38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

PM: I've done my best to keep private interests and public duties separate

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Parliament on July 3, that his father Lee Kuan Yew's wish to demolish the house is well-known to all Singaporeans.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday spoke of his predicament in dealing with the Lee family home, as he is both the son of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the head of the Government.

As the elder son of the founding prime minister, he naturally wanted to carry out his father's wishes, he said in Parliament.

But as the Prime Minister, he had to take into account the country's interest and allow the Government to deal with matters relating to his father's house in an impartial manner, he added. "I am caught between these two conflicting roles, so I have done my best to keep my private interests and public duties separate," he said.

In his seven-minute Mandarin speech, PM Lee also spoke of the pain he felt over the dispute with his younger sister and brother.

"That my family is in discord is sad," he said. "What is even sadder is to see the legacy Mr Lee Kuan Yew painstakingly built throughout his life besmirched overnight. The legacy left behind is priceless."

It was with a "heavy heart", he added, that he stood before Parliament to account to MPs and Singaporeans about the allegations of abuse of power that Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had hurled at him and the Government.

PM Lee described the steps he took to avoid any conflict of interest over the house at 38, Oxley Road. He had recused himself from all government decisions relating to it, and would absent himself whenever the Cabinet met to deliberate on the matter.

 

PAINFUL EXPERIENCE

That my family is in discord is sad. What is even sadder is to see the legacy Mr Lee Kuan Yew painstakingly built throughout his life besmirched overnight.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG

In his personal capacity, he said, he had tried his best to pacify his unhappy siblings. He had offered to transfer the house to his sister at a nominal sum of $1, but the deal fell through, and he eventually sold the house to his brother in 2015 and donated to charity an amount equal to the fair market value of the house.

"As the elder son in the family, it is my duty to protect my parents' and family's reputation," he said.

"I thought that having sold the house, my siblings would be satisfied as I no longer have any interest in the house."

It, therefore, came as a shock when his siblings went public with "baseless allegations" about him and the Government, without a care for the family's reputation, said PM Lee. He added that while he was very clear about his responsibility as a prime minister - to set the record straight in Parliament and open himself up for questioning - he was not sure what further actions he could take as a sibling.

"As the elder brother, I really don't know what else I should or can do," he said. "The family matter is an emotional one, and it is not likely that it can be resolved fully.

"But I hope some day there will be reconciliation among us siblings."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'PM: I've done my best to keep private interests and public duties separate'. Print Edition | Subscribe