SINGAPORE - The younger siblings of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong released a seven-page joint statement on Facebook on Thursday (July 6) morning and a summary of their case against their elder brother in the dispute over their family home 38 Oxley Road.
In the joint statement, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang gave their side of the story with regard to how the rift with PM Lee came about and said that the recent Parliament session raised more questions than answers.
But they welcomed PM's desire to settle their dispute in private and said that they look forward to "talking without the involvement of lawyers or government agencies." They also said that they will stop presenting evidence on social media unless they and their father's wish are "attacked or misrepresented".
This is the statement in full.
We love Singapore. It is our country. Our father spent his entire life building and serving Singapore. We want the best for Singapore. To stand by his values is to honour him and his legacy.
This letter sets the events since 14 June 2017 in context, and replies to some claims made in the recent Parliamentary session.
Hsien Loong quarrelled with us on 12 April 2015, the day our father's will was read. He wanted to state before Parliament the next day that our father had changed his mind and that there was no need to demolish the house at 38 Oxley Road. Naturally we could not agree, as that story was untrue. He was also angry that Wei Ling had an unfettered right to live in the house. He shouted at us and intimidated us. It was the crossing of the Rubicon. He has not spoken to us since.
Shortly thereafter, Hsien Loong wrote to tell us that he had hired a lawyer (Lucien Wong) to deal with the situation, and asked who our lawyers were. We were gobsmacked. We were siblings discussing our father's house. We had to get our own lawyers. Soon, Hsien Loong ceased to communicate with us directly. The first Chinese New Year reunion after our father's death, our brother invited all relatives except us.
We attempted to reach out over the past two years, through various intermediaries. We privately offered a ceasefire shortly after our statement of 14 June 2017. Our attempts at reconciliation were rebuffed. We therefore welcome Hsien Loong's stated desire on 4 July 2017 to manage his disagreement with us in private. We look forward to talking without the involvement of lawyers or government agencies.
On 14 June to date
In our public statement on 14 June 2017, we wrote that Lee Hsien Loong opposed our father Lee Kuan Yew's demolition wish, that Lee Hsien Loong misused his power as prime minister, and that he hijacked the organs of state to pursue his personal goals. At the time, some Singaporeans greeted these revelations with incredulity - how could these things happen in Singapore?
Since then, you have witnessed evidence on all three counts. Lee Hsien Loong claimed to recuse himself, but made extensive submissions to a secret committee comprised of his own ministers. He sought to challenge Lee Kuan Yew's wish to demolish the house at 38 Oxley Road, and asserted under oath that Lee Kuan Yew executed his will without knowing its contents. Hsien Loong's public statements contradict his private statements. Hsien Loong acquired documents in his capacity as PM and used them to fight his personal legal disputes.
He misused the powers of the Prime Minister's Office to pursue his personal desires. (We are putting out a separate paper briefly summarising the evidence to date.)
In Parliament, you have seen that PM Lee and Ho Ching had wished to preserve, renovate and move into our father's house to inherit his political capital. That Lee Kuan Yew signed renovation plans does not mean that he accepted that the house should be preserved. Hsien Loong misled Lee Kuan Yew (and the rest of the family) that the house would be inevitably gazetted. (We have shown several e-mails that prove this, that can be found in the accompanying summary of evidence.)
Having backup plans to deal with a bad event does not mean that one desires or accepts that the event should happen. If someone says, "If my books catch fire, please call my insurance company", he has not thereby accepted that his books should be burned.
On top of this, you have seen the organs of state rush to assist Lee Hsien Loong. The tightly-controlled Singapore media sent out an unending stream of biased reporting. Ministers scrambled to 'take responsibility' for actions that were clearly instigated by Hsien Loong's desire to dishonour our father's will. Government agencies intervened in the middle of the night to find excuses for the Prime Minister and Ho Ching.
Lee Hsien Loong wears two faces. In public, he presents himself as an honourable son, seeking harmony in the family. In private, he uses his official powers and his subordinates to undermine Lee Kuan Yew's wishes and attack those who speak up.
Why did we speak up?
We are private citizens with no political ambitions. Indeed, we are not politicians and do not have huge media teams to write for us. We have no unfiltered access to mainstream media, and are not savvy with social media. We have made a lot of mistakes along the way; please forgive us.
We seek only to honour our father Lee Kuan Yew's demolition wish, which he stated repeatedly, in public, in writing, on video, and in his legally binding Last Will and Testament. Our father's will has been confirmed by the courts at Hsien Loong's urging. We hope that Singapore will have the heart to respect Lee Kuan Yew's wish. To be clear, we have never asked, and do not ask, for any exceptions or special treatment. Due process needs to be followed, not secret committees attacking wishes and wills. The house is not a temple, and our father not a god.
We have to learn to live without him. In seeking to fulfil our father's wish, we have paid heavy costs, that far exceed the monetary value of any piece of property. It is wrong of Hsien Loong to pretend to honour our parents' wishes whilst using the organs of the state to do the opposite.
We love Singapore, and want only that it prospers, under a government that has integrity and respects the rule of law. We would not have brought this dispute into the public eye, if there was a neutral and unbiased venue to resolve our differences in private. Would you keep quiet, if you were executors of your father's will, and your brother abused his position to challenge your father's court-proven will and undermine your father's dying wish?
Were our father alive today, he would be furious about this situation. His wishes are crystal clear: He wanted to demolish the house because he knew it was the right thing for Singapore.
He did not want Singaporeans to create a cult around him. And our mother did not want strangers to invade their home. Their wishes are consistent with what is best for Singapore.
We need to move beyond Lee Kuan Yew's artefacts and look to Singapore's future.
On the recent Parliament session
We have provided part of the evidence, and have been met with hostility and denial. The recent Parliament sitting raised more questions than answers. As we had no opportunity to present our point of view in Parliament, we have no choice but to make our responses through this letter.
It is impossible for MPs to effectively question PM Lee, when his party controls almost all the seats in the house. No independent investigator has gathered evidence, interviewed other witnesses, or subpoenaed the government's own records. As we pointed out before, Parliament is not the right forum for investigations of this nature.
In Parliament, many spoke up to parrot Lee Hsien Loong's attacks on Lee Kuan Yew's will and on us. This entirely proves our point that Hsien Loong's subordinates are beholden to him, and cannot be impartial judges of their own boss.
Of course, we acknowledge that the government has the legal power to gazette the house against Lee Kuan Yew's wishes. However, Lee Hsien Loong has gone beyond that. He has sought to rewrite history about Lee Kuan Yew's stance on demolition - to claim, unbelievably, that Lee Kuan Yew wavered in his unwavering wish. Hsien Loong's ultimate aim is to preserve the house, while pretending to respect the man.
It seems that releasing further evidence on social media at this time will only muddy the facts, and put pressure on government agencies to make excuses for PM Lee. If there is ever a truly independent inquiry to examine the evidence, they are welcome to ask. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Singapore whether they hold Lee Hsien Loong to a true accounting.
On the Ministerial Committee
In December 2015, the estate of Lee Kuan Yew reached a settlement agreement with Lee Hsien Loong. In this settlement agreement, Lee Hsien Loong confirmed Lee Kuan Yew's final will, and specifically endorsed the demolition clause in the final will. Lee Hsien Loong also promised to recuse himself from all government decisions on the house. All three children of Lee Kuan Yew made a joint public statement proclaiming the demolition wish. By entering into this settlement agreement, Hsien Loong accepted Lee Kuan Yew's final will as conclusive and legally binding.
We believed this was a good conclusion, and were surprised in 2016, when we were informed by Lawrence Wong that the Singapore Cabinet convened a committee to study Lee Kuan Yew's thinking on his house. Disregarding his contractual and publicly announced 'recusal', Lee Hsien Loong made extensive submissions to this committee.
It rapidly became clear that the Ministerial Committee was just a way for Lee Hsien Loong to secretly attack Clause 7 of our father's will. In doing so, he tried to undermine our father's wish to demolish the house, as well as Wei Ling's unfettered right to stay in the house.
We were no more than responding to Lee Hsien Loong's attacks on us and on our father's last will, that were parroted by the Committee. We never expected any exemptions or preferential treatment. The committee approached us, and not the other way around. We responded to the committee's queries, in accordance with our duties as executors of Lee Kuan Yew's estate.
There are claims that we objected to the committee because its questions were "inconvenient".
This is a straw man. In fact, we answered the committee's 'inconvenient' questions in detail, several times, only to have it ignore the answers and keep parroting Lee Hsien Loong.
Our objection was not that the committee's questions were inconvenient, but that they were deeply improper. When a secret committee of ministers tries to 're-examine' or 'go beyond' a legally-binding will, that disregards the rule of law and the separation of powers.
Lee Hsien Loong's attacks escalated in 2017, when he made his accusations by way of statutory declarations. It became clear, as the Committee pushed us for statutory declarations and involved the Attorney-General's Chambers, that this was a secret inquisition, a way for Lee Hsien Loong to side-step the court ruling on our father's will. Because of his relentless attacks through the Committee, and behind closed doors, we were pushed to take this public.
How can Lee Hsien Loong at his whim ignore his legal obligations under our settlement agreement? How can a committee of subordinates ever be objective and impartial in a dispute where the Prime Minister is one of the parties involved? How can a ministerial committee be the correct forum for re-examining the validity of a court-declared binding will?
It is wrong that Lee Hsien Loong takes his grievances with Lee Kuan Yew's estate to a committee of subordinates. There is a clear conflict of interests and it cannot by any stretch of imagination be considered an impartial forum. If Hsien Loong wishes to challenge the will, the correct forum was and is the courts.
Lee Hsien Loong is seeking to paper over this serious abuse now. He wants to pretend that this was merely an ordinary ministerial committee, a gathering of high-powered ministers just to "get a clearer sense of thinking on the house". (Lee Kuan Yew's will and public statements already make his thinking crystal clear.)
There are claims now that the committee's purposes were entirely innocent. If this was truly so, why was the committee so secretive? For almost a year, we asked simple questions about the identity of the committee members, the options under consideration, and its final deliverables.
These were not answered. As owners of the property and executors of Lee Kuan Yew's estate, we had a right to know these basic facts. If the committee's purposes were as innocent as it claims, it would have answered our questions promptly and transparently.
The assertion now is that the committee had a broad-ranging mission to 'examine options' for 38 Oxley Road, and that it discussed the options with us. This conflates the committee's work with conversations we had long before the committee was formed, in which options were discussed with us only in a "personal capacity". The committee's correspondence with us focused almost entirely on Lee Hsien Loong's attacks on Lee Kuan Yew's will. (If the committee disagrees with our characterisation, we welcome it to release the full and unredacted correspondence from both sides.) If the committee had instead genuinely engaged on options, we would have gladly offered our input.
On our father's will
All parties now acknowledge that Lee Kuan Yew's wish for demolition was unwavering - to quote Lee Hsien Loong's speech on 4 July 2017, our father "always wanted it knocked down".
Lee Kuan Yew did, of course, make backup plans in case the government acted against his wishes. He set this out in the third sentence of Clause 7 of his will - that if his children were prevented by the government from demolishing the house, then he asked that it be only accessible to his children and their descendants. However, it is clear that he did not "accept" that the government should gazette the house. Leaving instructions for how to deal with a bad event does not imply that you accept or desire that bad event. Lee Kuan Yew always regarded the possibility of gazetting as distressing and regrettable.
By granting probate, the courts have declared the will to be the full, final, and legally binding statement of Lee Kuan Yew's wishes. If Lee Hsien Loong wanted to cast doubt on our father's will, he had every opportunity during the probate process. We hope that he will cease attacking the will. If the government respects the separation of powers, it should treat Lee Kuan Yew's will as the last word on the matter. The courts are the correct forum to resolve disputes about a will.
We are glad that the committee has acknowledged that it has no authority to rule on the validity of Lee Kuan Yew's will. We see no reason to make further submissions to the committee in its current form.
On the future
We are not politicians, and do not wish to see Singapore embroiled in a never-ending public argument. For now, we will cease presenting further evidence on social media, provided that we and our father's wish are not attacked or misrepresented. Ultimately, it is up to the government, and the people of Singapore, to decide whether and how to hold Lee Hsien Loong to account.
Since 14 June 2017, numerous Singaporeans have reached out to us in support. We would like to thank each and every one for the love and respect you show our parents, and for all your good wishes. We would also like to thank each of you for caring enough for the Singapore our father helped build - one where integrity, rule of law, and the country always came first. We know some of you have very different views about the house and its preservation. We respect your views and your voice. You have our heartfelt thanks.
Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang
Joint Executors and Trustees of the Estate of Lee Kuan Yew