PM details 'deeply troubling' way Lee Kuan Yew's will was made

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at an event at the Istana presidential palace in Singapore, on June 2, 2017.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at an event at the Istana presidential palace in Singapore, on June 2, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

He says last will prepared in haste with help of Hsien Yang's wife, conflict of interest an issue

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday raised serious questions about the way his father Lee Kuan Yew's last will was made, and whether there was a conflict of interest when his sister-in-law Lee Suet Fern helped prepare the will.

In a statement issued by his lawyers at Drew and Napier last night, PM Lee set out in detail the "deeply troubling circumstances" surrounding the seventh and final version of the will, and said he has "grave concerns" about whether the late Mr Lee was "properly and independently advised" on its contents before he signed it.

PM Lee's five-page statement, which he later uploaded on Facebook, raised a notch the long-running dispute with his younger siblings, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, over whether to demolish their father's house at 38, Oxley Road. In it, PM Lee also questioned if Mr Lee knew that a clause to demolish the house was reintroduced in the last will. He noted that this demolition clause first appeared in his father's first will dated Aug 20, 2011.

It was removed in the fifth and sixth versions of the will, but "somehow found its way back into the last will", he noted.

The dispute spilt into the public sphere on Wednesday, when PM Lee's siblings released a statement saying they had lost confidence in him and feared the use of state organs against them.

The two siblings alleged that PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching wanted the house preserved for their own political gain, and said their brother had abused his power by making extensive representations to a ministerial committee, raising questions over the last will.

Last night, PM Lee refuted his siblings' claims that he had motives for raising questions about the will in a statutory declaration to the ministerial committee. Noting that his siblings continued to make allegations, he said: "This makes it untenable for me not to respond publicly to the allegations and to explain why I have serious questions about how my father's last will was prepared."

PM Lee said the family dispute first arose when the last will was read on April 12, 2015. Mr Lee Hsien Yang had repeatedly insisted on demolishing the house immediately, and the discussion ended only when Dr Lee said she wished to continue living in the house.

PM Lee recounted that during the reading, Mrs Lee Suet Fern volunteered that Mr Lee had asked her to prepare the last will, but she got a lawyer from her law firm, Stamford Law Corporation, to do so instead as she did not want to get personally involved.

PM Lee later learnt that Mrs Lee had e-mailed Mr Lee on Dec 16, 2013, about the seventh will, which would give the three children an equal share of the estate. The sixth will had given Dr Lee an extra share.

PM Lee said Mrs Lee helped prepare the new will in haste that same evening, and sent two lawyers to 38, Oxley Road on Dec 17 for Mr Lee to sign it.

He noted the two lawyers were at the house for 15 minutes. "They plainly came only to witness Mr Lee signing the last will and not to advise him," he said.

There is no evidence Mr Lee even knew the demolition clause was re-inserted into the last will, PM Lee said. He also expressed concern about Mrs Lee's involvement in the preparation and signing of the last will, when her husband stood to gain from the removal of Dr Lee's extra share in the last will.

As to why he had not challenged the validity of the last will in court, PM Lee said he had hoped to avoid a public fight which would tarnish the name and reputation of Mr Lee and the family.

His siblings hit back at his statement via multiple Facebook posts last night. Mr Lee Hsien Yang reiterated that the will is final and binding, and said: "Hsien Loong should not use a committee of his subordinates to allege what he did not dare to allege in court."

But PM Lee said questions had to be asked about the circumstances surrounding the last will. "I believe it is necessary to go beyond the last will in order to establish what Mr Lee Kuan Yew's thinking and wishes were in relation to the house."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'PM details 'deeply troubling' way Lee Kuan Yew's will was made'. Print Edition | Subscribe