore.

Some, like housewife Sharon Goh, 51, hope the issue will not divide the country. She said: "Singaporeans must stay united and be supportive of Singapore itself, and let the matter resolve itself rather than being pessimistic and letting it polarise them."

Additional reporting by Revathi Valluvar, Lee Si Xuan and Ng Wei Kai






Unity needed to get through challenging times

It is unfortunate that the feud between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings is occurring at a time when we should be focusing on tackling the many challenges our nation faces both internally and externally.

Terrorism is on our doorstep. An uncertain economic outlook and rising unemployment are of concern. Renewal of political leadership to take us through trying times is still a work in progress.

We need unity and strong political leadership to take us through this difficult and dangerous period.

Preserving or demolishing the Oxley Road residence is of little significance to the well-being of Singapore.

However, accusing the Prime Minister and the Government of being morally corrupt undermines the trust and bond between the people and the Government.

It diminishes the Government's prestige and efficacy in protecting and enhancing the livelihood of the people.

I believe neither PM Lee nor his siblings harbour vicious, selfish motives in their family feud.

They just differ on how to respect the will of their father and how to honour his legacy.

While I sympathise with the frustrations of Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, I urge them to settle the family matter amicably and quietly away from the public eye.

Robert Tang Hin Ching
ST Fotum, 20 Jun 2017















Opposition raises questions about Lee family dispute
WP voices concern about allegations of power abuse; SDP calls for Commission of Inquiry
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

The Workers' Party yesterday voiced its concern about allegations that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has abused his power, in its first comments about the dispute between PM Lee and his siblings over their father's Oxley Road house.

In a Facebook post, the party shared the seven parliamentary questions its MPs have filed to "clear the air" on the allegations levelled against PM Lee by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

This comes a day after PM Lee said he would deliver a ministerial statement when Parliament sits on July 3 to refute their "baseless accusations", and urged MPs to scrutinise the matter.

The WP said it believes the family issues surrounding the house at 38, Oxley Road should be resolved privately or in court.

"We are only concerned with the allegations of abuse of power and the harm these have caused to confidence in Singapore and our political institutions," the party said.



Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee had released a statement last Wednesday accusing PM Lee of misusing his power in a bid to preserve their father's house, among numerous other allegations. The WP's questions cover different areas of these allegations.

Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh asked if the Government would agree to convene a Special Select Committee of Parliament, comprising MPs from all parties with public hearings that are broadcast live, to look into the allegations of abuse of power.

This is to allow PM Lee's "accusers to present all the relevant evidence to Parliament", said Mr Singh, who is the party's assistant secretary-general.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim asked what rules are in place to ensure that ministers and senior public office-holders do not influence or take part in discussions and decisions that they have a personal or financial interest in.

Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera sought more information on ministerial committees that are not publicised, while NCMP Daniel Goh asked Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu whether Deeds of Gifts executed with the National Heritage Board may be shared with third persons.

Dr Goh's question comes after PM Lee's siblings alleged he misused his position to obtain the Deed of Gift for items from 38, Oxley Road.

WP MP Chen Show Mao wanted to know if there are mechanisms to prevent and detect situations where organs of state are used by ministers to gather information for personal purposes, to advance personal interests or punish critics.

PM Lee's siblings had earlier said they feared the use of organs of state against them.

The WP MPs also asked if there are rules to prevent family members of political appointees from influencing senior civil servants on matters beyond their scope of work.

Besides Dr Goh's question, the other MPs' questions were all directed at PM Lee.



Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock also weighed in on the matter in a separate post on Facebook yesterday, saying that Parliament is not the right place to settle family disputes.

"It is an institution to make laws and debate national issues. Family disputes should be settled in courts. In Parliament, MPs have no details of the case and only hear PM telling his side of the case. Wrong platform," he wrote.

The Singapore Democratic Party also issued a statement yesterday saying the saga goes "well beyond a private family quarrel".

It called for an official Commission of Inquiry to be convened to look into the dispute.















Three key issues in the Lee v Lee saga
By Han Fook Kwang, Editor At Large, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

The family feud among the Lees is extremely damaging to Singapore.

Everyone can see this even if they do not understand all the complex details that have emerged from this sorry saga. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recognises this only too well and has apologised to the nation for the grief it has caused. The many issues that have been raised can be confusing, from the different versions of the will to which lawyer was involved in which deed.

But here's the thing - you do not need to understand every single part of the unfolding drama to know what really matters and is important for Singapore. In fact, you should not let the toing and froing over the details prevent you from getting to the issues of public concern.

So, what are the key issues? There are three.

First, it is a valid question to ask how involved ministers should be on this issue. The only matter that concerns the Government is whether to preserve 38, Oxley Road, which it has the right to do under the Preservation of Monuments Act. Any other issue, including how the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew decided on his will and who his lawyers were, has nothing to do with the Government, or with you and me, least of all a committee of ministers.

The Government has clarified that the committee would confine itself to looking only at various options for the house while paying particular attention to respecting Mr Lee's wishes for his house.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean further added that the committee wanted to get a clearer sense of Mr Lee's thinking on the house, and wrote to all the siblings, who provided differing accounts of their father's wishes. He pointed out that the committee's interest in Mr Lee's will was "confined to the light that it sheds on his wishes for the house".

This might well have been the committee's intention, but it now finds itself embroiled in an unwieldy dispute over Mr Lee's actions and wishes. Was it wise or necessary for ministers to be involved in such matters as Mr Lee's will, which are difficult to ascertain? Should they not have confined themselves to deciding only on what to do with the house - demolish, preserve or some intermediate option?

In retrospect, ministers should have stayed clear of the dispute over the will. They should have told PM Lee: As the eldest child, please resolve the matter with your siblings. Do not involve us. We expect you to solve it, hopefully amicably. Involving the Government risks harming its good name and that of its ministers.

In fact, this is precisely what has happened with ministers having to defend their actions setting up the committee and explaining its remit. With fresh revelations and allegations every passing day, Cabinet ministers find themselves more and more deeply involved in the saga.

Did they foresee this when they formed the committee and asked the parties involved to submit statutory declarations about the circumstance surrounding Mr Lee's writing of his will? By adopting such an adversarial and legalistic approach at the outset, they set themselves and the Government up for an ugly confrontation with the younger Lees.

It is not too late to reconsider the necessity of this ministerial committee and, in particular, its remit. Can the three Lees agree on this: Disband the committee and, as part of the agreement, cease from discussing the matter in public? They should make another attempt to resolve their disagreements privately. If they can't, appoint a mediator acceptable to both sides.

A further possibility: Let the Founders' Memorial Committee, which has already been formed to look into how best to commemorate Singapore's pioneer leaders, decide on the fate of the house. Why leave out the most important decision from this group of distinguished Singaporeans who were selected to look into the building of an appropriate memorial?



The second issue of public concern is about the Prime Minister being accused by his siblings of all sorts of serious transgressions. They say he has misused and abused his powers, using the state to pursue his personal agenda, including spying on them. In other words, they accuse him of being corrupt. They also say he has lied and misrepresented the late Mr Lee over what he said about demolishing the house after his death.

Under normal circumstances, PM Lee would not allow these statements to go unchallenged and he would have had to sue the defamers in a court of law. If he does not, he will find it difficult to sue anyone in future even if they accuse him of the most blatant corruption and dishonesty.

But the PM also knows that it would be fatal for him politically to sue his own brother and sister. The fallout from it and the court case would damage him permanently. It is also a highly risky business because you have to be prepared for your character and all your actions to be closely scrutinised in court. The People's Action Party leaders know this better than anyone because it was once their preferred method of dealing with their political opponents. Indeed, the party's success is founded on the claim that its leaders are men of the highest integrity and that it will go to the ends of the earth to protect that reputation.

Since he will not sue, the matter has now become a full blown political battle. Mr Lee Hsien Yang has taken to social media and the foreign press to argue his case and it is nothing less than that the Singapore system has become corrupted under his brother's rule. In his latest interview with the South China Morning Post, he said: "Singapore's social compact under Lee Kuan Yew was - civil liberties may be curtailed, but in return your government will respect the rule of law and be utterly beyond reproach." He said this social compact was now broken and accused his brother of being ready to use his "public powers to achieve his personal agenda".

That's throwing the political gauntlet straight at the PM over and above 38, Oxley Road. For this political battle, unlike the decision whether to sue, the PM has no choice but to engage and defend his integrity and his record. It is what political leaders are elected to do and the PM must show what he is made of. He has now decided to do this by way of a parliamentary debate on July 3 and will lift the party whip to encourage full participation. I hope MPs take advantage of the opportunity, though, knowing how tenacious the Lees are, the infighting is unlikely to end in the House.

Singaporeans might wish this political fight did not take place. But they cannot wish it away now. Some good might come out of it if, as a result, people understand better how the country is making the transition to a post-LKY world especially in the political sphere and how the Government is being run. Do Singaporeans want to know and to participate in this discussion? Do they have the political maturity to do so and in a way that will ensure the country becomes stronger in the process? It will be a critical test for post-LKY Singapore.

Finally, an important issue in all this is, of course, Mr Lee's legacy. Some people believe that, in fact, this is what it is all about. The founding Prime Minister's legacy is important, what he stood for and how he achieved so much for Singapore. But even more important is how a people move forward, beyond the record and achievements of their past leaders.

Mr Lee himself was acutely aware of this, which was why he was against hero-worshipping and monument-building. He knew that history is too full of leaders who misuse the past for their own selfish political ends.

Singapore is at an inflexion point, with the memory of its founding leaders still fresh, but facing a brave new world under very different circumstances that will test its survival skills. It cannot break completely away from the past but neither does it want to be a prisoner of its history.

Demolish or preserve the house? You couldn't find a better metaphor for the country and Mr Lee's legacy.

The writer is also a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.









Decision on Oxley house lies with Govt: DPM Teo Chee Hean
Ministerial committee set up to assist the Cabinet in discharging its duty under the law
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 22 Jun 2017

Under the law, it is the Government of the day that has to make a decision on the fate of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's house in Oxley Road, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

For this reason, it is "incumbent on the Cabinet to consider and decide on the issues, and I have decided to set up a committee to assist Cabinet to do so", he said yesterday.

"Cabinet cannot outsource decision-making," he added.

DPM Teo also said that "setting up a ministerial committee to study or work on issues is part of normal Cabinet working processes. Even boards of companies set up committees to look into specific issues."

His latest remarks on the four-member ministerial committee he heads were made in response to a commentary by editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang in The Straits Times yesterday.

The commentary, "Three key issues in the Lee v Lee saga", is on the dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his two younger siblings over the fate of their late father's house.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang are joint executors and trustees of their father's estate and want the house demolished.

PM Lee has recused himself from government decisions on the property but had said before that personally, he would like his father's wishes to be honoured.

Mr Han suggested disbanding the ministerial committee and leaving the decision on the house to the Founders' Memorial Committee.

This committee was set up in 2015 to come up with the concept for a Founders' Memorial to honour the first generation of political leaders. They include Mr Lee and core members of his team, such as Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam and Mr Othman Wok.

In his statement, DPM Teo said the Government of the day is ultimately responsible for the decision on 38, Oxley Road.

"This is where the powers reside under the law, specifically the Preservation of Monuments Act and the Planning Act in this case."

"Mr Han himself acknowledges this," he added.

Mr Han, also a senior fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, asked if it was wise or necessary for ministers to be involved in matters like Mr Lee's will. "Should they not have confined themselves to deciding only on what to do with the house - demolish, preserve or some intermediate option?"



DPM Teo replied that his committee's interest in the will is confined to trying to understand Mr Lee's thinking on the future of the house.

It is "an important factor which we would all want to take into account", he said.

Hence, the committee sought the views of PM Lee and his siblings.

It had to as the siblings "told us they had different views, and challenged each other's interpretations of Mr Lee's wishes", DPM Teo said.

"All views were given voluntarily, including those in the form of statutory declarations. Where there were different views, clarifications were sought, including the offer for them to be made as statutory declarations," he added.

All this was done through correspondence and out of the public eye until the matter was brought out into the open, DPM Teo said, referring to a six-page statement Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang posted on their Facebook pages in the early hours of June 14.

The duo accused PM Lee of, among other things, abusing his power.

Specifically, they pointed to the formation of what they call a "secret committee" to challenge the demolition clause in Mr Lee's will.

PM Lee has refuted their allegations. He will deliver a ministerial statement on July 3 in Parliament on the dispute with his siblings.

DPM Teo stressed that the siblings' difference of views did not arise because of the ministerial committee. "We still hope that differences of views on private matters can be resolved within the family."

DPM Teo said: "But ultimately, the Cabinet of the day... cannot avoid taking responsibility for making the required decisions on matters where the public interest is involved, and due process is required.

"Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself understood this and would have expected the Government to do so."









Oxley Road dispute: No mystery surrounding ministerial panel, says Tharman
Committees similar to the one on Oxley Road house set up to consider key issues, he says
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2017

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam joined the debate over the appointment of a ministerial committee to consider the options for the house of the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, saying there was "no mystery" behind it being set up.

Similar committees of ministers are often set up to deliberate on important issues affecting Singapore, he added, noting the practice began many years ago and has evolved.

"It is how we ensure that important issues are given in-depth attention, and the options are weighed by the ministers closer to the issue, before Cabinet makes its decisions and takes collective responsibility," he said in a Facebook post.

"It is how we ensure we are not a government that operates in silos, that the national interest prevails even when there are valid sectoral or private interests, and that the long view prevails over the short view wherever possible."



Questions had arisen over the ministerial committee on the fate of Mr Lee's house at 38, Oxley Road, after the siblings of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong charged that it was set up secretly to block the demolition of the house.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang - joint trustees and executors of their late father's estate - have accused their brother of abusing his power to preserve the house against their father's wishes, a claim that PM Lee has refuted.

Yesterday, Mr Tharman urged Singaporeans to "have confidence, no matter today's sad dispute", saying the Government can be counted on to uphold the system of governance - built by the late Mr Lee and his team - that respects the rule of law.

He also sought to dispel suggestions of ill intent behind the establishment of the ministerial committee on the house. He said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had "explained straightforwardly" why he set it up: because it is ultimately the Government's responsibility to make decisions on matters which involve public interest.

Mr Teo, who chairs the committee, had also said that "this does not preclude public consultations or the involvement of some memorial committee at an appropriate time".



Shedding more light on ministerial committees, Mr Tharman said they are set up to consider a range of issues.

"They help us think through difficult choices in Government before they come to Cabinet, and to canvas views outside when appropriate," he said, adding that he chairs several committees, especially those on social and economic issues. "In the last month alone, I met with five ministerial committees that we had set up to develop policies on key issues."

While some committees that deal with simpler issues sit for just a few months, others - such as those on foreign worker policies, and funding healthcare and retirement needs - "have to stay engaged for years", with new ministers coming on board over time.

A Ministerial Committee on Changi East Developments, for instance, has been around since 2014, Mr Tharman said. He also said it involves several ministers, supported by civil servants from their ministries, and focuses on coordinating plans for the airport expansion and the relocation of Paya Lebar Airbase, among other issues.

The committee's task is to find the best balance between different demands and plan options for 10, 30 and 50 years ahead. "That is how long-term our planning has to be," Mr Tharman said.

He noted that balancing all the competing interests is a challenge in governance faced by governments around the world.

"We have never got it perfect in Singapore, and let's be frank, we have had our share of policies that have turned out quite wrong at different points in our history," he said.

"But we have a system of preserving the rule of law, and of policymaking that balances public against private interests, and the long term against the short term, that is still a rarity in the world - and is at the core of how Singapore has succeeded."

He said this system, built by the late Mr Lee and his team, has continued through the governments under former prime minister Goh Chok Tong, who is now Emeritus Senior Minister, and PM Lee.

"You can count on PM Lee Hsien Loong and all of us in his team for that. You can count on the fourth- generation leaders to keep to a system that upholds the laws of the land, prioritises the common good and looks to the long term. Never thinking Government has got everything right, but always wanting to do right for Singapore," he said.

"And count on Singaporeans to ensure Government sticks to those principles - and to play our part collectively to keep Singapore united and inclusive."










The Cabinet and special committees
The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2017

The Cabinet, consisting of the prime minister and ministers, is the top decision-making body in the Singapore Government.

It has general direction and control of government, and deals with day-to-day administration and policies as well as long-term plans for the country.

While the Cabinet is collectively responsible for these tasks, some of its work is done through ministerial committees set up for specific purposes.

Such special committees comprise a group of ministers who are sometimes supported by civil servants from their ministries.

They can be chaired by various ministers. Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam chair some of these special committees.

The ministerial committees can last from a few months to many years, depending on the complexity of the issues they deal with.

For instance, those focusing on issues such as foreign worker policies, and healthcare and retirement needs, are more permanent.

The practice of setting up such committees is longstanding.It is also common in Britain, from which Singapore inherited its Westminster system of government.

The British Cabinet sets up Cabinet committees, which "reduce the burden on Cabinet by enabling collective decisions to be taken by a smaller group of ministers", says the British government's website.

The prime minister decides their composition and terms of reference.The committees could be ad hoc, standing committees or special committees. For example, the British Cabinet has set up a committee to take care of negotiations on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.




 





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