Oxley Road: Png Eng Huat says fate of Oxley Road house a matter for family, not Govt

The home of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew at 38, Oxley Road.
The home of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew at 38, Oxley Road.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The decision on the fate of 38, Oxley Road should lie with the Lee family and not with the Government, said Workers' Party MP Png Eng Huat on Monday (July 3).

Weighing in on the public feud between the Lee siblings over the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house, Mr Png asked in Parliament: "Why are ministers taking sides in a private dispute on a house that's still legally in the hands of a private individual?"

He pointed to statements made by ministers on social media, which seem to suggest that the house be demolished completely, according to the late Mr Lee's will, or "preserved in whole or in part as a political heritage".

"One can easily infer from the tone set by these ministers that the Government is tending towards the latter option," charged Mr Png. "And that sadly will drag the Government into the picture to decide on the fate of 38 Oxley Road in the guise of public interest."

Referring to the ongoing dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his younger siblings, he added: "Madam, if this Government had not the slightest interest to take sides and formed a secret committee to explore other options for the house in the first place, none of this would have happened."

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had set up a ministerial committee to consider options for the house. PM Lee had recused himself from all government deliberations on the house.

Mr Png on Monday pointed out how some ministers have alluded to how the house should be preserved due to its historical sanctity.

 
 

But he seemed to rubbish this argument, saying: "One thing is very clear to me: a political party was founded in the basement dining room of 38, Oxley Road, not modern Singapore.

"Modern Singapore was thrust into existence not by its own free will on Aug 9, 1965, under circumstances that are well documented in our history books, and 38, Oxley Road hardly gets a memorable mention anywhere. As PM mentioned earlier, it is just an old house."

He pointed out that the house probably holds "so many intimate and private memories" for the late Mr Lee and his wife "that none of us in this chamber, maybe with exception of the PM, should even attempt to try to understand or question" why they want the house demolished.

"The fate of the house is really a family matter and it should not be outsourced to the govt to decide. I wish to put on record that I do not support the effort or intention of the govt to gazette 38 Oxley Road for whatever reason," declared Mr Png.

Even if the PM has recused himself in matters relating to the house, the buck stops with him, added Mr Png.

"Surely, the PM is not a lame duck commander-in-chief in this matter. He has the power to have a final say, take the matter off the Government's hands and resolve it privately or in court as it should," he said, once more adding: "The surviving members of the Lee family should not outsource this decision to the Government or any secret committee."

He also raised the "disturbing revelations" made by the younger Lee siblings, among them that Attorney-General Lucien Wong was PM Lee's personal lawyer.

"The fact that the PM and our current A-G had a commercial relationship was never publicly disclosed until now," he said. "How long has Mr Wong been the personal lawyer for the PM? While such relationships may not allude to anything, a personal and commercial relationship between the PM and appointed A-G should be publicly disclosed in the name of transparency."

Mr Png also addressed allegations that PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching have misused their influence on matters relating to the house and the late Mr Lee's belongings, noting that "neither PM or his wife have come out to refute the allegations in no uncertain terms".

Such allegations need to be addressed, he said, adding: "In my dealing with civil service, many civil servants are neutral and we must protect them from being put into positions of conflict against the value personal and professional."