38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

MPs hope doubts over LKY's last will are looked into

Parliament in session on July 3, 2017.
Parliament in session on July 3, 2017. PHOTO: GOV.SG

Question of whether Lee Kuan Yew was independently advised 'raises moral issues'

Was Mr Lee Kuan Yew independently advised about the contents of his last will?

This question is of legal significance and also raises moral questions, Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) told Parliament yesterday.

"If there has been any misconduct in relation to the drafting of the will, then it is no longer a private matter," he said.

He was reiterating a point Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah made on Monday that under Singapore law, the lawyer drafting a will is required to be independent.

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Mr Lim said he hoped the matter would be "treated with proper seriousness by the authorities".

"No one should be above the law, regardless of whether the person is the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's children or anyone related to the family.

"The challenge by Mr Lee Hsien Yang is that PM Lee is abusing his authority to ask (the) Cabinet to preserve 38, Oxley Road against the wishes of (Mr Lee Kuan Yew). This means the Government has an obligation to better understand what were (Mr Lee Kuan Yew's) wishes."

COMMITTEE'S OBJECTIVITY

Did the committee consult PM before any decision was made even though he had recused himself from any decision on the property? How can members of the public be assured that Cabinet members involved in the decision would make rational decisions and not worry that they would lose their jobs if they were to make a wrong decision about Oxley Road?"

MR LIM BIOW CHUAN (Mountbatten), on how the objectivity of the ministerial committee on 38, Oxley Road can be maintained.

ALTERNATIVES TO COMMITTEE

Why wasn't the Founders' Memorial Committee asked to give suggestions on the possible options for the house at 38, Oxley Road? Since its members comprise individuals who are considered to be independent, this would have been a better approach and the Government can prevent any negative perceptions.

MR ZAINAL SAPARI (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) , on alternatives to the ministerial committee on 38, Oxley Road.

SALE OF 38, OXLEY ROAD

(Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean) said that he engaged Mr Lee Hsien Yang several times in mid-2015, which was before the sale of the house. Did he suggest to Mr Lee that the Government was okay (with demolishing) the house? If not, why would Mr Lee want to buy the house?

MS CHENG LI HUI (Tampines GRC), on the sale of 38, Oxley Road to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's siblings.

HOPES OF RECONCILIATION

I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether he thinks there is any hope of reconciliation within his family... I do not think anyone would dispute that this is what Mr Lee Kuan Yew would want for his family and for Singapore, and I think this is also what most Singaporeans hope would happen because there are no real winners in this sad episode.

MR CHARLES CHONG (Punggol East).

Mr Lim added that if Mr Lee had in March 2012 authorised architects to submit development applications for 38, Oxley Road, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed on Monday, then the demolition clause that was inserted in the last will seems to contradict Mr Lee's position.

In a statement last month summarising a legally binding statutory declaration he had made earlier, PM Lee publicly raised concerns over the circumstances in which his father's final will - the seventh version - was made.

He asked what role his sister-in-law Lee Suet Fern and her law firm had played, and whether they had a conflict of interest, as her husband Lee Hsien Yang stood to gain under the final will.

The sixth will had given Dr Lee Wei Ling an extra share, but the last will reverted to the original equal division among the three siblings.

Ms Indranee had noted that the late Mr Lee had consistently taken independent legal advice for his lawsuits and his first six wills.

The issue was not whether the late Mr Lee knew what he was signing, but "whether he received independent advice as the law uncompromisingly requires", she said.

But it is not for the committee to decide whose claim on how the will was drafted is valid, as it is simply trying to understand Mr Lee's wishes on the house, she added.

Other MPs also raised questions in relation to the will and Mr Lee's intentions about what to do with the Oxley house yesterday.

Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) had concerns about whether the Cabinet had put pressure on Mr Lee to change his decision on the property during its meeting with him in July 2011.

PM Lee had told the House on Monday that while his father wanted the house demolished after his death, the public, newspaper editors and Cabinet ministers disagreed with his view on the matter.

At a meeting in July 2011 with the Cabinet, ministers were unanimous in telling Mr Lee they were opposed to knocking the house down.

He later accepted a proposal to redevelop his house at 38, Oxley Road, said PM Lee.

"Did the Cabinet ever put pressure on Mr Lee Kuan Yew to change his decision on 38, Oxley Road? Or did the Cabinet mislead Mr Lee by saying that, no matter what his decision is, the Oxley house will be retained?", asked Mr Liang.

Both Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Mr Lim also questioned PM Lee's decision to issue on June 15 a summary of points he had made in his statutory declaration, which questioned the circumstances behind the making of the final will.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'MPs hope doubts over LKY's last will are looked into'. Print Edition | Subscribe