38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

Oxley Road: What MPs want to know

The basement dining room at 38, Oxley Road, photographed in October 2011. The National Heritage Board (NHB) had accepted a deed of gift which stated that whenever NHB displayed items from the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's home, it had to display them togeth
The basement dining room at 38, Oxley Road, photographed in October 2011. The National Heritage Board (NHB) had accepted a deed of gift which stated that whenever NHB displayed items from the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's home, it had to display them together with the first half of the demolition clause in Mr Lee's will on his wish for his house to be knocked down, but not the second half of the clause.ST FILE PHOTO

Questions were raised about a ministerial committee and a deed of gift, among other things, on a day when 21 MPs spoke during the debate on the Oxley Road dispute involving Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings. MPs also said they hoped for transparency on government procedures and that the saga would be resolved soon as it has had a negative impact on Singapore's standing. Joanna Seow reports on some questions they want answered.

DEED OF GIFT

Why did the National Heritage Board (NHB) accept a deed of gift with strange conditions attached?

This was one of the questions raised by MPs yesterday on the deed made between the NHB and PM Lee's siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling.

The deed involved a gift of items from 38, Oxley Road, belonging to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and came with 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 on his wish for his house to be knocked down, but not the second half which stated that, failing this, he wanted the house closed to all but his children, their family and descendants.

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.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC), Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) questioned the NHB'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, Mrs Lee Suet Fern, in the process. She asked if there was a conflict of interest since Mrs Lee 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.

MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE

Another issue MPs focused on is the ministerial committee that is central to allegations by Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang. They 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 PM Lee has misguided the committee, in what he told them about his father's wishes, to fulfil his own personal purposes.

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

He also said that factors the committee is 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 last year to seek views from the late Mr Lee's children on his wishes, since this was already expressed in a part of his last will that was made public.

ALLEGED ABUSE OF POWER

Besides the committee, MPs also raised questions on other aspects of governance. Mr de Souza, for example, asked whether the Government has used the organs of state and the media to target the two Lee siblings as they have claimed.

He said: "The insinuations of Mr Lee (Hsien Yang) 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."

LAST WILL

Other MPs suggested that perhaps more could have been done to prevent the family situation from turning sour, and asked why PM Lee had not challenged his late father's last will when he first knew of the contents.

Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Ms Rahayu asked why PM Lee had chosen instead to question the circumstances under which the will was prepared only after probate had been granted.

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'What MPs want to know'. Print Edition | Subscribe