Oxley Road: 'I did not deceive my father' on gazetting of family home, says PM Lee Hsien Loong

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he did not deceive his father but had given him his "honest assessment".
Exterior of 38 Oxley Road. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (July 4) that he did not deceive his father Lee Kuan Yew and make him believe that the Oxley Road family home was gazetted.

PM Lee was speaking in Parliament at the end of a two-day debate, responding to recent allegations by his younger siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, that he abused his power by blocking the demolition of 38, Oxley Road after their father died.

The siblings accused PM Lee of misleading founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew that the gazetting of 38 Oxley Road was either "inevitable" or had already happened.

PM Lee told MPs: "The simple answer is that I did not deceive my father. I explained to you yesterday how my father's primary wish on the house has always been clear - he always wanted it knocked down.

"Where my siblings and I differ is on whether my father was prepared to consider alternatives should demolition not be possible."

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong makes his closing speech in Parliament on July 4.

PM Lee recounted the aftermath of his father's meeting with the Cabinet on July 21, 2011, on the status of the house. Ministers unanimously agreed that the house should not be destroyed, contrary to the late Mr Lee's wishes.

Mr Lee had asked his son for his view of what the Government would do with the house after he died.

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he had agreed to sell 38 Oxley Road to both his siblings for $1 but there was an "impasse".

"I gave him my honest assessment. I told him, you have met the Cabinet and heard the ministers' views," said PM Lee.

"If I chaired the Cabinet meeting, this being the view of the ministers and the public, I think it would be very hard for me to override them and knock the house down. I would have to agree that the house be gazetted. And if I was not PM then and did not chair the Cabinet, all the more likely that the house would be gazetted," he added.

He said his father understood.

After that, PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching came up with renovation plans for the house in lieu of demolishing it, which Mr Lee signed off on.

They kept the entire family informed and updated on the plans, he said as he distributed copies of two family e-mails in early 2012 .

He also read the emails aloud to them, as well as a reply from his father which was "quite clear, it's quite open, it's not very curt".

"The conservation plan was done honestly and openly, not on false pretences," he said.

PM Lee also explained his statement in Parliament on April 13, 2015, a month after his father died. Then, he said that the Government would take no decision on the house, as long as his sister lived in it.

He said that people were still very emotional over Mr Lee's passing. Some wanted to honour him by keeping the house, while others wanted to honour him by knocking it down.

"Emotions were high. Whichever decision we make, one way or the other, significant numbers of people would be upset and you're just creating... tensions for nothing. Best that we postponed this major decision for a calmer time, let time pass before we come to the matter," he said.

He added: "That's why I said what I did in Parliament. It in no way contradicts my father's wishes, or what I advised my father when he was alive."

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