Absurd to say S'poreans link legitimacy of Govt to fate of Oxley Road house, Ambassador to US tells New York Times

Mr Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Singapore's Ambassador to the United States.
Mr Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Singapore's Ambassador to the United States.PHOTO: MFA

SINGAPORE - Singapore's ambassador to the United States has rebutted an article written by the New York Times about the dispute over the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house on Oxley Road.

The news article, titled "Family dispute over house of Singapore's founder erupts as national crisis", was published in the New York Times (NYT) on July 4.

It said that Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang's allegations against their brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, hinted at deeper divisions about Singapore's political future.

The siblings accused their brother of abusing his power to block the demolition of their father's house.

"These charges have transformed what on the surface is an ugly estate battle into a national crisis that has raised questions about how this island nation is governed, the basis of the governing party's uninterrupted 58-year rule and how the country's leaders are chosen," wrote Mr Richard C. Paddock, a Bangkok-based contributor to the NYT.

But in a letter published on Tuesday (July 11), Ambassador Ashok Kumar Mirpuri rejected the article's framing of the Oxley Road dispute.

He wrote that it "promotes the absurd notion that Singaporeans link the legitimacy of their government to the fate of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's house".

Mr Ashok noted that PM Lee made a full statement in Parliament on July 3 in response to accusations by his siblings of abuse of power over the house.

"He explained how he had recused himself from all government decisions concerning the house, and also sold the house to his brother, so that he no longer has any interest or influence over the house," he wrote.

He also noted that "no Member of Parliament made any allegations of impropriety or wrongdoing against the prime minister during the debate".

"Nor has anyone else produced specific evidence to back the siblings' vague allegations," he added.

"There is no national crisis in Singapore," he wrote.

His letter was edited by the NYT, and a full copy was issued to the media by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday night.

It contained a line that the NYT had omitted, which said: "I am surprised that NYT did not seek any comments from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong or the Singapore government before writing the piece."