38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

Ministerial committee on house will carry on with its work: DPM Teo

Teo Chee Hean speaking in parliament on July 4, 2017.
Teo Chee Hean speaking in parliament on July 4, 2017. PHOTO: GOV.SG

The ministerial committee which has been attacked over charges of abuse of power relating to the house of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew will continue its work calmly and objectively, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

Reiterating that there is no basis to these allegations, he set out possible steps ahead for the committee.

Mr Teo told Parliament he will consult his colleagues on whether it would be useful to put out the range of options for 38, Oxley Road for the public to ponder, without having to arrive at a decision now.

But, he said: "I need to weigh this against arousing emotions again, when what we can really benefit from now is time for calm reflection, especially when no decision is needed now."

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling's accusations against the committee have stoked concerns, with 16 MPs weighing in on the matter over the past two days. The younger Lees claim it was formed to block their father's wish to demolish 38, Oxley Road at the behest of their elder brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Teo said there is nothing mysterious about this committee. It is a matter of due process for the Government, and while PM Lee's siblings have charged that it was "shrouded in secrecy", they knew about it and its terms of reference.

Mr Teo explained it was formed to examine the property's historical significance, the late Mr Lee's thinking on it, and possible plans for the house and neighbourhood.

"These are all matters which the Government has to take responsibility for, and must plan for. These are not private matters," he said.

The committee is starting the process now, so that "drawer plans" are ready for the government of the day to refer to, at the time when a decision must be made.

"This is just the normal process of Government doing its work, properly, calmly and objectively," he said. "Usually people will find this quite boring, so there is nothing to get excited about when we form yet another committee."

To questions from MPs on why the Government had chosen to set up a committee instead of relying on government agencies, Mr Teo said the committee is not replacing these agencies in their work.

It merely seeks to improve coordination and oversight on the matter of the Oxley Road house. This, he added, does not preclude consultations with heritage professionals and the public at a later stage.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) asked whether PM Lee had any influence on government deliberations relating to the house.

"PM Lee did not. But Mr Lee Hsien Loong as a private person was invited to convey his views to the ministerial committee in the same way his siblings were," Mr Teo said. "He did so formally and in writing, and this is proper and correct. The lines are clear."

He pledged the Government will carry out its responsibilities on the issue objectively, fairly and calmly.

"I would like to assure this House, and all the siblings that on the matters that I have the responsibility to deal with, in particular with regard to No. 38, Oxley Road, I will continue to deal with them objectively and fairly, all the time working for the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans," he said.

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Ministerial committee on house will carry on with its work: DPM Teo'. Print Edition | Subscribe