Oxley Road: I have tried my best despite being caught between conflicting roles, says PM Lee

Mr Lee Kuan Yew had discuss with the family "all kinds of permutations" on how to go about demolishing the house and redeveloping the site, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

SINGAPORE - As the elder son of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Lee Hsien Loong naturally wanted to carry out his father's wishes, he said in Parliament on Monday.

But as the Prime Minister, he had to take into account the country's interest, and allow the Government to deal with matters relating to his late father's house in an impartial manner, he added.

"I am caught between these two conflicting roles, so I have done my best to keep my private interests and public duties separate," he said in Mandarin.

In his seven-minute Chinese speech, PM Lee spoke of the conflict he faced over the house at 38, Oxley Road, and the pain he felt over the dispute with his younger sister and brother that he said damaged their late father's legacy.

"That my family is in discord is sad," he said. "What is even sadder is to see the legacy Mr Lee Kuan Yew painstakingly built throughout his life besmirched overnight. The legacy left behind is priceless."

It was with a "heavy heart", he added, that he stood before Parliament to account to MPs and Singaporeans about the allegations Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had made about him and the Government.

PM Lee described the steps he took to avoid any conflict of interest over the house: he had recused himself from all government decisions relating to it, and would absent himself whenever the Cabinet met to deliberate on the matter.

 
 

In his personal capacity, he said, he had tried his best to pacify his unhappy siblings: he had offered to transfer the house to his sister at a nominal sum of $1, but the deal fell through, and he eventually sold the house to his brother in 2015 and donated to charity an amount equal to the fair market value of the house.

"As the elder son in the family, it is my duty to protect my parents' and family's reputation," he said. "I thought that having sold the house, my siblings would be satisfied as I no longer have any interest in the house."

It therefore came as a shock when his siblings went public with "baseless allegations" about him and the Government, without a care for the family's reputation, said PM Lee.

He added that while he was very clear of his responsibility as a Prime Minister - to set the record straight in Parliament and open himself up for questioning - he was not sure what further actions he could take as an elder brother.  

"As the elder brother, I really don't know what else I should or can do," he said. "The family matter is an emotional one, and it is not likely that it can be resolved fully. But I hope someday there will be reconciliation among us siblings."