38, Oxley Road dispute

Inaccurate account, says DPM's press sec

The exterior of 38 Oxley Road.
The exterior of 38 Oxley Road.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) has presented a selective and inaccurate account of his exchanges with the ministerial committee tasked to consider options for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house, said Ms Lee May Lin, press secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Contrary to what the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has claimed, she added, the committee had made clear the scope of its work and whom it reports to.

It also looked into the circumstances surrounding the late Mr Lee's will only after Mr Lee Hsien Yang himself asked the committee to refer to a clause in it, she said.

Her statement followed a Facebook post by Mr Lee Hsien Yang yesterday in which he hit out at the "mysterious" committee for being "neither transparent nor proper".

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Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, have over the past few weeks charged that the committee was set up in secret to do the bidding of their brother.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said they were stonewalled when they asked questions about the committee.

He also called the committee "an extrajudicial secret attack, aimed at undermining our father's last will and his unwavering wish".

Yesterday, Ms Lee refuted these claims, releasing two letters to show that the committee had sought the two younger Lee siblings' views on their father's wishes and thinking in July last year.

It had also made clear details to do with the committee's work in its initial letters to the siblings, including why it was formed, whom it reports to, what it would look into, and why their input would be useful, said Ms Lee.

She added that the committee, which was set up by DPM Teo, also told Mr Lee Hsien Yang clearly that it was listing various options for the house to present to Cabinet, but was not going to make any recommendations.

It had also said the Government had no intention of making a decision on the house as long as Dr Lee is living there, and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had acknowledged this, she said.

"As such, it was clear to all parties involved that the Government was not making an immediate decision on the house, and that no decision may be necessary for another 20 to 30 years."

Ms Lee said two letters from Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong to Mr Lee Hsien Yang dated July 27 and Aug 24 last year "make these points clear".

In the letters, Mr Wong had informed the two younger siblings about the committee and asked if they wanted to make any points on their late father's thinking about the house, beyond what had already been stated in public.

He also confirmed the committee will not be considering the question of what should be done with the property - including whether it should be gazetted as a national monument - and will not make any recommendations in this regard as these matters were not within the terms of its considerations.

Yesterday, Ms Lee also addressed Mr Lee Hsien Yang's claims about the committee's focus on the will, saying: "It was made clear to Mr LHY that the committee is not the place where decisions on the legal validity of the last will can be made, and this is a matter between him and Mr Lee Hsien Loong."

She added that the last will became relevant only because Mr Lee Hsien Yang had, in his submissions to the committee, relied on a part of the will as the primary evidence of his late father's wish for the house.

"(Mr Lee Hsien Yang) wanted the committee to focus on one part of the clause relating to Mr Lee's wishes on the house, and not its other part," she said.

The first part expresses the late Mr Lee's wish to demolish the house. The second part states that if it cannot be demolished due to changes in laws or regulations, he wanted it closed to all except his children, their families and descendants.

When the circumstances related to the drafting of the last will were brought to the committee's attention, Mr Lee Hsien Yang's views on this were sought. In the same vein, the committee had posed questions to PM Lee based on representations made by his siblings, Ms Lee said.

She also said Mr Lee Hsien Yang was told from the outset that replying to the committee was voluntary, noting that he had proceeded to make various submissions from last year into this year.

"Just because Mr LHY found some questions inconvenient to answer, that does not mean that the committee abused its power or did wrong."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2017, with the headline 'Inaccurate account, says DPM's press sec'. Print Edition | Subscribe