Hsien Yang: I have no wish to develop the house for profit

Chee Hong Tat says late Mr Lee would have put country's interests above personal ones

Mr Lee Hsien Yang has said that he has no inclination to redevelop his father's 38, Oxley Road home into a condominium for financial profit, putting paid to claims that he harboured such intentions.

In a three-page note on Facebook last night, he said demolishing the house to develop a "luxury 'LKY' condominium" would be an affront to Mr Lee Kuan Yew's values.

"It has been insinuated that I seek to redevelop the Oxley Road house into a condominium for financial profit after buying it at 150 per cent market price," Mr Lee Hsien Yang said.

"Beyond zero certainty on timing and the ability to demolish, this requires both rezoning... and cooperation with the neighbours. I have no inclination to seek either of these."

The late Mr Lee had bequeathed the house to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who sold it to his younger brother at market value in 2015. PM Lee donated the full value to charity, and Mr Lee Hsien Yang donated half the value to charity - which meant he had to set aside 150 per cent the market price.

The latest statement comes ahead of a Parliament debate starting tomorrow, during which PM Lee will address allegations of abuse of power in relation to 38, Oxley Road.

REMEMBERING MR LEE'S WISHES

Hsien Yang said he is 'a man working to honour his father's wishes'. Singapore was Mr Lee Kuan Yew's lifelong passion and it is his legacy. Mr Lee would not wish for a family dispute to be turned into a public quarrel that hurt Singapore's international standing. Neither would he wish for baseless allegations to be made against government leaders and institutions, undermining confidence in the systems he created. Mr Lee would put Singapore's interests above personal interests.

MR CHEE HONG TAT, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Health, in a Facebook post.


ENSURING FAIR DEBATE

I do hope that we can see that the issues are properly debated, and that hopefully if we can have some finality that will be ideal. As the Speaker, my task is to ensure that it is a fair, open, transparent debate.

SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT HALIMAH YACOB, when asked by reporters about the upcoming debate in Parliament on the house at 38, Oxley Road.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, are embroiled in a running dispute with PM Lee.

Both younger siblings want to demolish the Oxley Road house, which they say is in accordance with their father's wishes.

They also claim PM Lee wants to preserve the house for political gain, though PM Lee has made clear that, as a son, he supports his father's wish on demolition.

In his statement yesterday, Mr Lee Hsien Yang sought to explain why he and his sister had taken the family spat public, turning it into a "huge national controversy".

They had on June 14 posted a six-page statement on Facebook, claiming that their brother had abused his power, and that they feared the use of state organs against them.

It led to an almost-daily exchange of rebuttals and explanations.

Said Mr Lee Hsien Yang: "I am just a son trying to honour my father's final wish: to demolish my father's house immediately when my sister, Wei Ling, no longer lives there." He added that many people had asked why he and Dr Lee "felt compelled" to make the dispute public. "The answer is that we were pushed by Hsien Loong's secret Cabinet committee," he said.

The two younger Lee siblings have charged that the committee was shrouded in secrecy, and formed to block the demolition of the house - though government leaders have said various ministerial committees are formed to consider a range of issues.

"Our father firmly believed that demolition of his house was the right thing for Singapore. He believed Singapore needed to focus on her future and not on monuments," Mr Lee Hsien Yang said.

He said their father named him and Dr Lee executors of his will, as he expected and trusted they would ensure his wishes were honoured. They therefore had a "legal duty to carry out his wishes, instead of allowing them to be perverted by sophistry and machinations".

Mr Lee Hsien Yang further claimed PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching have "in private vehemently opposed demolition". He said he and his sister encounted opposition "every step of the way" as they sought to remind Singaporeans of their father's last wish.

"It became clear that we faced a vast and coordinated effort by Hsien Loong against us. He did not want our father's wishes remembered or carried out; he wished to rewrite history to claim that Lee Kuan Yew 'accepted' the preservation of his house," he said, claiming that PM Lee was ready to use his power to thwart their father's wishes and further his political agenda and that of his wife.

Dr Lee is still living at 38, Oxley Road, and the late Mr Lee's wish was for her to live there as long as she wanted, said Mr Lee Hsien Yang. "Wei Ling may live in Oxley Road for decades to come. I simply hope to ensure our father's wishes are honoured when the day comes," he said, claiming that his brother had "staunchly refused"options for the site, such as demolishing the house and planting a memorial garden.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang added that his father would have recognised that the Government would have the power to gazette the house as a national monument, thereby preventing its destruction, pointing out that "no man stands above the law after all".

"We are simply very sad that it is in fact Hsien Loong using powers and instruments of the state to achieve preservation of the house for his personal agenda, whilst pretending to be an honourable son," he added.

CHEE HONG TAT WEIGHS IN

In a Facebook post last night, Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat, who was the late Mr Lee's principal private secretary from 2008 to 2011, said he was greatly saddened to see what has been happening over the past two weeks, "especially when I think of the pain it would bring to Mr and Mrs Lee".

"The wild allegations have damaged Singapore's reputation, something Mr Lee spent his entire life building up," he wrote.

Mr Chee said he did not believe that Dr Lee, who he had come to know as a friend and admired and respected, would intentionally cause harm to her country, adding: "I have asked myself over and over again, why is she doing this? Has she been misled and misunderstood what happened?"

Mr Lee would always put the country's interests above personal ones, and believed in the rule of law, and that no one was above the law, he added.

"Knowing Mr Lee, he would be the first to insist that the law must apply equally to his will and the house at 38, Oxley Road just as it does to all other Singaporeans... I have no doubt Mr Lee would want his successors in the Government to continue to uphold these systems and values. He would not have wanted his family to be given special treatment," he said.

Mr Chee added that Mr Lee would not have wanted a family dispute turned into a public quarrel that hurt Singapore's international standing, or for baseless allegations to be made against government leaders and institutions, undermining confidence in the systems he built.

"If my former boss were still around, I think he would want everyone to put Singapore as the priority and stop all the quarrelling and finger-pointing, so that we can get back to running the country, solving the practical problems we are facing and improving the lives of our people," he said.

SEE INSIGHT

All eyes on PM Lee in Parliament tomorrow

Nature and quality of debate will shape political outcome

Past hot-button debates

Oxley Road saga: Coming-of- age moment for new generation?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 02, 2017, with the headline 'Hsien Yang: I have no wish to develop the house for profit'. Print Edition | Subscribe