SINGAPORE - There should be no need to disagree on studying options for the house of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew for when a decision has to be made down the road, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Tuesday (June 27).
A ministerial committee set up for the task is not bent on preventing the demolition of the house at 38 Oxley Road as Mr Lee Hsien Yang believes, he added.
He made the points in a statement that followed Mr Lee Hsien Yang's Facebook post earlier in the day on the ongoing dispute over his father's house at 38 Oxley Road.
In it, Mr Lee, the brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, had said that he and his sister Dr Lee Wei Ling had never asked the Government to demolish the house right away.
He also said they had offered to build a memorial garden after the house is demolished, when Dr Lee has moved away, but PM Lee rejected the offer.
Mr Teo said he met Mr Lee Hsien Yang several times between April and July 2015 over the house, and had informed him that PM Lee had recused himself on government decisions relating to the matter.
"I conveyed Cabinet's deep respect for Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and that Cabinet will take very seriously Mr Lee's wishes regarding the House, as expressed in his will, at a time when a decision has to be made regarding the house," said Mr Teo, who chairs the ministerial committee on the house.
PM Lee responds to allegations from siblings
In response to media queries on the various Facebook posts by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, PM Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (June 27): "My siblings continue to make allegations about what I supposedly did or did not do. They are mostly inaccurate. As I earlier said, I will be making a statement in Parliament on 3 July 2017. I will at that time deal with the allegations that need to be addressed."
"I also informed him that no decision is needed now. Dr Lee Wei Ling is living in the house, and a decision made prospectively by the current government could not bind a future government."
From Mr Lee Hsien Yang's Facebook post on Monday, it appears that he agrees there is no need for a decision on the house now, said Mr Teo.
"So there is no difference of views between Mr LHY (Lee Hsien Yang) and the Government on when a decision is to be made," he said.
Mr Teo had explained the committee's responsibilities several times since the dispute between the Lee siblings went public earlier this month and the two younger siblings accused the committee of harassing them on the Prime Minister's bidding.
On Tuesday, he reiterated that the committee was set up to study and lay out the range of possible options for the house, and present them to the Cabinet.
"Cabinet will only decide on which option to choose, when the time comes for a decision to be made on the house," said Mr Teo. "If, for example, Dr LWL (Lee Wei Ling) ceases to live in the house next month, then Cabinet will have to decide next month. If she stays there for 30 more years, then the government in place, in 30 years, will have to decide."
The committee had written to Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his sister to clarify that it would list the various options and study their implications, he added.
To illustrate, it had highlighted that converting the house to a park would require studying the implications on the area, including for planning and zoning, said Mr Teo.
This, he added, is in writing.
Mr Teo said he had also shared his personal views with Mr Lee Hsien Yang, verbally, on some of the options such as demolishing the house but keeping the basement dining room with a heritage centre attached.
"My objective was to let him know that Government was not bent on retaining the house as he seems to believe, but that we are calmly and objectively examining a range of options," he said.
"I do not recall whether it was Mr Lee Hsien Yang or I who suggested memorial park, but he is mistaken that I expressed reluctance. I said that I personally did not support the options on the extreme ends of the range - preserving the house as it is, or demolishing the House to redevelop it for new private residences."
There are, indeed, a range of viable intermediate options between these, said Mr Teo, adding that Mr Lee "seems supportive" of some of the intermediate options the committee is studying.
"So there should be no need to disagree on studying the options for the time when a decision needs to be made."