Oxley Road: 8 key points from PM Lee Hsien Loong's closing speech on Oxley dispute in Parliament

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong makes his closing speech in Parliament on July 4.

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his closing speech on Tuesday (July 4), at the end of a two-day parliamentary debate over the Oxley Road dispute.

He said he was glad a good debate had been held in the House, and that the allegations by his younger siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, over him abusing power had been answered.

"No MPs have produced or alleged any additional facts or charges, or substantiated any of the allegations," he said. "It shows that the Government and I have acted properly and with due process."

Here are eight key points from his speech.

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1. Should the issue have been brought to Parliament?

PM Lee expressed his surprise that some MPs had questioned if it was appropriate to do so.

While he agreed that private disputes should not be fought in Parliament, he said grave accusations of abuse of power had been made against him and the Government.

"Imagine the outrage if MPs filed questions on these accusations, and the Government replied that Parliament is not the place to discuss the matter," he said.

2. Did he deceive his father on Oxley?

"The simple answer is that I did not deceive him," said PM Lee.

His siblings, in a Facebook post earlier on Tuesday, alleged that PM Lee had misled Mr Lee Kuan Yew into believing that 38, Oxley Road, was gazetted.

PM Lee revealed that his father had asked him for his view on what should be done with the house, after a meeting with the Cabinet on July 21, 2011.

 
 

He said he gave the late Mr Lee his honest assessment.

"I told him, you have met the Cabinet and heard the Ministers' views. If I chaired the Cabinet meeting, this being the view of the ministers and the public, I think it would be very hard for me to override them and knock the house down. I would have to agree that the house be gazetted.

He added: "Or I don't chair the meeting, all the more likely that the house will be gazetted."

A month later, his father decided to will him the house as part of his share of the estate, and informed the family.

He and his wife Ho Ching came up with a proposal to renovate the house and demolish the private spaces, and kept the whole family abreast of the plans and its progress in two e-mails in January and April 2012.

"The conservation plan was done honestly and transparently, not on false pretences," he said.

3. Why deal to transfer Oxley for $1 fell through

PM Lee also shared that his offer in May 2015 to transfer the house to Dr Lee for a nominal $1, in an effort to resolve his siblings' unhappiness over their father leaving the house him, ultimately fell through.

He said Mr Lee Hsien Yang "wanted in on the deal", and he agreed. But during discussions, PM Lee said disagreements arose and his siblings started making allegations about him. He told them to stop if they wanted the deal done.

It later emerged in PM Lee's clarification that they wanted him to undertake to help them get the house knocked down, which he refused.

In a Facebook post responding to PM Lee's speech, Dr Lee said she was the one who asked Mr Lee Hsien Yang to join in on the $1 deal.

"When Hsien Loong offered to sell Oxley to me for $1, I immediately asked Hsien Yang to be part of the deal with me. I have neither the time, nor the inclination to deal with the house on my own," she wrote.

4. Restraint in handling dispute

Acknowledging that the dispute was a complicated story, PM Lee identified "one golden thread" running right through it - his desire to manage the issue privately and without escalating it.

He said he adopted this approach as it involved family and he hoped to work out an amicable solution, even if it meant compromising his personal interest.

"At each point, I decided not to try to enforce my full legal rights... my priority was to resolve the matter privately, and avoid a collision."

5. Why no legal action?

Addressing questions on why he was not suing his siblings, PM Lee said going to court would not achieve a quick resolution as Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang had pointed out the day before.

"It would drag out the process for years, cause further distress to Singaporeans, and distract us from the many urgent issues that we must deal with," he said.

 
 

As for suggestions to convene a special committee or call for a Commission of Inquiry, PM Lee said there was no basis as there are "no specifics to the headline charge of abuse of power".

"After two days of debate, nobody has stood behind these allegations or offered any evidence, not even opposition MPs," he added. "So why do we need a select committee or COI, and drag this out for months?"

6. Conflict of interest over the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC)

Responding to questions raised by WP over the propriety of appointing Mr Lucien Wong as Attorney-General and Mr Hri Kumar Nair as Deputy AG, PM Lee said there is no problem of conflict at all.

Should matters come up where they had previously handled as private lawyers, they recuse themselves and let others deal with it.

When Mr Wong's name came up as a candidate to succeed Mr VK Rajah, PM Lee "endorsed him with confidence", pointing to Mr Wong's reputation as one of Singapore's top lawyers and his personal experience working with Mr Wong.

"I told Cabinet that he was my lawyer, that that was not an impediment although the opposition may make an issue of it, and that I recommended him."

Likewise for Mr Nair, a former People's Action Party MP, whom PM Lee said possessed a "good legal mind".

7. Reconciliation with siblings

PM Lee struggled to keep his emotions as he shared with the House the most "difficult and emotional" moment in the week following Mr Lee Kuan Yew's passing on March 23, 2015. It was when he was reading the eulogy at the state funeral service.

"When I recounted how when I was about 13, my father had told me: 'If anything happens to me, please take care of your mother, and your younger sister and brother'."

Several MPs were seen tearing up.

PM Lee said nothing happened to his father, who brought up the family, and he thought everyone was happy. Little did he expect, however, that tensions would erupt "with such grievous consequences" after the death of his parents.

He said: "Hope one day, these passions will subside, and we can begin to reconcile."

8. Time to get back to work

Even as he expressed his hope that the debate had cleared the air and would calm things down, PM Lee said it would be unrealistic to hope that the matter had been completely put to rest.

He said he does not know what further allegations his siblings may take, but with the benefit of his statements and the debate, "Singaporeans are now in a better position to judge the facts, and see this issue in perspective".

"We can all get back to work, and deal with the challenges we face, and not be distracted from our national priorities and responsibilities."

 

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