SINGAPORE: The joint statement issued by the siblings of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Jun 14) was not “merely a family affair”, said Dr Lee Wei Ling in a Facebook post early on Thursday.
In it, she wrote that if it was a family affair, they “would not have taken it public”.
A major part of the siblings' statement concerns the plans to demolish the home of their father, the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. They claimed that PM Lee opposed his wish to demolish the house, alleging that he has an incentive to preserve the house “to inherit (Lee Kuan Yew’s) credibility”.
Hours after Dr Lee's Facebook post on Thursday, Mr Lee Hsien Yang again took to the social media platform, suggesting that some of PM Lee's public statements had not matched what he said in private to the ministerial committee that was set up to consider options for 38 Oxley Road, the house bought by the the late Mr Lee and his wife Kwa Geok Choo.
He said the late Mr Lee's will - which states that the house be demolished immediately after his death, or after Dr Lee moves out - is recognised as "final and legally binding".
In an interview with TODAY on Wednesday night, Mr Lee Hsien Yang also said that this was not a family spat, but about the values of their father – “of putting Singapore first, rather than power and popularity”. He also elaborated on his decision to leave Singapore, saying: “Why would I want to move if I did not feel persecuted?"
OXLEY ROAD HOME ISSUE
In her Facebook post on Thursday, Dr Lee again referenced the issue of 38 Oxley Road. She said the late Mr Lee had repeatedly told his children that there is no need to donate the proceeds from the sale of the house to charity, as it was family property.
She added that PM Lee, as a condition for selling the house to his brother, stipulated that he must pay market value of the house and donate 50 per cent of the value to charity.
Last December, PM Lee said the two brothers will each donate half the value of the house to eight charities named in the obituary notice of their late father.
Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong had said on Wednesday that the prime minister has not been involved in discussions by an internal ministerial committee set up by the Cabinet to consider the options for the house and the implications of those options.
Mr Tan added that as part of the committee’s work, it sought the views of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s children to ask if they wished to say anything about the late Mr Lee’s thinking in respect of the Oxley Road home, beyond what has already been stated in public.
However, in the TODAY interview, Mr Lee questioned the need for such a committee when his sister was still living there.
He also took issue with how the committee had asked the siblings on how the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s last will was prepared, and the role that his wife, Mrs Lee Suet Fern, and lawyers from her legal firm played in preparing that will.
“Yes, we had given answers to them last year. They continue to repeat the same questions. Probate has been obtained on the last will. It is final and legally binding. If Lee Hsien Loong had any doubt about the validity of the Last Will, he should have challenged it in court,” Mr Lee said in the interview with TODAY.
“Frankly, it is completely improper to use a Cabinet committee to pursue an issue like this when the proper channel was at the court and probate,” he added.
In response to his siblings' statement on Wednesday, PM Lee said he was “very disappointed” that his siblings chose to issue a statement publicising private family matters and denied their allegations, particularly the “absurd” claim that he harboured political ambitions for his son Li Hongyi. Mr Li subsequently stated on Facebook that he had "no interest in politics".
The events prompted PM Lee to make public a statutory declaration he submitted to the ministerial committee, saying it was "untenable" for him not to respond publicly to his siblings' allegations against him.
In the statutory declaration, he said he had "grave concerns" about the events surrounding the making of his father's last will - in particular, the removal and subsequent re-insertion of a clause stating the late Mr Lee's wish that the house be demolished.
In a Facebook post shortly after the statutory declaration was made public, Mr Lee Hsien Yang again noted that his elder brother had "raised no legal challenge to Lee Kuan Yew's will in the many months after it was read".
The younger Mr Lee also said that PM Lee's public statement to Parliament contradicted the statutory declaration he had made to the ministerial committee.
"Does he or does he not believe that Lee Kuan Yew was unwavering in his wish that the house be demolished? Is his statement to Parliament false, or is his statement under oath false?"
SIBLINGS' STATEMENT "HAS HURT OUR FATHER'S LEGACY"
PM Lee said that while siblings may have their differences, he believed that any such differences should stay in the family, and that since the passing of his father in March 2015, he has tried his best to resolve the issues among the siblings within the family.
“My siblings’ statement has hurt our father’s legacy,” he said.
PM Lee added that he would consider the matter further after he returns from his leave this weekend.