SINGAPORE -As one of the beneficiaries of the estate of his father, founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was entitled to be consulted by his siblings before they signed a deed of gift donating items from Mr Lee's house at 38, Oxley Road, to the National Heritage Board (NHB).
But he was only shown the deed later, in June 2015, by then Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who was updating him on a major SG50 exhibition which included the items.
As Prime Minister, he had every right to see the deed, said PM Lee said on Monday (July 3).
Discovering the conditions his siblings had imposed on the display of the items, PM Lee said he felt he had to act, and wrote to his siblings through lawyers to object to their actions.
"It is nonsensical to say that because I saw the Deed in my official capacity, I could not raise the matter with a family member. If I come across anyone doing something wrong, even family, maybe especially family, it is my duty to put a stop to it and set them right if I can," he said in his ministerial statement to Parliament.
PM Lee was addressing allegations by his siblings, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, that he had improperly obtained the deed between them and the NHB. His siblings said he obtained the deed as the Prime Minister, and gave it to his lawyers.
This was one of the three main allegations of abuse of power his siblings have made since their first statement on June 14, he said.
Besides the deed of gift, the other two are the setting up of the Ministerial Committee on 38, Oxley Road; and accusations of nepotism over PM Lee's wife and son, and that he wants to preserve his father's house to bolster his power.
On the deed of gift, PM Lee said he was very concerned after reading it, as the terms were "onerous and unreasonable" - whenever NHB displayed the items, it had to display them together with the first half of the demolition clause in the will - which said Mr Lee wanted the house knocked down when Dr Lee was no longer living in it.
But his siblings did not want to include the second half of the clause, which stated what Mr Lee wanted done if the house could not be knocked down - thereby misleading the public on his intentions.
PM Lee also felt his siblings were wrong to call it a gift, when they set conditions in fine print that if any of the terms were breached, they could immediately take back all the items for $1.
"What Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang had imposed on the NHB was wrong. Discovering all this, as Prime Minister, I had to act - otherwise people might wrongly think that I was party to this," he said.
Besides writing to his siblings through lawyers, PM Lee also told Mr Wong to take instructions from Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on the matter.
"I believe this was the correct and proper way for me to handle the deed of gift," he said.