SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was given the Deed of Gift for Lee Kuan Yew's belongings in his official capacity, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong in a Facebook post on Friday (Jun 23).
The Deed of Gift concerns items from the estate of the late founding prime minister, which were loaned to the National Heritage Board (NHB) for a memorial exhibition.
The document was signed in June 2015 by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling - as executors and trustees of the late Mr Lee's estate - forming an agreement to donate some furniture and personal items belonging to their father from his 38 Oxley Road home to the NHB.
In the ongoing dispute between PM Lee and his siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang had earlier this week questioned if PM Lee acquired the "confidential" Deed of Gift in his public capacity, or in his private capacity, alleging that it was improper either way.
In his Facebook post on Friday, Mr Wong explained that a major public exhibition on Singapore's founding fathers "is a matter of deliberation by the Government" .
"It would therefore be normal and in order, that the Prime Minister be kept informed about the contents and presentation of the exhibition," he wrote. "The Prime Minister was given the deed in his official capacity."
Had PM Lee asked for the deed in his private capacity, he would be entitled to the information from the estate, said Mr Wong, given his position as the eldest son of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and beneficiary of the estate.
Mr Wong was the minister in charge of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth which oversees NHB when the Deed of Gift was made.
DEED CAME WITH "UNUSUAL CONDITIONS": LAWRENCE WONG
The Deed of Gift to the NHB came with a stipulation that the late Mr Lee's wish for the demolition of 38 Oxley Road be displayed prominently at the public exhibition.
PM Lee had objected to the terms of the deed, and this was revealed by Mr Lee Hsien Yang on Monday. He posted on Facebook a letter sent to him and his sister by PM Lee's then personal lawyer Mr Lucien Wong who stated that his client (Mr Lee Hsien Loong) found the terms "unacceptable".
According to the lawyer's letter dated Jun 12, 2015, PM Lee took issue with a clause which allowed his siblings to buy back any or all of the donated items from NHB for S$1 with no condition or restrictions attached, as long as the 38 Oxley Road home is still standing.
"This is antithetical to the nature of a gift, and contradicts the public statement by the Executors that they have gifted the items to NHB," said the letter by PM Lee's lawyer.
The clause allowing the Lee siblings to buy items back for S$1 was among "several unusual conditions" in the Deed of Gift, said Mr Wong on Friday, pointing out that it was unlike NHB's standard agreement for most items donated to museums.
The other unusual condition, he said, was that NHB had to display prominently only the first part of the demolition clause in the late Mr Lee's will, but not the second.
The second part of the clause stated: "If our children are unable to demolish the house as a result of any changes in the law, rules or regulations binding them, it is my wish that the house never be opened to others except my children, their families and descendants."
Mr Wong said he had discussed the matter with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean back then, and they were "concerned" about the partial quote of the demolition clause.
"But we eventually decided not to pursue the matter, and to let NHB proceed with the exhibition," Mr Wong wrote, adding that he will give a fuller explanation in Parliament on Jul 3.
"NOT THE WHOLE TRUTH": LEE HSIEN YANG
An hour after Mr Wong's Facebook post, Mr Lee Hsien Yang responded on his own page, accusing Mr Wong of "not telling the whole truth".
Mr Lee said Mr Wong failed to mention that the Deed of Gift was signed with the CEO of NHB Rosa Daniel who had accepted the terms of the document.
According to Mr Lee, two days after the deed was signed on Jun 8, 2015, Mrs Daniel sent him an "urgent message" that Mr Wong had decided not to go ahead with the Oxley Road House component of the exhibition.
Mr Lee posted a screengrab of his email to Mrs Daniel dated Jun 10 which said: "We are shocked and disappointed that NHB is willing to breach a legally binding deed less than 48 hours after signing, and on the morning after many of the items have been collected."
"To walk away as if no agreement had been executed is completely unacceptable to the executors of the estate of LKY," said Mr Lee in his email. "We do not accept the proposal by you to return the items."
The decision not to hold that part of the exhibition showed that "someone clearly did not want them (Singaporeans) reminded of Lee Kuan Yew's wish to demolish his house," Mr Lee alleged on Friday.
It has been more than a week since the bitter dispute among the Lee siblings spilled into the public sphere, after Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling posted a statement on Facebook, accusing their brother PM Lee of abusing his power in Government to deal with the matter, amongst other allegations.
PM Lee has said he will address the allegations made against him by his siblings, and urged all MPs to question him vigorously on the matter when Parliament sits on Jul 3.