SINGAPORE - The future of the house at the centre of a bitter dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings is being studied by a ministerial committee.
The existence of the committee was disclosed on Wednesday (June 14) by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, the prime minister's younger siblings.
In a statement posted on Facebook, they said they were informed by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong last July that "a ministerial committee had been set up to consider options with respect to 38 Oxley Road and their implications".
The pre-war house in Oxley Road had been the home of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew since the 1940s.
Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong, in confirming on Wednesday (June 14) the establishment of the committee, said it will look into various options for the house and the implications.
"These included looking into various aspects, including the historical and heritage significance of the house, as well as to consider Mr Lee Kuan Yew's thinking and wishes in relation to the house," said Mr Tan in a statement.
"The Prime Minister has not been involved in Cabinet's discussions concerning this committee. As he had previously stated, he has recused himself from all Government decisions concerning the house," he added, refuting allegations by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee that Prime Minister Lee had made "extensive representations" to the committee and he is in "a direct position of power over the committee" because the ministers in the committee report to him.
Mr Tan said the committee had sought the views of the prime minister, as well as that of his siblings, "to ask if they wished to say anything about Mr Lee's thinking in respect of the House, beyond what has already been stated in public".
"Mr Lee Hsien Loong's views were sought in his personal capacity, given his position as Mr Lee Kuan Yew's eldest son and his interest as a beneficiary of the estate,"Mr Tan noted.
In the statement, Mr Tan also refuted Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee's allegations that setting up the committee contradicted Prime Minister Lee's statement in Parliament in April 2015, in which he said there was no need for the Government to decide the fate of the house until Dr Lee stops living there.
"At that point, speaking as a son, I would like to see these wishes carried out," he had said in Parliament. "However, it will be up to the Government of the day to consider the matter."
The committee's work "will help a future Government when a decision needs to be taken about the house", Mr Tan said, adding that it had "made clear" to Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee that the Government has no intention of doing anything with the House as long as Dr Lee lives there.
At the centre of the family dispute is the 12,060 sq ft house off River Valley Road that Mr Lee Kuan Yew lived for most of his adult life. Mr Lee made it public, before he died in March 2015 at the age of 91, that he wanted his house demolished.
After his death, there were public calls to preserve the house and turn it into a museum or memorial. Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling subsequently issued a statement as executors and trustees of their father's last will, outlining their father's wishes regarding the house and asking that Singaporeans respect his wish.
In his statement, Mr Tan also said that the committee received representations from PM Lee on "various facts and circumstances" in relation to how Mr Lee Kuan Yew's last will was prepared.
The committee has asked Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang further questions about how the will was prepared, and the role Mrs Lee Suet Fern and lawyers from her legal firm played in preparing it, he said.
Mr Tan added that the committee has also invited Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang to put their response by way of Statutory Declaration, as PM Lee had done.
They have not responded to-date, and have indicated that if they respond at all, it will be by the end of June at the earliest, he said.
When asked who are the members of the Ministerial Committee, the Prime Minister's Office said it would not be providing additional information.