Ministerial committee studying options for Mr Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley house

At the centre of the family dispute is the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road (above). After his death, there were public calls to turn it into a museum or memorial. The basement dining room (below) was where the People's Action Party's f
At the centre of the family dispute is the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road (above). After his death, there were public calls to turn it into a museum or memorial. The basement dining room was where the People's Action Party's founding members discussed setting up the party.PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG, ST FILE
At the centre of the family dispute is the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road (above). After his death, there were public calls to turn it into a museum or memorial. The basement dining room (below) was where the People's Action Party's f
At the centre of the family dispute is the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road. After his death, there were public calls to turn it into a museum or memorial. The basement dining room (above) was where the People's Action Party's founding members discussed setting up the party.PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG, ST FILE

It has asked PM Lee's siblings questions about how the late Mr Lee's will was prepared

The future of the house at the centre of a dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings is being studied by a ministerial committee.

The existence of the committee was disclosed yesterday by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, the PM's younger siblings.

In a Facebook statement, both said they were told by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong last July that "a ministerial committee had been set up to consider options with respect to 38, Oxley Road and their implications".

The pre-war house in Oxley Road had been the home of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew since the 1940s. He died in March 2015 at the age of 91.

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Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong, who confirmed the establishment of the committee in a separate statement yesterday, said it was set up to consider options for the house and the implications of those options.

"These included looking into various aspects, including the historical and heritage significance of the house, as well as to consider Mr Lee Kuan Yew's thinking and wishes in relation to the house," Mr Tan said in the statement.

 
 
 
  • Timeline

  • 2010-2011: Mr Lee Kuan Yew writes formally to the Cabinet twice to put his wishes to demolish his house at 38, Oxley Road on record.

    December 2011: Mr Lee is invited to a special Cabinet meeting to discuss his house. After the meeting, he writes a letter to the Cabinet in which he acknowledges their unanimous view that his house should not be demolished.

    Dec 17, 2013: The date of Mr Lee's last will.

    March 23, 2015: Mr Lee dies.

    April 12, 2015: Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang issue a public statement which outlines their father's wishes on demolishing the house, and ask Singaporeans to respect his wishes.

    April 13, 2015: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tells Parliament a decision on the fate of the house is not required yet as his sister will continue to live there. He adds that as a son, he would like to see his father's wishes carried out, but it will be up to the government of the day to consider the matter.

    Dec 4, 2015: The three siblings issue a joint statement announcing that PM Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang have each agreed to donate half the value of the house to eight charities. The statement also says PM Lee has recused himself from all government decisions involving the house.

    June 14, 2017: Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang issue a statement saying, among other things, that they have lost confidence in PM Lee. In response, PM Lee denies their allegations, and says his siblings' statement has hurt their father's legacy. Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang also say in the statement that they were informed about a ministerial committee set up to consider options for the house in July 2016.

He also said the committee has been looking at how the late Mr Lee's will came to be made and the roles played in this by Mrs Lee Suet Fern - Mr Lee Hsien Yang's wife - and the law firm that she heads.

The statement from the Cabinet Secretary was issued in response to claims by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee in their statement that PM Lee made "extensive representations" to the committee and that he is in "a direct position of power over the committee" because the ministers in it report to him.

Mr Tan said: "The Prime Minister has not been involved in Cabinet's discussions concerning this committee. As he had previously stated, he has recused himself from all government decisions concerning the house."

He said the committee had sought the views of the Prime Minister, as well as those of his siblings, "to ask if they wished to say anything about the late Mr Lee's thinking in respect of the house, beyond what has already been stated in public".

"Mr Lee Hsien Loong's views were sought in his personal capacity, given his position as Mr Lee Kuan Yew's eldest son and his interest as a beneficiary of the estate," Mr Tan noted.

In the statement, Mr Tan also refuted Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee's claims that setting up the committee contradicted PM Lee's statement in Parliament in April 2015, in which he said there was no need for the Government to decide the fate of the house until Dr Lee stops living there. PM Lee had said in Parliament: "At that point, speaking as a son, I would like to see these wishes carried out. However, it will be up to the Government of the day to consider the matter."

Mr Tan said the committee's work "will help a future government when a decision needs to be taken about the house".

He added that it also "made clear" to Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee that the Government has no intention of doing anything with the house as long as Dr Lee lives there.

Mr Lee made it public, before he died, that he wanted his house demolished. But after his death, there were public calls to preserve the house and turn it into a museum or memorial.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee subsequently issued a statement as executors and trustees of their father's last will, outlining their father's wishes regarding the house.

Mr Tan, in his statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office , also said the committee received representations from PM Lee on various facts and circumstances in relation to how Mr Lee Kuan Yew's last will was prepared.

He said the committee asked Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang further questions about how the will was prepared, and the role that Mrs Lee Suet Fern and lawyers from her legal firm played in preparing it.

Mr Tan said the committee has also invited Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang to put their response by way of a statutory declaration, as PM Lee had done.

They have not responded to date, and have indicated that if they respond at all, it will be by the end of this month at the earliest, he said.

There was no further information immediately available on the make-up of the committee yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Committee studying options for Oxley house'. Print Edition | Subscribe