Oxley Road dispute: How it unfolded

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) and his younger siblings Lee Hsien Yang (left) and Lee Wei Ling.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) and his younger siblings Lee Hsien Yang (left) and Lee Wei Ling. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

A family feud between the children of the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew spilled over into the public sphere last Wednesday when Dr Lee Wei Ling and her brother Hsien Yang issued a statement saying they had lost confidence in their brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. At the centre of the dispute is their father's house at 38, Oxley Road. The two siblings alleged that PM Lee wanted the house preserved against their father's wishes, for his political gain. But PM Lee has refuted their accusations and raised misgivings over the preparation of their late father's will. Danson Cheong traces the timeline of the tussle.

JUNE 14 

2am: Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang release a Facebook statement saying they had lost confidence in PM Lee and feared the use of state organs against them. They also accuse him and his wife Ho Ching of wanting to make use of the late Mr Lee's legacy to further their political ambitions for their son Li Hongyi. They also reveal that a ministerial committee has been set up to consider options for the house.

2.20am: Mr Lee Hsien Yang's son Li Shengwu shares the statement on Facebook, saying his "immediate family has become increasingly worried about the lack of checks on abuse of power".

Younger brother Huanwu also shares the statement, saying he has made a "painful exception" in doing so. They are the first third-generation members of the family to comment publicly.

9.40am: PM Lee denies the allegations, saying he is disappointed his siblings have chosen to publicise a private family matter, and, in doing so, hurt their father's legacy. He adds that he is deeply saddened by their "unfortunate allegations".

5pm: Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong confirms the existence of a ministerial committee, saying it is an internal committee formed by the Cabinet to consider options for the late Mr Lee's house and their implications. Mr Tan says PM Lee has not been involved in the Cabinet's discussions concerning the committee, and his views were sought only in his personal capacity as Mr Lee's son.


JUNE 15

12.20am: Dr Lee responds to the Cabinet Secretary in a Facebook post, saying there is "no way" the ministerial committee was formed without PM Lee's consent and approval.

 
 

3pm:Mr Li Hongyi denies he has political ambitions, saying on Facebook: "For what it is worth, I really have no interest in politics."

9pm: PM Lee, through his lawyers, issues a statement raising grave concerns about the way his father's last will was made. It is a summary of the statutory declarations PM Lee made to the ministerial committee.

9.25pm: In a Facebook post, Mr Lee Hsien Yang says there are contradictions between what PM Lee has said publicly in Parliament and what he has said under oath to the ministerial committee. "Is his statement to Parliament false, or is his statement under oath false?" he asks.

10.16pm: Dr Lee releases personal e-mails of correspondence involving the late Mr Lee, Mrs Lee Suet Fern and Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, in a bid to prove Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife have not acted against her interest. She accuses PM Lee of being selective in using quotes from her e-mails to Ms Ho Ching to suggest otherwise.


JUNE 16

3.44am: Mr Li Shengwu posts on Facebook a comment he gave to newswire Agence France-Presse: "I believe that it would be bad for Singapore if any third-generation Lee went into politics. The country must be bigger than one family."

7.30am: Mr Lee Hsien Yang comes to the defence of his wife's law firm. In a Facebook post, he accuses PM Lee of lying about their father's last will being drafted by the firm and its lawyers.

1.05pm:On Facebook, Mr Lee Hsien Yang says the late Mr Lee's last will was drafted by his cousin Kwa Kim Li of Lee & Lee, co-founded by the late Mr Lee and his wife Kwa Geok Choo. He adds that a paragraph dealing with the demolition of the house was drafted by his wife at Mr Lee's direction, and later inserted into the will by Ms Kwa.

6.23pm: Mr Lee Hsien Yang alleges that the ministerial committee is "entirely uninterested" in exploring options for the house; it is focused solely on challenging the validity of the demolition clause.

11.11pm Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong calls on Singaporeans to not let the dispute "define who we are". "We are bigger than our troubles, stronger than our differences. Whatever damage Singapore may suffer, wilfully inflicted or otherwise, I know Singaporeans will not lie meek. We will not be dragged down by a family's petty disputes," he says.

11.40pm Lawyer Kwa Kim Li tells The Straits Times she did not prepare Mr Lee's final will.


JUNE 17 

1.29am Mr Lee Hsien Yang posts a Facebook statement saying that Mr Lee Kuan Yew's final will was prepared on his late father's instructions to revert to his first will from 2011, drafted by Ms Kwa.

"Lee Kuan Yew's final will was simply Lee Kuan Yew's first will of 20 August 2011 re-executed on his instructions," says Mr Lee Hsien Yang, adding that his father had read the will carefully and initialled every page, including below the demolition clause.

1.50pm Mr Lee Hsien Yang posts another Facebook statement defending the validity of the last will. He cites a file note by two lawyers from Stamford Law Corporation who witnessed the will signing that "LKY read through every line of the will and was comfortable to sign and initial at every page".

5.04pm Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean releases a two-page statement on the ministerial committee looking at options for 38, Oxley Road. He says the committee is not secret, and that he had set it up. He also reveals details on the committee, such as its members, who include ministers Grace Fu, K. Shanmugam and Lawrence Wong.

 

Related Stories: 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'How it unfolded'. Print Edition | Subscribe