SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Jul 4) emphasised that he did not deceive his late father and founding leader of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew over plans for the 38 Oxley Road family house.
The bungalow has taken centrestage in a spat which spilled into the open in mid-June, with Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling accusing their elder brother PM Lee of abusing political power to prevent the property’s demolition as desired by their father.
On Monday, PM Lee delivered a statement in Parliament rebutting these allegations. The next day he repeated how he was cognizant of his father’s wishes but differed with his siblings on Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s willingness to consider alternatives.
Expanding on his previous day’s account of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Cabinet meeting on July 21, 2011, PM Lee said: “After his meeting with the Cabinet … Mr Lee asked me for my view of what the Government would do with the house after he died.
“I gave him my honest assessment. I told him, you have met the Cabinet and heard the ministers’ views. If I chaired the Cabinet meeting, this being the view of the ministers and the public, in all likelihood, I would have to agree that the house be gazetted,” he recalled. “And if I was not PM then and did not chair Cabinet, all the more likely the house would be gazetted.
On the proposal made by PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching later that year in August - to renovate rather than demolish the house - he said: “We wanted to address their concerns should demolition not be allowed … The conservation plan was done honestly and openly, not on false pretences.”
NO DESIRE TO “ESCALATE QUARREL”
PM Lee also reiterated his refusal to sue his siblings, highlighting that “one golden thread running through it right from the beginning is my desire to manage the issue privately, without escalating the temperature, and the dispute, and without forcing the issue of my legal rights”.
“I adopted this approach because it involves family,” he said. “And I was hoping all along to work out an amicable resolution - even if that meant compromising some of my own interests.”
He also explained why an initial offer of S$1 to nominally transfer to his sister the house, willed to him by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had failed.
“My brother wanted in on the deal ... I agreed to this,” said PM Lee. “But during the discussions, disagreements arose. My siblings started making allegations about me, and escalating them.
“I told them that they would have to stop attacking me if they wanted the deal done, or else there was no point my transferring the house to them.
“They wanted me to give a certain undertaking which I could not agree to,” he added, later revealing this to be his support in demolishing the house.
“There was an impasse. We went back and forth for several months.”
In August 2015, after calling the General Election, PM Lee’s siblings issued him an ultimatum to accept their terms by Sep 1, 2015, “which was perhaps coincidentally Nomination Day”, he said.
“I told them I was very busy, and would respond as soon as the elections were over. I could not allow myself, the Government or the PAP to be intimidated by such threats.
“I decided to ask my siblings to clarify the circumstances surrounding the last will. After that, for whatever reason, the Sep 1 deadline passed uneventfully,” he said.
“After the election, I again tried to settle the matter. I told my siblings that we were not getting anywhere on the S$1 offer ... So I made them a fresh offer, to sell the house to my brother at full market value."