Lee Hsien Yang presented selective, inaccurate account of exchanges with ministerial committee: Press secretary to DPM Teo Chee Hean

The house of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at 38, Oxley Road.
The house of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at 38, Oxley Road.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Hsien Yang has presented a selective and inaccurate account of his exchanges with the ministerial committee tasked to consider options for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house, said the press secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Ms Lee May Lin released a statement and two letters from 2016 to rebut Mr Lee's claims that the committee had not explained to him and his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, the purpose and scope of its works.

The younger Lee siblings have over the past few weeks charged that the committee's purpose is to block their father's wish to have the house demolished, at the bidding of their brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

They also said the committee had harassed them over their late father's last will.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang's Facebook post earlier in the day stated that the "mysterious" committee had refused to list the options it was considering for the house at 38, Oxley Road, even after repeated requests from him and his sister, who are joint trustees of the late Mr Lee's estate.

But the press secretary said on Sunday (July 3) that the committee had sought their views on their father's wishes and thinking in July 2016.

It had also, in its initial letters, made clear details to do with the committee's work, including why it was formed, who it reports to, what it would look into, and why Mr Lee's input would be useful, said Ms Lee.

The committee, which was set up by DPM Teo, also told Mr Lee Hsien Yang clearly that it was listing various options for the house to present to Cabinet, that it was not going to make any recommendations, and that the Government had no intention of making a decision on the house as long as Dr Lee resides there.

On the last point, Ms Lee noted: "Mr LHY (Lee Hsien Yang )himself had acknowledged this, in one of his subsequent replies."

She added: "As such, it was clear to all parties involved that the Government was not making an immediate decision on the House, and that no decision may be necessary for another 20-30 years."

Ms Lee said two letters to Mr Lee Hsien Yang dated July 27, 2016, and August 24, 2016, "make these points clear".

In the letter from July 27, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong had informed the two younger siblings that a ministerial committee - of which he is a part of -had been formed to consider options for the house.

In the other letter, he clarifies that "the Government has no intention or plans to do anything with the property now".

Mr Wong wrote: "We agree with you that this is not a matter of 'urgency'."

He added that he could also confirm that the committee will not be considering the question of what should be done with the property - including whether it should be gazetted as a national monument.

It would also not be making any recommendations in this specific regard, said Mr Wong, explaining that these matters were not within the terms of the committee's considerations.

Ms Lee, in her statement, also said that the committee has no power to decide on the validity of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's last will - a point Mr Lee Hsien Yang had brought up in his Facebook post.

In the post, he had called the committee "an extra-judicial secret attack, aimed at undermining our father's last will and his unwavering wish".

But Ms Lee said: "It was made clear to Mr LHY that the Committee is not the place where decisions on the legal validity of the last will can be made, and this is a matter between him and Mr Lee Hsien Loong."

The committee also made clear to Mr Lee from the outset that his provision of any reply was purely voluntary, she added noting that he proceeded to make various submissions to the committee, from last year into this year.

She said the circumstances of the last will only became relevant because Mr Lee Hsien Yang's representations to the committee placed reliance on a part of the will as the primary evidence of his father's intention for the house.

"(Mr Lee Hsien Yang) wanted the Committee to focus on one part of the clause relating to Mr Lee's wishes on the House, and not its other part," she said.

The first part expresses the late Mr Lee's wish to demolish the house, and the second part states that if the house cannot be demolished because of changes in laws or regulations, he wanted it closed to all except his children, their families and descendants.

When the circumstances related to the drafting of the last will were brought to the committee's attention, Mr Lee's views on this were sought, she said.

In the same vein, the committee had posed questions to PM Lee based on representations made by his siblings, she added.

She said: "Just because Mr LHY found some questions inconvenient to answer, that does not mean that the Committee abused its power or did wrong."