Oxley Road: MPs raise questions about ministerial committee and role of Government

Mr Christopher de Souza and Ms Lee Bee Wah speak in Parliament on July 3, 2017.
Mr Christopher de Souza and Ms Lee Bee Wah speak in Parliament on July 3, 2017.PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB

SINGAPORE - MPs on Monday (July 3) called into question aspects of the ministerial committee formed to look into options for founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's house.

They asked questions ranging from whether the committee is subject to influence from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to whether it was necessary to set it up in the first place.

The committee is at the centre of allegations by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's siblings about abuse of power.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang have said that it was set up to do the bidding of their brother and harass them over their late father's will.

Referring to statements posted on Facebook by the siblings and interviews given by them, Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) asked a series of questions about the committee.

For instance, whether it is true or false that the Ministerial Committee is merely a façade and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is able to influence it, and whether it is true or false that the Prime Minister has misguided the committee to fulfil his own personal purposes.

Said Mr de Souza: "The insinuations of Mr Lee's and Dr Lee's allegations are that there has been an abuse of power and that the organs of state carry out agendas beyond the scope of their mission... These allegations must be aired, debated, answered to - such rigour brings accountability, such accountability brings trust, such trust ensures productive leadership, and such productive leadership brings about a working, functional Singapore."

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) wondered why a ministerial committee was necessary, saying that under the laws on the preservation of buildings, such as the Preservation of National Monuments Act and the Planning act, there is no mention that the Government had to take advice from such a committee.

He asked: "Would the Minister and the (National Heritage Board) be in any way bound by opinions or findings of the committee?"

He also said that factors the committee are considering, such as public sentiments and the family's sentiments, may change in the future when a decision actually has to be made about the house.

"What then is the point of setting up this committee now?" he asked.

Meanwhile, Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) asked why the committee found it necessary in 2016 to seek views from the late Mr Lee's children to get a clearer sense of his thinking about the house, when his views, as expressed in his last will, were already made public.

Besides the committee, MPs also raised questions on other aspects of the dispute over the house.

Mr de Souza asked whether organs of state were being abused to target the two younger Lee siblings, whether the government has used the media to target them, and whether the public service is constrained by the Prime Minister's misuse of power at the top.

Some other MPs also asked about a deed of gift made between the National Heritage Board (NHB) and Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee.

The deed involved a gift of items from 38, Oxley Road, belonging to the late Mr Lee, and included terms and conditions set by the siblings.

One of the terms stated that whenever NHB displayed the items, it had to display them together with the first half of the demolition clause in Mr Lee's will, but not the second half of the clause.

The first half stated the late Mr Lee's wish for the house to be knocked down when Dr Lee was no longer living in it, while the second half stated that he wanted the house closed to all but his children, their family and descendants if it could not be demolished due to changes in the law and regulations.

The siblings also said in the deed that they would have the right to take back all the items for $1 if any terms were breached.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) question the board's decision to accept these terms and conditions.

Ms Rahayu asked: "Was there a proper process in place to vet the terms of the Deed and consider whether it was appropriate to enter into the deed?"

Ms Lee was also concerned about the role of Mr Lee Hsien Yang's wife Lee Suet Fern in the process.

She asked if there was a conflict of interest since Ms Lee Suet Fern had been a director on the board of the NHB when her law firm Morgan Lewis Stamford helped in the process of finalising the deed.