Oxley Road dispute: Ministerial committee disclosed purpose only when forced to, says Lee Wei Ling

Dr Lee Wei Ling said that Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean never disclosed the options the committee was considering to her and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.
Dr Lee Wei Ling said that Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean never disclosed the options the committee was considering to her and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.PHOTO: ST FILE

Dr Lee Wei Ling again made the charge yesterday that the ministerial committee looking into options for her late father's house in Oxley Road was secret, saying that it disclosed its purpose only "when forced into the daylight".

She made the point in a Facebook post, in response to statements by Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who had both explained that such committees are often set up to consider important issues affecting the country.

Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang disclosed the committee's existence in a statement on June 14 that brought into the public spotlight their feud with their brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Since then, they have criticised the "secret" committee several times.

DPM Teo said last Saturday there was nothing secret about the committee which he set up and chairs. He also disclosed the committee's members and its scope of work.

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On Thursday, DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam reiterated there was "no mystery" behind the committee 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 his Facebook post.

He also sought to dispel suggestions of ill-intent behind the establishment of the ministerial committee on the house.

He said DPM Teo 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.

Dr Lee, however, argued yesterday that the committee had refused to identify its members for almost a year or disclose its terms of reference despite many requests from the estate of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

 

She added that DPM Teo never disclosed the options the committee was considering to her and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, both of whom are trustees and executors of their father's will.

"If this was really their purpose, why did they refuse to say so when the Estate asked?" she said.

In a later post yesterday, she also criticised the People's Action Party (PAP) for taking her father's note to Cabinet "out of context".

At one point in a video posted last week on its party microsite about the Oxley Road dispute, the PAP stated that "Mr Lee clearly recognised that the house could be preserved".

In her post, Dr Lee cited part of an e-mail from PM Lee on April 12 in which he noted Mr Lee's [LKY'S]note to Cabinet "did not say that he wanted it preserved, only what has to be done if it is not to be demolished."

Several other recent postings by government ministers, however, have noted that while Mr Lee wanted his house demolished, he also recognised the possibility that the Government might preserve it for of its heritage value.

Royston Sim

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Committee disclosed purpose only when forced to: Dr Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe