SINGAPORE: A dispute between the children of late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew over his old home at Oxley Road has now widened to include items in his estate that were loaned to a memorial exhibition.
On Thursday (Jun 22), the late Mr Lee's youngest son Lee Hsien Yang claimed in a Facebook post that his brother Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching had “helped herself to a number of Lee Kuan Yew’s papers” on Feb 6, 2015. This was while the elder Mr Lee lay “gravely ill” in the intensive care unit, after being admitted to hospital the day before, he alleged.
He also claimed that Mdm Ho Ching did so “under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office”, calling it “deeply troubling”.
A screenshot uploaded to Facebook by Mr Lee Hsien Yang showed that the items listed were received by NHB on Feb 6, 2015.
Records show that Mdm Ho was overseas on that date, as she was accompanying PM Lee on an official visit to Spain. She returned to Singapore on Feb 7, 2015.
The National Heritage Board (NHB) late Thursday clarified that items loaned by the Prime Minister’s Office for display at the In Memoriam: Lee Kuan Yew exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore were handed over to NHB on Apr 6, 2015, well after the late Mr Lee died.
NHB said the items listed in the screenshot were received by NHB on Apr 6, 2015 instead of Feb 6, 2015. “This was a clerical error. NHB has a receipt for the items on loan from PMO dated Apr 6, 2015,” a spokesperson said.
In response, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said NHB's clarification was "even more troubling". "By LKY's will, the estate's residual items, such as personal documents, fall under the absolute discretion of the executors Wei Ling and myself," he said, referring to his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling.
"Unapproved removal of these items, even by a beneficiary, constitutes both theft and intermeddling," he said. "Ho Ching is not an executor or a beneficiary to our father's estate. We also still do not understand how she is a proper contact representative for the PMO."
Mdm Ho subsequently responded in a comment on Mr Lee's post, clarifying the circumstances under which the items had been loaned. She confirmed that she had been overseas with PM Lee on Feb 6, 2015, and that it was only after the elder Mr Lee's death that she helped tidy up the house and found items that she thought were "significant in papa's life".
She added that she kept both Mr Lee and his sister Dr Lee posted on what she had done, including the loan of the items to NHB.
"I hope that whatever you are upset about, you will have the heart to remember what papa and mama would have wanted most for the family and for Singapore," Mdm Ho added.
The bitter spat between the Lee siblings spilled into the public domain in the wee hours of Jun 14, when Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Dr Lee issued a joint statement accusing PM Lee of opposing their father's wishes to demolish the house and abusing his power to do so.
Prime Minister Lee has apologised to Singaporeans over the dispute, saying he "deeply regrets that the dispute has affected the country's reputation and Singaporeans’ confidence in the Government". He has announced that he will speak on the matter in Parliament on Jul 3, and urged all MPs to question him vigorously.
On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam also elaborated on the decision to form a ministerial committee to deliberate the options for Mr Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road home, following accusations from Mr Lee Hsien Yang that it was "secret" and "shadowy". "It’s how we ensure that we are not a Government that operates in silos, that the national interest prevails even when there are valid sectoral or private interests, and that the long view prevails over the short view wherever possible," he stated.