Tuesday, 4 July 2017

38 Oxley Road debate in Parliament Day 1 - 3 July 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong refutes siblings’ charges of abuse of power over Oxley house
He gives detailed account of events, saying Lee Kuan Yew considered options for redeveloping house
By Zakir Hussain, Political Editor, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has refuted the grave allegations of abuse of power levelled against him, and given his first detailed account of the saga of 38, Oxley Road.

Addressing a packed Parliament House, he disclosed how his father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had signed off on plans to redevelop his house before he died, which would save the historical parts of it even as it sought to keep some areas out of public view.

This showed that while he had wished that the house be demolished, he was prepared to consider other options, if the Government decided otherwise.

This, PM Lee said, was the main difference he had with his siblings, who believed Mr Lee was adamant that the house be torn down, with no room for compromise.

He added that Mr Lee had upheld the rule of law in Singapore throughout his life and would have expected the Government to apply the same standards of good governance even to him and his wishes for his house.

Admitting the allegations made by his siblings had damaged the country's reputation, he again apologised to Singaporeans, and explained his decision to bring the issue to Parliament for a full airing.

He said: "As the PM I have a duty to explain myself to MPs, and to rebut in Parliament the allegations against me and my government."

His account was supplemented by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean's account of the ministerial committee on the house that he set up and which he chairs, that has also come under attack from Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling. He told MPs that PM Lee had recused himself from decisions related to the Oxley house and left these to him and his colleagues.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong then described the difficult spot the National Heritage Board had been put in by the two executors of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's will over their Deed of Gift for items from the house.

But PM Lee's reluctance to take his siblings to court drew a sharp response from Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang, who called for a swift end to the saga.

Mr Low said the siblings should not make vague accusations against the PM based on scattered evidence even as he chided ministers for engaging in a "Facebook brawl".

"Making allegations that appear to be calculated to undermine the Prime Minister's authority does not make for constructive politics in Singapore. It is a reckless thing to do and I do not see how this is in the national interest," he said.

Over seven hours, MPs discussed various options to resolve the issue - including having the key players appear before a special select committee - while PM Lee listened intently, flanked by his Cabinet colleagues. The 11 People's Action Party (PAP) backbenchers, five WP MPs and five Nominated MPs who spoke asked probing questions of PM Lee and his ministers.

Many said residents were puzzled as to why a family quarrel had become a national issue in recent weeks, played out on social media.

In his speech, PM Lee asked MPs to question him and his ministers vigorously and without restraint - so that doubts can be dispelled, and Singaporeans' confidence in their nation's institutions and system of government strengthened.

"We have nothing to hide," PM Lee said, noting that he had lifted the PAP Whip to signal his commitment to a robust airing of the issues.

He said he would also issue his remarks in the debate outside Parliament separately. This will exempt him from parliamentary privilege, which precludes him from being sued over remarks in the House.

His brother Lee Hsien Yang had cited this privilege to doubt PM Lee would give a truthful account.

PM Lee's siblings have accused him of abusing his power to set up a ministerial committee to block the demolition of their father's house, to further his personal ambitions.

Yesterday, PM Lee told Parliament that moving to knock the house down without going through due process "just because it was what my father wanted" would have been a real abuse of power.

"That would have abused my position as PM and gone against the whole system of rules and values that Mr Lee Kuan Yew built up.

"In Singapore, everyone is equal before the law. Mr Lee understood this most of all," he said.

In an hour-long speech, PM Lee set out before a full chamber the nature of family discussions on 38, Oxley Road. He disclosed that while Mr Lee Kuan Yew had long wished for the house to be demolished, he also explored various permutations for the house with the family.

In 2012, he signed an application to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which approved a proposal to remove the private living spaces and renovate the house.

PM Lee said he heard nothing to the contrary until after his father died on March 23, 2015, aged 91.

When Mr Lee Kuan Yew's will was read to the family in April 2015, Mr Lee Hsien Yang for the first time objected to the renovation plans their father had approved.

PM Lee said that as a son, he wanted to see his father's wishes carried out, adding that there was no need to rush into making decisions on what to do with the house.

He said there was no substance to the dispute over the house, as he had recused himself from all government decisions on it and sold it to Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

PM Lee also responded to his siblings' accusing him and his wife Ho Ching of nepotism, of having political ambitions for their son Hongyi, and that PM Lee wanted the house to bolster his power. PM Lee said there was no basis for these claims.

"Regarding the house, and how its continued existence enhances my aura as PM, if I needed such magic properties to bolster my authority even after being your PM for 13 years, I must be in a pretty sad state," PM Lee said. "And if such magic can work, Singapore must be in an even sadder state," he added.

Yesterday, DPM Teo said the Government had a duty to consider public interest aspects of properties with historical and heritage significance. It was a point echoed by Mr Wong, who noted all properties with architectural or heritage merit were subject to due process.

The basement of 38, Oxley Road witnessed discussions leading to the formation of the PAP in 1954.

MPs who spoke touched on the issues of heritage and the need for due process. They said Singapore's reputation had come under international attention over this saga, and feared it was distracting the Government from more pressing tasks.

Mr Low said the matter should be taken to court, and others called for a select committee to be convened to resolve the issue, but Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary said neither would settle the feud soon.

PM Lee said fighting the matter out in court "cannot be my preferred choice". He believed he had a strong case, and the baseless allegations were a "very grave attack" on him and the Government.

But suing his own brother and sister would further besmirch their parents' names, drag the process out, and cause more distraction and distress to Singaporeans, he said.

This was why he hoped the Parliament debate would deal with the issue expeditiously and put it to rest.

"When the dust has settled on this unhappy episode, people must know that the Government operates transparently, impartially, and properly. That in Singapore, even Mr Lee (Kuan Yew)'s house and Mr Lee's wishes are subject to the rule of law," PM Lee said.

"That the Government he built is able to withstand intense and sustained attacks on its reputation and integrity, and emerge not just untainted, but in fact strengthened."

"This is the 'house' that Mr Lee built, not 38, Oxley Road," he said.

PM Lee will respond to the various questions raised by MPs when Parliament resumes today (4 July).

Oxley Road: ‘Ironic’ that PM Lee’s action is termed abuse of power, says DPM Teo
He followed proper process in recusing himself, letting ministerial committee consider options, says DPM Teo
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

It is ironic that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's act of following the proper process, such as letting a ministerial committee consider options for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house, has now been labelled an abuse of power, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

"If PM Lee had not recused himself, and had simply, as PM, ordered the government agencies to demolish the house without due process, that would truly have been an abuse of authority and power," said Mr Teo.

He also refuted claims by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling that their brother, PM Lee, had abused his power by setting up the committee.

It was proper for the Prime Minister to recuse himself, as there is a conflict of interest between his public role as the head of government and his private role as son of the late Mr Lee, and someone who had originally been bequeathed the property, he said.

Nor did he bypass the due process to get the house demolished.

"Instead, PM Lee did the proper thing, recused himself and let the Cabinet without him, chaired by me, decide on how to proceed with the matter. It is ironic that following the proper process is now being labelled, by some, as an abuse of power," said Mr Teo.

"Perhaps it is because they feel that their demand for a particular outcome should simply be carried out. But simply doing this would be an abuse of power."

Mr Teo yesterday gave more details on the committee, which comprises himself, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, and Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

The younger Lee siblings have charged that the "secret" committee was set up to bypass the courts and has not been transparent.

Mr Teo said that the Government got involved in the matter of 38, Oxley Road as it has the responsibility to consider the public interest aspects of properties with historical and heritage significance.

He said the late Mr Lee's house is a key marker of the "turning point in our history" and deliberations have to be made now, before irreversible steps such as demolition and redevelopment are taken.

The Government has a range of powers to gazette and acquire such property, Mr Teo noted, adding: "Government cannot outsource decision-making on this. Ultimately, the government of the day has to decide and carry the decision."

He said public interests and considerations apply to the house at 38, Oxley Road, as it was home to Singapore's founding prime minister, and its dining room was the site where critical decisions on the country's future were made.

Mr Teo also gave an insight into the committee's formation.

The Cabinet approved the proposal by Mr Wong to set up a committee to draw up the range of possible options for 38, Oxley Road on June 1 last year, after PM Lee in 2015 recused himself from decisions relating to the house.

Mr Teo said the committee could provide useful inputs to a future government deciding on the house as it comprised ministers who had personally discussed this matter with the late Mr Lee.

After all, neither the Cabinet nor the committee would be making a decision on the house now, said Mr Teo.

"There is no decision required so long as Dr Lee continues staying in the house. This is what Mr Lee wanted and expressed in his will," he said.

The committee, said Mr Teo, is merely preparing "drawer plans of various options and their implications" so that a future government can refer to them and make an informed decision.

He also said that the committee has been paying particular attention to respecting the late Mr Lee's wishes for his house as it considers the range of possible options.

For this reason, the committee sought views from all three of the late Mr Lee's children.

Mr Teo pointed out that Mr Lee Hsien Yang has made various "baseless" allegations, including that he and Dr Lee have been kept in the dark about the committee.

He said that the siblings were informed about the committee shortly after it was formed and had made representations.

"Indeed, if this were a secret committee and they were not aware of its existence, how could they be making representations?" he said, adding that questions must be asked about whether the siblings were truthful and honest in their allegations.

"Just because Mr Lee Hsien Yang may have some questions that he found inconvenient to answer, that does not mean that the committee was abusing its power or doing something wrong," said Mr Teo.

DPM Teo: Keeping historic basement room a good intermediate option
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Demolishing the 38, Oxley Road house, but keeping its historic basement dining room with a heritage centre, is an intermediate option that could "provide a good solution" for what to do with the home of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said this in Parliament yesterday, pointing out that the ministerial committee considering options for the house has been studying various intermediate options. He was delivering a ministerial statement concerning this committee, which he set up and chairs. "I personally think there are merits in these intermediate options which could provide a good solution," he said, adding that studies are ongoing.

He said the committee does not take a binary approach when considering options - meaning the house must either be kept as is, or demolished. "Instead, the committee's approach is to study and prepare a range of options for the property and the neighbourhood so that a future government can make an informed and considered decision when it becomes necessary."

In saying this, he also outlined the next steps for the committee, pointing out that the Government was not required to make a decision on the house now as Dr Lee Wei Ling is still living there. No decision is required until she moves out. This position is also recognised by Mr Lee Hsien Yang, said DPM Teo. But even though no decision is required now, the Government has a "duty to go through due process" and develop what he termed "drawer plans" for when it had to take a decision on the house. At the moment, the house is owned by Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

And despite the fact that there was no urgency for the committee to complete its studies "within a timeframe", DPM Teo said he would "consult my colleagues to see if it is useful to put out a range of possibilities, to let the public ponder on the matter without having to arrive at any decision".

DPM Teo also revealed that he had met Mr Lee Hsien Yang five times between April 14 and July in 2015, and another time in April 2016, for a range of issues, before the ministerial committee was formed in June 2016.

At their April 27, 2015 meeting, DPM Teo said various possibilities for the property were discussed.

"I informed Mr Lee Hsien Yang that I would personally not support the options at either end of the range. At one end, preserving the house as it is for visitors to enter and see the private spaces, would be totally against the wishes of Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew," he said. "And at the other end, demolishing the house and putting the property on the market to develop new private residences such as luxury apartments. This remains my view."

He said it was his hope that a "wise decision" would be made on the matter "in an informed and considered way that takes into account the significant public interest to preserve the heritage of our young nation, while respecting Mr Lee's personal wishes for the house".


Lawrence Wong addresses questions on deed of gift
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday explained why the National Heritage Board (NHB) initially decided to hold off displaying items from 38, Oxley Road for an exhibition on Singapore's founding fathers, even though it had signed a legally binding deed of gift.

Mr Wong, who was minister for Community, Culture and Youth when the exhibition was being planned in 2015, told Parliament that NHB was "caught in a difficult position" after it found out that there were questions about the agreement's validity.

Chief among its concerns was whether the will's executors, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, could enter into the deed without consulting all its beneficiaries - in this case, their older brother Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

PM Lee had been informed about the exhibition and donation in his official capacity. He then told Mr Wong that as a beneficiary of the estate, his consent for the donation had not been sought.

Mr Wong's explanation comes after an earlier Facebook post from Mr Lee Hsien Yang criticising NHB's about-turn after signing the deed.

Yesterday, Mr Wong said PM Lee had also found the deed's terms "onerous" for NHB, as it included "highly unusual" clauses like the right to buy back the donated items at $1 as long as the house was not demolished.

A second condition was to display only the first part of the demolition clause in Mr Lee Kuan Yew's will during the exhibition, but not the second part which stated that the house should be kept off limits to the public should demolition not be possible due to changes to the law.

Mr Wong then set out the sequence of events after PM Lee took issue with the deed.

He and then NHB chief executive Rosa Daniel decided "it would be better to take a pause and not rush the Oxley Road items for the August exhibition", and display them later after the issues were resolved. NHB had no intention to breach any legal obligations, and was simply carrying out its duty to check whether the deed of gift was in order, Mr Wong said.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang subsequently said that while the executors had not obtained probate for the will, they did not need probate to have the power to offer the deed of gift.

"He also said that NHB should not be concerned about the position of the beneficiaries under the will," said Mr Wong.

He added that Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean was concerned about displaying only part of the demolition clause, which did not fully reflect the late Mr Lee's wishes. However, he and DPM Teo eventually agreed that the pluses of having the exhibition with the Oxley Road artefacts "outweighed the potential controversy that was likely to arise".

NHB proceeded with the exhibition after PM Lee told Mr Wong on June 25 that he had, in his capacity as beneficiary, informed his siblings he would not object to it.

In his statement, Mr Wong also revealed that Mrs Lee Suet Fern, Mr Lee Hsien Yang's wife and a director on NHB's board at the time, was also involved in the discussions between NHB and the executors. She supported the conditions stipulated in the deed, and her law firm Morgan Lewis Stamford helped in the process of finalising the deed, he said.

Mr Wong also reiterated that the deed was shown to PM Lee in his official capacity, and that he would have been entitled to it in his private capacity as the eldest child and a beneficiary of the estate.

'Rigorous process' to assess sites of heritage merit
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

All properties with architectural or heritage merit - including 38, Oxley Road - should be subject to due process, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

This means a "rigorous assessment process" for all such properties before deciding whether to conserve or preserve them, he told Parliament. He said various agencies had been working on the issue, even before the formation of a ministerial committee last year. The National Heritage Board (NHB) had been documenting the historical significance of the house, while the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) looked at planning and zoning implications under various scenarios.

Explaining how the Government decides whether a property should be gazetted as a national monument or conserved, Mr Wong said the NHB would review a site's role in Singapore's history, while the URA would study architecturally significant aspects of a property.

Agencies would then look into the planning considerations for the property and its surroundings, and review allowable uses of the site.

For example, the URA may look at whether a conserved residential building can be adapted for commercial or community use. These are subject to technical and infrastructural constraints, like whether the surroundings can support higher traffic volume.

Agencies then need to consider whether the Government should acquire the property - which includes weighing up whether it is "best served by having the Government owning the site, as opposed to leaving it under private ownership".

They will seek stakeholders' views, and should the Government decide to pursue conservation or preservation, the property owner will have a chance to respond.

Oxley Road: Suing siblings cannot be my preferred choice, says PM Lee
Legal action would sully parents' names and drag out process for years, causing more distress to Singaporeans
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said suing his younger siblings "cannot be my preferred choice" because doing so would further besmirch their parents' names and prolong the dispute.

Many people, he said in his ministerial statement yesterday, have asked why he has not sued Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang for defamation for accusing him of abusing his power in the matter of their late father's wishes for the family home at 38, Oxley Road.

They have also asked why he has not challenged the validity of the last will of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew in court or taken some other legal action to end the dispute and clear his name.

"In normal circumstances, in fact, in any other imaginable circumstance than this, I would surely sue," he said, adding that their allegation of abuse of power, while baseless, is a "very grave attack" not just on him, but also the whole Government.

He also believes he has a strong case, after taking advice and considering his options very carefully.

"But suing my own brother and sister in court would further besmirch our parents' names," he said. "At the end of the day, we are brothers and sister, and we are all our parents' children."

PM Lee also noted that legal action would drag out the process for years and "cause more distraction and distress to Singaporeans". "Therefore, fighting this out in court cannot be my preferred choice," he said.

The bitter feud erupted into the public sphere on June 14, when the two younger Lees posted a six-page statement on social media accusing the Prime Minister of abusing his power to thwart their father's wishes for the Oxley Road house to be demolished, to further his political agenda, and that of his wife Ho Ching.

The duo also said they had lost confidence in his leadership and feared the use of state organs against them, with Mr Lee Hsien Yang declaring he felt compelled to leave the country as a result.

In his parliamentary address, PM Lee said that while family disputes do happen, every family will understand these are not matters to flaunt in public.

That is why he has done his best to deal with it out of the public eye, for instance, by keeping his submissions to the ministerial committee private. But he said he had no choice but to defend himself and release a statement when his siblings accused him in public.

"I stand by the statements I have published but I really don't want to go further if I can help it," he said.

PM Lee had earlier said his statements during the debate will be separately issued outside the House, and not covered by parliamentary privilege, which exempts MPs from defamation suits for remarks made in Parliament.

This means he can be sued for making wrong remarks - a step that comes after Mr Lee Hsien Yang said he had no confidence there would be a fair hearing in Parliament, as only PM Lee's side of the story will be aired "with no promise of truthfulness due to parliamentary privilege".

PM Lee addresses his siblings' allegations of abuse of power
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Neither the ministerial committee on 38, Oxley Road nor its members were given any instructions by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Like his siblings, he only corresponded with them in writing when they had requests.

"This is the right and proper way to handle a conflict of interest," PM Lee told Parliament when delivering a ministerial statement yesterday to address allegations by his two younger siblings.

The setting up of the ministerial committee is one of three main allegations of abuse of power made by his siblings: Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling.

The second is on a deed of gift for items from the house that were to be displayed in an exhibition by the National Heritage Board (NHB).

The third concerns accusations of nepotism made against PM Lee's wife, Ms Ho Ching, and 30-year-old son, Mr Li Hongyi, and that PM Lee wants his father's house to remain standing to bolster his power.

These allegations were made in statements the siblings had posted on social media since June 14.

"There are few specifics in their charges, but because their father is Mr Lee Kuan Yew, their accusations gain some credibility, and I have to take their charges seriously, which is why I am here addressing them in Parliament," said PM Lee.


Tackling each of the claims in turn, PM Lee reiterated he had recused himself from all government decisions on the house, and had no part in the decision to set up the committee. It was formed and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

His siblings had argued that the committee, as well as Parliament, could not be independent of PM Lee as they comprise his subordinates.

But PM Lee said it is standard practice to recuse oneself and let someone else like a deputy or senior colleague deal with a matter with potential conflict of interest.

He added: "Suppose instead that I had decided as PM to knock the house down, and had pushed that decision through without allowing the Government to consider the alternatives, weigh the considerations, and go through due process, just because it was what my father wanted.

"That would have been a real abuse of power. That would have gone against the whole system of rules and values that Mr Lee Kuan Yew spent his whole life upholding and building up."


PM Lee went on to address the allegation that he had improperly obtained the deed of gift between his siblings and the NHB as the Prime Minister, then gave it to his lawyers.

As one of the beneficiaries of the estate of his father, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, PM Lee said he was entitled to be consulted by his siblings before they signed a deed of gift donating items from Mr Lee's house at 38, Oxley Road, to the NHB.

But the deed was shown to him only later, in June 2015. Then Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong did so when updating him on a major SG50 exhibition which included the items, PM Lee said.

As Prime Minister, he had every right to see the deed, he added.

After reading it, he said he was very concerned as the terms were "onerous and unreasonable".

The NHB was required to display the itemswith the first half of the demolition clause in the will that said the late Mr Lee wanted the house knocked down when Dr Lee was no longer living in it.

But his siblings did not want to include the second half of the clause, which stated what the late Mr Lee wanted done if the house could not be knocked down.

The exclusion thereby misleads the public on their father's intentions, PM Lee said.

He also felt his siblings were wrong to call it a gift, when they set conditions in fine print that if any of the terms of the gift of deed were breached, they could immediately take back all the items for $1.

"What Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang had imposed on NHB was wrong. Discovering all this, as Prime Minister, I had to act. Otherwise, people might wrongly think I was party to this," he said.

"It is nonsensical to say that because I saw the deed in my official capacity as PM, I could not raise the matter with a family member. If I come across anyone doing something wrong, even family, especially family, it is my duty to put a stop to it and set them right."

Besides writing to his siblings through lawyers to object to their actions, PM Lee also told Mr Wong to take instructions from DPM Teo on the matter. "I believe this was the correct and proper way for me to handle the deed of gift," he said.


PM Lee noted that his siblings had made allegations of nepotism concerning his wife, Ho Ching, and son, Hongyi. They also claimed he wanted 38, Oxley Road to be kept standing to inherit their father's credibility and bolster his standing.

He pointed out that his son has publicly said he is not interested in politics. "Nor have I pushed him to enter politics," he added.

PM Lee also said his wife, as CEO of Temasek Holdings, reports to its board, chaired by Mr Lim Boon Heng. As a company, Temasek answers to its shareholder, the Ministry of Finance under Mr Heng Swee Keat, he added.

"I have every confidence that both Mr Lim and Minister Heng understand the meaning of good corporate governance."

The CEO appointment is made by the Temasek Board and has to be confirmed by the President, who is advised by the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA).

"If Ho Ching ever behaves improperly, I have no doubt that the Temasek Board, the President and the CPA know what their duty is.

"Regarding the house, and how its continued existence enhances my aura as PM, if I needed such magic properties to bolster my authority even after being your PM for 13 years, I must be in a pretty sad state.

"And if Singaporeans believed such magic works in Singapore, Singapore must be in an even sadder state," PM Lee said.

Lee Kuan Yew’s thinking on 38, Oxley Road
In his ministerial statement, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted key discussions on the family home when his father was alive, and what happened after Mr Lee died.
The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Mr Lee Kuan Yew signed off on plans to rebuild Oxley Road house
He approved plans in March 2012 to renovate it, but keep basement dining room: PM Lee
By Charissa Yong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Mr Lee Kuan Yew accepted a proposal for 38, Oxley Road to be redeveloped instead of demolished after his death, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

The proposal would involve removing the private living spaces and renovating the house without knocking it down, PM Lee told Parliament.

The entire family was kept updated about these plans, but his brother Lee Hsien Yang opposed them for the first time only when their father's will was read, said PM Lee.

He was addressing allegations by his younger siblings, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, of misusing his power and of not honouring their father's wish to demolish the family home.

PM Lee recounted discussions over the family home with his father when he was still alive, and what led his father to change his mind on outright demolition.

Although Singapore's founding prime minister wanted the house to be demolished after his death, the public, newspaper editors and Cabinet ministers disagreed with his view on the matter.

His position was set out in his book, Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, published in January 2011, but there was a "strong public pushback" to it, said PM Lee.

Many Singaporeans wanted the house to be preserved as it was a place where important political decisions were made that shaped Singapore's future, he added.

Similarly, newspaper editors told the late Mr Lee in a meeting in March 2011 that they would like the house to be kept, given its historical importance and heritage value.

And in July 2011, after he stepped down from the Cabinet following the General Election two months earlier, he met the new Cabinet to express his view on the matter.

But the ministers were unanimous in saying that they were opposed to knocking the house down, said PM Lee. He added that he himself was the only one to not give his opinion at the meeting because he was "both a son and the PM, and hence conflicted".


Even before the Cabinet meeting, Mr Lee had been exploring all kinds of permutations with the whole family, said PM Lee.

The issues included: Who to inherit the property, whether to demolish the house before or after he died, and whether to donate the proceeds to charity after the site was redeveloped.

PM Lee said that at one point, his brother Lee Hsien Yang suggested that their father gift the property to Singapore, subject to the condition that the house be demolished and a small public park be built in its place.

But their father agreed with PM Lee's counter-suggestion: to demolish the house and redevelop the site, and then to sell off the property and donate the proceeds to charity.

The late Mr Lee did not want the house to be rundown, dilapidated and expensive to maintain, while his wife, the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo, wanted her private living spaces to always remain private, said PM Lee.

Knowing his parents' wishes, the Prime Minister and his wife Ho Ching began discussing alternatives with his father after the July Cabinet meeting, in the event that the Government would not allow the house to be demolished.

PM Lee and his wife proposed to renovate the house to change the inside completely - to demolish the private living spaces to preserve the privacy of the family.

The historically significant basement dining room would be kept, and the decaying structure of the house would be strengthened.

A new and separate living area would also be created so the house could be lived in.

"My father accepted this proposal," said PM Lee.

In December 2011, Mr Lee told the family that it was "best to redevelop 38, Oxley Road straight away" after he died, and do what PM Lee and Ms Ho proposed.

Mr Lee also wrote to the Cabinet on Dec 27, 2011, expressing the same view, said PM Lee.


PM Lee said that he and his wife kept the family fully informed of their considerations and intentions.

"We e-mailed everyone, including my father, my sister, my brother and his wife. No one raised any objections to the plan," he said.

The late Mr Lee met the architect, went through the proposal, and approved the scheme to reinforce the foundations and renovate the house, PM Lee added.

In March 2012, his father signed the plans and applications to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which approved them.

PM Lee said that as far as he knew, that was how the family had settled the matter, and he heard nothing to the the contrary until after his father died on March 23, 2015, and his will was read in April that year.

It was then that Mr Lee Hsien Yang said that he wanted the house to be knocked down immediately.

PM Lee said this came as a complete surprise to him.

At any rate, the house could not be knocked down immediately as their sister, Dr Lee, intended to continue living in it, he noted.

The late Mr Lee had stated in his will that she should be allowed to live there for as long as she wished.

After the April 2015 Parliament session on how to honour the late Mr Lee, PM Lee recused himself from all discussions and decisions on the house, placing Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in charge.

He also divested himself of the house, by selling it to his brother at fair market value.

There was no longer, in substance, anything for him and his siblings to dispute over on the matter of the house, said PM Lee.

"We all want our father's personal wish to be carried out, which is to knock the house down," he said.

He added that he no longer has any interest in the house as his brother now owns it, and he does not take part in any government decisions on the house.

Dr Lee Wei Ling responds on renovation plans
The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Dr Lee Wei Ling responded on Facebook last night to a statement made by her brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in Parliament.

PM Lee said that their father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had approved a proposal by him and his wife Ho Ching to renovate the family home without demolishing it.

Here is her unedited post:

"Pa was never happy with Ho Ching's so-called plans to renovate Oxley. He continued to ponder how he could hv Oxley demolished. As for what the SPH editor think. I observed the email exchange in person. It was my habit to check my email every time I woke up in the middle of the night, so I saw the emails flying fast & furious & I went to Pa's study room. He was distress & eventually got up & walked off to bed looking disturbed. I scolded the SPH Editors via email for distressing Pa & told them to leave Pa alone. If they wanted to see Oxley, I would show them around but they were not to raise this issue w Pa again."

PM Lee: I've done my best to keep private interests and public duties separate
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday spoke of his predicament in dealing with the Lee family home, as he is both the son of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the head of the Government.

As the elder son of the founding prime minister, he naturally wanted to carry out his father's wishes, he said in Parliament.

But as the Prime Minister, he had to take into account the country's interest and allow the Government to deal with matters relating to his father's house in an impartial manner, he added. "I am caught between these two conflicting roles, so I have done my best to keep my private interests and public duties separate," he said.

In his seven-minute Mandarin speech, PM Lee also spoke of the pain he felt over the dispute with his younger sister and brother.

"That my family is in discord is sad," he said. "What is even sadder is to see the legacy Mr Lee Kuan Yew painstakingly built throughout his life besmirched overnight. The legacy left behind is priceless."

It was with a "heavy heart", he added, that he stood before Parliament to account to MPs and Singaporeans about the allegations of abuse of power that Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had hurled at him and the Government.

PM Lee described the steps he took to avoid any conflict of interest over the house at 38, Oxley Road. He had recused himself from all government decisions relating to it, and would absent himself whenever the Cabinet met to deliberate on the matter.

In his personal capacity, he said, he had tried his best to pacify his unhappy siblings. He had offered to transfer the house to his sister at a nominal sum of $1, but the deal fell through, and he eventually sold the house to his brother in 2015 and donated to charity an amount equal to the fair market value of the house.

"As the elder son in the family, it is my duty to protect my parents' and family's reputation," he said.

"I thought that having sold the house, my siblings would be satisfied as I no longer have any interest in the house."

It, therefore, came as a shock when his siblings went public with "baseless allegations" about him and the Government, without a care for the family's reputation, said PM Lee. He added that while he was very clear about his responsibility as a prime minister - to set the record straight in Parliament and open himself up for questioning - he was not sure what further actions he could take as a sibling.

"As the elder brother, I really don't know what else I should or can do," he said. "The family matter is an emotional one, and it is not likely that it can be resolved fully.

"But I hope some day there will be reconciliation among us siblings."

The 'house' Mr Lee built is Singapore and the values we uphold: PM Lee
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared yesterday that it is not the house at 38, Oxley Road he is trying to protect, but the legacy of his late father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Wrapping up his ministerial statement on a dispute involving him and his siblings, he said: "The legacy of Mr Lee is much more than an old house. Mr Lee's legacy is Singapore and the values that we uphold."

He said this was what he wanted to defend by addressing allegations of abuse of power by his siblings in Parliament, adding that he and his colleagues were in politics to uphold this legacy to keep Singapore successful.

When the dust has settled on the dispute, people must know that the Government in Singapore operates transparently, impartially and properly, he said.

He also expressed hope that they would see the Government is able to withstand intense and sustained attacks on its reputation and integrity and emerge not just untainted, but strengthened.

PM Lee said Singapore has built a fair society in which everyone is equal before the law.

This was the ethos put in place by the founding prime minister himself, and he, most of all, would have understood that even his wishes were subject to the rule of law, PM Lee added.

"We have built something special in Singapore. A cohesive, multiracial, meritocratic society. A fair and just society, where the same rules apply to everybody. Whether you are a minister, or an ordinary citizen. Whether you are the prime minister, or the children of the founding prime minister. You are not above the law," he said.

"This is the 'house' that Mr Lee built, not 38, Oxley Road."

He added: "When Mr Lee was asked what were the most important things to him in life, he said 'my family and my country'. It pains me that this episode has put both under a cloud, and done damage to Singapore."

Oxley Road: Dispute should be resolved in court, says WP chief Low Thia Khiang
If not, it risks people thinking Govt is afraid of what Lee siblings may say in legal hearing
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

The dispute involving Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings over their late father's house should be settled in court, and not be allowed to play out over social media, Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang said yesterday.

Mr Low (Aljunied GRC) urged the Government to take steps to resolve the matter, telling Parliament: "I am personally perplexed and lost, as are many Singaporeans, on the Lee family saga. However, this is not (a) Korean drama show. It is a serious matter because it affects the credibility of our entire country."

He was responding to ministerial statements made by PM Lee and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. PM Lee had addressed allegations of abuse of power made against him by his siblings, and said he preferred not to take the legal route. But Mr Low said: "The Prime Minister is faced with serious allegations, (and) these need to be addressed in the proper manner. Such matters cannot be 'you say, I say'; it is a hallmark of the People's Action Party Government in the past to get to the bottom of such matters via the courts."

He added that if this is not done, the tit-for-tat exchanges will play out over social media between the Lee siblings and the Government.

It also risked giving the impression that the Government was "afraid of what the Lee siblings will say or reveal" in a court hearing.

Noting that PM Lee and the Government had taken people to court in the past, he said: "There is no reason why this time it should be different because it comes from the Lee family, and, in fact, the allegations are much more serious."

Mr Low, the first WP MP to speak on the issue, said his party was concerned about how the dispute would affect Singapore.

That it had played out on social media had hurt Singapore's reputation, and even caused countries that once had high regard for Singapore to "laugh at us", he said.

He added that the allegations of misuse of power had shaken international confidence in Singapore.

"This saga is distracting the Government, distracting Singaporeans, distracting the international audience, and damaging the Singapore brand," he said.

Admonishing the Government as well as the two Lee siblings - Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang - he said both sides had handled the matter badly in what he termed a "Facebook brawl".

On one hand, the siblings had waged a continuous media campaign to keep Singapore in suspense and had not substantiated their serious allegations.

"If the accusers have details and concrete evidence that the Prime Minister has been lying and abusing his power, allowing his wife to influence the appointment of public officials, they should have made all of them public by now," he said.

On the other hand, the Government should have been more dignified and not engage them on social media, he added. "Cabinet members, more than anyone else, should refrain from making insinuations about the character and motivations of the accusers."

He pointed out that ministers have been "unnecessarily drawn" into what was essentially a family dispute. Consequently, the issue has also caused the line between what is public and private to be blurred and "crossed too many times" by PM Lee, his siblings and the Government.

Mr Low noted that there are serious challenges facing the country, such as terrorism, transforming the economy, fixing the transport infrastructure and navigating a volatile geopolitical environment.

"The ministers need to focus on rallying Singaporeans to be united in facing the challenges and not be participating in a divisive dispute," he said, urging PM Lee and his Cabinet to take all necessary steps to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

The Government has the power to "act decisively in the national interest", he added.

He said: "What further deliberations does the committee intend to make and how much more time does it need to come to a decision? End this saga now."

Oxley Road: Parliament the right platform to debate the matter, says Janil Puthucheary
Discussions are transparent; taking case to court will drag issue further, he says
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Parliament is the right place to address the ongoing dispute over the fate of 38, Oxley Road, not only because the discussions are transparent but also because it does not preclude other routes, said Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary.

He was responding to calls from MPs such as Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC), for the case to be settled in court as a way to end the saga swiftly.

But if the case had gone to court, the issue would have dragged on further, he said, noting that a court hearing would not have been able to resolve the matter in the two weeks that have passed since the first allegations were made.

Some MPs have also said it is difficult to establish whether there is truth and substance to the allegations levelled at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong by his two younger siblings.

There are contradictions in these statements, Dr Janil noted.

"Parliament cannot make a private citizen sue his own brother. That is a choice for a private citizen to make. And yet you are asking for us in this House to make a decision about a private act,'' he said.

Also, going to Parliament does not prevent anything else from happening outside the House, he said.

While he shared Mr Low's sentiments for an end to the saga now, he did not think a legal suit or a parliamentary select committee would achieve it. The way to end it, he added, is by saying in Parliament "that you are satisfied with the explanation that has been given".

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) had suggested setting up a select committee, comprising members from all parties, to investigate the allegations of abuse of power.

While a select committee may have the time, space and opportunity to gather more evidence, he noted it is essentially a tool empowered by Parliament.

"It provides a report to Parliament and the actions taken on its recommendations are done by Parliament. So if they are going to choose these routes, the one thing we cannot do is say that Parliament is not an appropriate place to deal with these matters."

He also said the ability to talk about such issues in Parliament was a marker of transparency.

And by recusing himself from government decisions on his late father's house and exposing himself to questions, PM Lee has held himself up as an example of how the Government values the idea of accountability, he added.

Dr Janil agreed with Mr Low's call for the line between what is public and private to be a "bright red line".

But the debate can be ended conclusively only when MPs have been satisfied with the explanations given, and with the process of governance and parliamentary democracy. "Then there will be a strong bright line," he added.

The parliamentary process is one that must involve MPs rigorously applying themselves to the contest of issues to get the best outcome for Singapore, he said.

He added that MPs are not elected by the people to throw the problem back to the people. "We have to solve (it) and make decisions and analyse the facts on their behalf and hold ourselves accountable to them."

'No basis' for conflict of interest fears involving Attorney-General Lucien Wong
Indranee responds to WP MPs' questions on Lucien Wong's previous role as PM's lawyer
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh and Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

There is no basis for concern about conflicts of interest involving Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said yesterday.

She made the point after three Workers' Party MPs called into question Mr Wong's appointment, and his involvement on matters relating to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road.

Ms Indranee made it clear that although Mr Wong had once been the Prime Minister's personal lawyer, he was not advising the Government on any issue he had been involved with before he took on his post as A-G.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling - who are embroiled in a spat over the house with their brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - had singled out Mr Wong in their social media posts. They highlighted that he was previously PM Lee's personal lawyer, and had been sworn in as A-G in January.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang wanted to know what role Mr Wong was playing when it came to the Oxley Road house, while his party colleague, Mr Png Eng Huat, pointed out that Singaporeans discovered that Mr Wong had been the Prime Minister's personal lawyer only when the younger Lees made the disclosure on June 14.

"How long has Mr Wong been the personal lawyer for the PM?" he asked. "While such relationships may not allude to anything, a personal and commercial relationship between the PM and appointed A-G should be publicly disclosed in the name of transparency."

WP chairman Sylvia Lim noted that before Mr Wong was sworn in as A-G in January this year, he had advised PM Lee specifically on matters relating to the Lee estate.

She also touched upon former People's Action Party MP Hri Kumar Nair's appointment as Deputy A-G in March, saying she understood that he had only recently resigned from the party.

"Now, there is no legal prohibition on appointing the Government's close friends and former party comrades as the A-G or Deputy A-G, but from a system point of view, do these appointments instil public confidence that the AGC (Attorney-General's Chambers) will act independently in matters where the Government or, worse, the PM has an interest in the outcomes?" asked Ms Lim.

She turned then to the matter of the house at 38, Oxley Road, expressing her concern about conflicts of interest: "How will the AGC act in advising the Government on any decisions it wishes to take on 38, Oxley Road?"

Ms Lim asked if Mr Wong and Mr Nair would recuse themselves from matters concerning the house.

Specifically addressing Mr Nair's role, she said: "Will he recuse himself from the matter too, since his former party leader, the secretary-general, is personally involved?"

Yesterday, Ms Indranee said these concerns about conflicts of interest were unfounded.

Due process was observed in their appointments, she said, noting that Mr Wong is "widely acknowledged as a top legal mind", while Mr Nair is among the "top six to seven litigators" in the country. There was no reason to pass them over on the basis of these previous ties.

When Ms Lim pressed her on whether Mr Wong was advising the ministerial committee on the late Mr Lee's house, she said: "The answer is no, for the very simple reason that in AGC, there are other officers. So, this is not a difficult thing."

All lawyers know to recuse themselves when there is a conflict, said Ms Indranee.

"There is no basis for any concern that the A-G has not acted in a manner that is entirely proper," she said.

Call for further probe into allegations by select committee or inquiry panel
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

MPs yesterday called for further investigations into the allegations of abuse of power made against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong by his siblings.

Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin called for a select committee of Parliament, or a commission of inquiry with the "full authority to investigate the accusations" made by the siblings in their ongoing dispute with PM Lee over the fate of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling should have an independent, neutral space where they can be held to account for their words, and put down their side of the story on official record, she said.

She noted that details on the allegations are vague and "the people who can supply more detailed evidence to these questions are not in this room".

"If the allegations are true, the accused must be held to account. If the allegations are false, the accuser must be equally held to account," she said.

Ms Kuik also highlighted the importance of accountability in an age of social media in her speech.

"In our culture shaped by social media, where words are allowed to flow fast and free, it has become all too easy to forget why things like Statutory Declarations and Hansards matter," she said. "They remind us that for society to be strong, for a democracy to be resilient, we must all allow the law to call us into account for our words."

Other MPs also suggested setting up a special select committee of Parliament, comprising members from all parties, to look into the allegations.

They included Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh and Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera; People's Action Party MPs Zaqy Mohamad and Louis Ng; and Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan.

Mr Singh (Aljunied GRC) said he did not believe a parliamentary debate about allegations of abuse of power made by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee would "put the matter to rest".

Mr Singh contrasted the current debate to one in 1996 when Parliament spent three days debating the sale of private condominium units by developer Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) at discounted rates to then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said that while he did not doubt the two ministers' integrity, he had to protect the integrity of the Government. Mr Goh ordered an investigation and even questioned Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong. The parliamentary debate on the case had shone light on the issue and showed there was no wrongdoing.

"In the matter before us today, can we honestly say that we are apprised and fully aware of the evidence and facts relevant to the allegations of the Prime Minister abusing his power so as to come to the same conclusion?" Mr Singh asked.

He suggested forming a select committee of Parliament to tackle the issue, since PM Lee had earlier indicated he would prefer not to take the legal route: "Its remit would simply be to look into the truthfulness of the allegations and get to the bottom of the matter."

Mr Perera said the allegations made by PM Lee's siblings cannot be dismissed "without allowing to the accusers a public platform to defend and expand on their views, share their evidence and be cross-examined".

In response, Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary said it was "more interesting that there are no specifics, there is no evidence, there is no substance to the allegations", adding that this was a point brought up by MPs on all sides of the House. He also pointed out that a select committee was empowered by Parliament, and would have to report to it. Parliament would ultimately decide on the actions taken based on its recommendations.

"If we are going to choose these routes, the one thing we cannot do is say that Parliament isn't an appropriate place to deal with these matters," he said.

Oxley Road: Best antidote to suspicion is to open windows and let facts in
By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

To my surprise, the most pressing question raised in yesterday's debate on Oxley Road had nothing to do with whether to demolish or preserve the house that Mr Lee Kuan Yew lived in.

It wasn't even the question of whether there was abuse of power by his elder son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as alleged by his other children Hsien Yang and Wei Ling.

Instead, it was the question of whether Parliament was even the proper, or best, forum to address the issues surrounding 38, Oxley Road. The controversy erupted when the two younger Lee siblings posted a series of notes on Facebook beginning June 14 that, among other things, accused PM Lee of misuse of power, voiced fears that organs of state could be used against them, and suggested that Ms Ho Ching, the wife of PM Lee, had a pervasive influence in the civil service far beyond that of her appointment as chief of state investment agency Temasek Holdings. The siblings had fallen out over what to do with their late father's house.

PM Lee later decided to convene a parliamentary hearing to have a "robust" debate on the issues. At the sitting yesterday, PM Lee, and members of a ministerial committee set up to consider options for the house, responded to some of those allegations.

But some MPs said Parliament was not the right forum as the accusers did not have a chance to appear to present their case. Some Singaporeans have also said it was a waste of public resources to debate a family dispute.

A few MPs yesterday called for Parliament to convene a special select committee to hear the issues. Among them were Nominated MPs Kok Heng Leun and Kuik Shiao-Yin and Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh.

Mr Singh noted that such a committee would have powers to summon witnesses, and powers to fine or imprison witnesses for contempt of Parliament if they lied. It can also call for documents and records. Hearings may be closed-door or public.

Such a select committee would address the allegations of abuse of power which have to be decisively addressed, said Mr Singh. "Otherwise an odour will linger, one that will have severe and significant repercussions for Singapore's reputation."

But as Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary countered, a select committee is still an organ of Parliament, so those who call for a select committee hearing cannot in the same breath criticise Parliament as being the wrong forum to address such allegations.

In any case, he said, having a parliamentary sitting this week, two weeks after the allegations surfaced, did not preclude other hearings taking place which may take longer to convene.

He also noted that select committee hearings would have to probe specific allegations. But in this case, "there are no specifics, there is no evidence, there is no substance to the allegations".

He said: "It was of great interest that no one has been able to substantiate anything in this House. If you're going to have a select committee you need to have some reason to have the select committee as opposed to just (say) I wasn't able to do my job properly."

I agree with Dr Janil's fundamental argument. If we believe in parliamentary democracy, and in the solemn duty of elected legislators' roles as a check on the executive, then Parliament is the right and proper forum to scrutinise allegations of corruption.

If the charges had been more specific, a commission of inquiry or a select committee might be the sensible option. But in this case, all we hear are broad, sweeping allegations about abuse of power. Bringing them up to the legislature to examine is the sensible recourse.

As Ms Kuik notes, accusations of "Orwellian threat of state intimidation and monitoring of private citizens; and the supposed nepotism behind key appointments in the public service" have some traction because the Government continues to be viewed as "opaque in its decision-making and arrogant or defensive in its communication".

The antidote to this is more transparency. In this regard, I think PM Lee's decisions to recuse himself from the committee set up to explore options for the house, and to subject himself and his actions to full parliamentary scrutiny, speak of his personal integrity.

Apart from Parliament, another forum for addressing allegations of abuse is the court.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang told PM Lee to settle the case privately with his siblings or in court. He chided them for continuing with a "Facebook brawl" that was damaging to the country's reputation.

"The Government should not continue with this dispute in the public domain. Good government cannot be achieved in social media. The PM is faced with serious allegations from his brother and sister. These allegations need to be addressed in a proper manner."

Reminding PM Lee that it was the People's Action Party's practice to sue those who alleged corruption or wrongdoing, he continued: "End this saga now. I am of the view that the correct platform to settle the private dispute is the court. Individuals who make less serious allegations that undermine the reputation and authority of the PM and Cabinet ministers have been brought to task for libel. There's no reason why this time it should be different because it comes from the Lee family."

In his ministerial statement, PM Lee had explained that he chose not to sue his own siblings for defamation as doing so would "further besmirch my parents' names" and cause "more distraction and distress" to the public.

In Asian, family-loving Singapore, many Singaporeans understand the reluctance to sue family members in court.

And as Dr Janil alluded to, a court case would drag out this sorry saga even longer. He also pointed out that Parliament cannot compel a private individual to sue his brother.

At the same time, however, it is clear that the allegations against PM Lee centre not only on himself but involve his Government and ministers. It is not only PM Lee's reputation, but that of the Government, that is being dragged through the mud. Hence, any decision to launch a lawsuit to protect its reputation might have to be done by the Government.

This would cause the ruling party damage. It would take up precious time and resources at a time when the country has many pressing demands.

Ironically, however, letting his own siblings get off with alleging nepotism and abuse of power without taking the usual legal course of action merely lends an aura of credibility to the very things he is being accused of: that family members of powerful people like the Prime Minister get an easy pass.

PM Lee and his team are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Meanwhile, Singaporeans will be hoping that more light will be shed today, on the second day of debate on the allegations. This can only happen if MPs play the role of inquisitor and probe government ministers. As the old cliche says, sunlight is the best disinfectant. The best antidote to the odour of suspicion is to open the windows wide and let the fresh air of facts in.

Oxley Road: Rule of law and due process must prevail, say MPs
LKY set example by upholding communitarian laws over individual interests in land acquisition: NMP Chia
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew upheld communitarian laws over the interests of individuals when it came to land acquisition, so it is hard to imagine him insisting that his personal wishes on the Oxley Road house must prevail, Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong said yesterday.

"I cannot imagine Mr Lee banging tables and insisting on the demolition of the house," said Ms Chia.

"As one who upheld communitarian laws over the interests of individuals, I cannot imagine (him) insisting his individual interest must prevail over communitarian interests.

"As one who defended the Government's land acquisition laws, I cannot imagine (him) insisting the Government cannot acquire his property. If in life he submitted himself to the rule of law, I cannot imagine him overruling that in death."

Speaking during yesterday's debate in Parliament, she added: "We must give due weight to Mr Lee's wishes (but) it will not be right to demolish the house solely because he had wished it. We cannot compromise the rule of law.

"The Mr Lee I grew up respecting would not put his personal desires above the interests of the country.

"There must be due process, we must consider the interests of the country as opposed to the wishes of a family."

On the importance of that rule of law, Ms Chia noted: "Allegations have been made against the Prime Minister for alleged abuse of power, cronyism, and against ministers and state organs for failing to act independently, or worse.

"Personally, I am deeply disappointed that national resources are consumed for what should have been a private family affair. But because the rule of law in Singapore has been called into question, and with it the integrity of the highest political offices of our land and organs of the state, we are here in Parliament debating the issues."

Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) said it appeared ironic that those who accused the Prime Minister of abusing his power were asking for an exemption from the rule of law, and an upfront commitment to the demolition of the house.

She added that this relied only on the first half of Mr Lee's will, ignoring the fact that he knew the laws of the land would always prevail - a point mentioned in the second part of his will.

Ms Sun also noted yesterday that the Preservation of Monuments Act had been in place since the 1970s, when the late Mr Lee was prime minister.

It was clear he knew that the decision to gazette a house for preservation or conservation lay with the Government, she added, and that he would have expected due process to be followed when it came to his own house as well.

Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan said some felt that acceding to an individual's wishes without due process and consideration by local institutions such as the National Heritage Board might establish an unwanted precedent for future preservation or conservation cases.

Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC), added that land acquisition laws should apply equally, regardless of background.

Highlighting the link between the rule of law and due process, he also said that there were questions to be asked about the ministerial committee looking at 38, Oxley Road.

For example, could the task have been assigned to the Founders' Memorial Committee?

He also asked why the ministerial committee should be studying the late Mr Lee's will - an issue raised by some members of the public.

Such issues need to be explained, said Dr Tan, as the rule of law did not just depend on equal application and due process, but public confidence in this process as well.

Emotional aspects matter in Oxley decisions, says NMP
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

When it comes to decisions about 38, Oxley Road, more emotional aspects of heritage and memory will also have to be taken into account by the ministerial committee, Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun said yesterday.

"The loss of our national heritage, whether the National Library, National Theatre, dragon playground or the Bukit Brown cemetery can be very emotional, affecting not just the minds, but the heart and soul of the people involved," said Mr Kok, noting that past decisions had often favoured pragmatism over idealism, and society simply had to accept them and move on.

Thus, he was "very glad" to hear Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean's acknowledgement, in his statement on the ministerial committee, that the Government may have been overzealous in demolishing buildings and carrying out development works in the past.

But unlike public spaces like the National Library and Bukit Brown, 38, Oxley Road poses a different question, Mr Kok told Parliament.

"Now we have a private estate which the community believes to hold a lot of historical value. How do we then balance the needs of the individual as well as the state?" he asked, calling for a decision on its fate to be made with "wisdom and clarity".

Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan added that as the issue is one of public interest, the Government should give Singaporeans a chance to have their say through a public consultation process.

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir SMC) noted that Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the founding prime minister of a country post-independence, not unlike India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, or Mao Zedong. His place in the nation's history should not be forgotten, he said.

The values that the late Mr Lee stood for - including multiculturalism, meritocracy, good governance, and rule of law - are representative of Singapore's values, and should be passed on to younger generations, said Mr Sitoh.

While preserving the Oxley Road estate is not the only, or best, way of doing so, he argued that it is "reasonable, logical and legal" for the Government to set up a ministerial committee to consider the possibility of preserving his home.

But Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin said that Singapore is "bigger than Mr Lee Kuan Yew's values", and suggested that decisions on the Oxley estate can take their cue from the findings of the 15-member Founders' Memorial Committee, on which she has been serving since 2015.

The committee gathered views from thousands of Singaporeans about what kind of memorial would best honour the legacy of Mr Lee and the first generation of political leaders.

Incidentally, the Oxley house never came up as a major suggestion, she said.

Singaporeans talked of "far more public" spaces like Fort Canning Park or the Singapore River.

"What we learnt is that many Singaporeans wanted a memorial that would go beyond mere recollection of the past... I imagine whatever Singaporeans wanted for the Founders' Memorial, they would want for the Oxley house as well," she said.

"So whether Oxley stays or goes or becomes a memorial garden with a basement, I hope that there will be some compromise that will enable it to not go down in history as a memorial born in bitterness."

Oxley Road: What MPs want to know
Questions were raised about a ministerial committee and a deed of gift, among other things, on a day when 21 MPs spoke during the debate on the Oxley Road dispute involving Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings. MPs also said they hoped for transparency on government procedures and that the saga would be resolved soon as it has had a negative impact on Singapore's standing. Joanna Seow reports on some questions they want answered.
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017


Why did the National Heritage Board (NHB) accept a deed of gift with strange conditions attached?

This was one of the questions raised by MPs yesterday on the deed made between the NHB and PM Lee's siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling.

The deed involved a gift of items from 38, Oxley Road, belonging to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and came with terms and conditions set by the siblings.

One of the terms stated that whenever NHB displayed the items, it had to display them together with the first half of the demolition clause in Mr Lee's will on his wish for his house to be knocked down, but not the second half which stated that, failing this, he wanted the house closed to all but his children, their family and descendants.

The siblings also said in the deed that they would have the right to take back all the items for $1 if any terms were breached.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC), Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) questioned the NHB's decision to accept these terms and conditions.

Ms Rahayu asked: "Was there a proper process in place to vet the terms of the deed and consider whether it was appropriate to enter into the deed?"

Ms Lee was also concerned about the role of Mr Lee Hsien Yang's wife, Mrs Lee Suet Fern, in the process. She asked if there was a conflict of interest since Mrs Lee had been a director on the board of the NHB when her law firm, Morgan Lewis Stamford, helped in the process of finalising the deed.


Another issue MPs focused on is the ministerial committee that is central to allegations by Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang. They have said that it was set up to do the bidding of their brother and harass them over their late father's will.

Referring to statements posted on Facebook by the siblings and interviews given by them, Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) asked a series of questions about the committee. For instance,whether PM Lee has misguided the committee, in what he told them about his father's wishes, to fulfil his own personal purposes.

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) wondered why a ministerial committee was necessary, saying that under the laws on preservation, such as the Preservation of Monuments Act and the Planning Act, there is no mention that the Government had to take advice from such a committee.

He also said that factors the committee is considering, such as public sentiments and the family's sentiments, may change in the future when a decision actually has to be made about the house. "What then is the point of setting up this committee now?" he asked.

Meanwhile, Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) asked why the committee found it necessary last year to seek views from the late Mr Lee's children on his wishes, since this was already expressed in a part of his last will that was made public.


Besides the committee, MPs also raised questions on other aspects of governance. Mr de Souza, for example, asked whether the Government has used the organs of state and the media to target the two Lee siblings as they have claimed.

He said: "The insinuations of Mr Lee (Hsien Yang) and Dr Lee's allegations are that there has been an abuse of power and that the organs of state carry out agendas beyond the scope of their mission...These allegations must be aired, debated, answered to - such rigour brings accountability, such accountability brings trust, such trust ensures productive leadership, and such productive leadership brings about a working, functional Singapore."


Other MPs suggested that perhaps more could have been done to prevent the family situation from turning sour, and asked why PM Lee had not challenged his late father's last will when he first knew of the contents.

Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Ms Rahayu asked why PM Lee had chosen instead to question the circumstances under which the will was prepared only after probate had been granted.

MPs ask: What is the dispute about?
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2017

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling's concerns over the ministerial committee that they have attacked appear to have been triggered by its questions on their late father's will, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said yesterday.

In a series of pointed questions to the younger Lee siblings, she asked: "Why are they so concerned?"

The Lee siblings accused the ministerial committee studying options on Mr Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road house of doing the bidding of their brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to block the house from being demolished.

But yesterday, Ms Indranee and other MPs in Parliament said they were unclear over what the dispute was really about.

She questioned why Mr Lee Hsien Yang disputed the existence of the ministerial committee.

Ms Indranee pointed out that both he and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the committee, held the same position - that they did not want the house to be completely preserved.

Nor did they want it to be redeveloped into a commercial site.

"If that is the case and if (Mr Lee Hsien Yang) is saying exactly the same thing as DPM Teo, where is the dispute?" said Ms Indranee.

Given that both parties agree that the extreme options are out, there was nothing wrong with studying other options for the Oxley Road house, she added. "Nothing has been decided. How can studying these options be an abuse (of power)?" asked Ms Indranee.

The junior minister went on to say that the Lee siblings' concerns appeared to have been triggered by the committee's questions on the late Mr Lee's will.

In a statement a fortnight ago, PM Lee publicly raised concerns over the circumstances in which his father's final will was made.

He asked what role his sister-in- law Lee Suet Fern and her law firm played, and whether they had a conflict of interest, as her husband Lee Hsien Yang was a beneficiary of the estate. The sixth will had given Dr Lee an extra share, but the last will reverted to the original equal division.

Ms Indranee said that under Singapore's laws, the lawyer drafting a will is required to be independent.

Quoting a 2009 Court of Appeal judgment in the case of Low Ah Cheow and Others v Ng Hock Guan, she said: "The preparation of a will involves serious professional responsibilities which solicitors must uncompromisingly observe and discharge."

The issue was not whether the late Mr Lee knew what he was signing, but "whether he received independent advice as the law uncompromisingly requires", she said.

She noted that the late Mr Lee had consistently taken independent legal advice for his lawsuits and his first six wills.

But it is not for the committee to decide whose claim on how the will was drafted is valid, as it is simply trying to understand Mr Lee's wishes on the house, she said.

Other MPs also directed questions at the two siblings about the circumstances of Mr Lee's will.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked who actually drafted the late Mr Lee's final will, pointing out Mr Lee Hsien Yang said his cousin Kwa Kim Li did. But Ms Kwa denied doing so.

Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) noted that since their statement on June 14, "there has been no clarification by the siblings on who drafted the last will and the circumstances in which it was prepared".

Ms Indranee said that the younger Lee siblings "have made plenty of allegations, but we have not seen any substance and no evidence".

She added: "(Workers' Party chief) Mr Low (Thia Khiang) himself had said the siblings provided no evidence.

"And to me that is most significant, that these allegations are just that - allegations."


The Singapore public is a rational and discerning one. To suppose that they will vote based on a "halo effect" bestowed upon the Prime Minister by the simple act of him moving into a house is an insult to the intelligence of Singapore voters.

- MP SUN XUELING (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), on the accusation that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wants to preserve the house to further his political interest.


As probate has been granted and there is no challenge, the will should be taken as valid and proper.

You had, however, in your statutory declaration submitted to the ministerial committee, alluded to certain questionable circumstances upon which the will was executed. This may appear to be a "back-door" approach in challenging the validity of the will.

Could you therefore clarify the circumstances which led to you to affirming the statutory declaration and your intentions for doing so?

- MP RAHAYU MAHZAM (Jurong GRC), on the statutory declaration Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had made.


This merely builds on that institutional recipe of multi-partisanship that the PM himself positively alluded to, but extends it to include a process of fact-finding involving public hearings and cross-examination of the individuals who have laid these issues before the nation, together with other persons of interest.

The truth would (come) out. If the claims are baseless, the accusers will lose credibility. If there is a basis to their claims, that can be acknowledged and followed-up on.

- NON-CONSTITUENCY MP LEON PERERA, suggesting the formation of a parliamentary select committee.


If the allegations are true, the accused must be held to account. If the allegations are false, the accuser must be equally held to account... In our culture shaped by social media, where words are allowed to flow fast and free, it has become all too easy to forget why things like statutory declarations and Hansards matter. They remind us that for society to be strong, for a democracy to be resilient, we must all allow the law to call us to account for our words.

- NOMINATED MP KUIK SHIAO-YIN, on the need for accountability.


No mission of an organ of state in Singapore should lie subservient to a personality. More so this House - its mission to serve the electorate must never be compromised or seen to be compromised.

It must be so, for this system of governance must last for generations to come, and must be held in high regard by Singaporeans through that course. That is why these allegations must be aired, debated, answered to.

Such rigour brings accountability, such accountability brings trust, such trust ensures productive leadership, and such productive leadership brings about a working, functional Singapore.

- MP CHRISTOPHER DE SOUZA (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), on the importance of looking into allegations of misuse of power.

Lee Kuan Yew's legacy is about to be destroyed by daughter and other son; Lee Wei Ling and Hsien Yang use Facebook to demand demolition of LKY's house

Was Lee Kuan Yew rushed into signing his last will?

PM Lee Hsien Loong releases summary of statutory declarations to ministerial committee looking into options for Oxley Road house - 15 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

Mr Lee Kuan Yew and 38 Oxley Road

38 Oxley Road: Symbol of the Singapore story

PM Lee Hsien Loong Ministerial Statement on "Alleged Abuse of Power on 38 Oxley Road" in Parliament on 3 July 2017

38 Oxley Road debate in Parliament:
Day 1 - 3 July 2017
Day 2 - 4 July 2017

Statement by DPM Teo Chee Hean on Ministerial Committee - 17 June 2017

Statement by PM Lee Hsien Loong on 38 Oxley Road - 19 June 2017

Ministerial Statement by PM Lee Hsien Loong on "Alleged Abuse of Power on 38 Oxley Road" - 3 July 2017

Ministerial Statement by DPM Teo Chee Hean on the Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road - 3 July 2017

Closing Statement by PM Lee Hsien Loong on the Ministerial Statements on 38 Oxley Road - 4 July 2017

Closing Statement by DPM Teo Chee Hean on the Ministerial Statements on 38 Oxley Road - 4 July 2017

Oxley Road Dispute

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