Goh Chok Tong, ministers comment on Lee family feud

Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong has asked Singaporeans to urge Prime Minister Lee and his siblings to settle their dispute in private. (Photo: AFP)

Singaporeans can urge the Lees to settle their dispute amicably in private or through closed–door arbitration, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Saturday evening (17 June).

“It is not worth tearing up family bonds built over a lifetime over these differences, however serious they are. This is not the family legacy which their father would have wanted to leave behind,” said Goh in a Facebook post.

The former Prime Minister was the third senior political figure in a day to weigh in on the ongoing feud between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his younger siblings Hsien Yang and Wei Ling. Since issuing a statement on Wednesday denouncing their older brother PM Lee, the younger Lees have engaged in a flurry of social media posts detailing various allegations and rebuttals to PM Lee.

In response, PM Lee released on Thursday a summary of statutory declarations to a Ministerial Committee set up to explore the options for the house at 38 Oxley Road, the residence of the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who was the father of the three younger Lees.

Besides the fate of the house, PM Lee and his two siblings are also squabbling over the contents of the late Lee’s will pertaining to his intentions for the house.

Earlier on Saturday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in a Facebook post that “most Singaporeans are sick and tired about these endless allegations, which are quite baseless.” He added, “The government has serious business to attend to relating to the welfare of Singaporeans.”

The Oxley Road house at the centre of a public dispute between the children of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. (Photo: Reuters)

The “secretive” Ministerial Committee

On the same day, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean also revealed for the first time that he chairs the Ministerial Committee. “The Government has the responsibility to consider the public interest aspects of any property with heritage and historical significance, and this applies to 38 Oxley Road,” said Teo in a statement. “The committee’s interest in Mr Lee’s will is confined to the light that it sheds on (Lee Kuan Yew’s) wishes for the house.”

Teo noted that the Committee is currently studying “various intermediate options”. For example, demolishing the house but keeping the basement dining room where many important historical meetings took place, with an appropriate heritage centre attached. He also denied the younger Lees’ assertion that the Committee was “secretive” and disclosed the identities of three of its members: Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong and Shanmugam.

Shanmugam also noted separately that there are “dozens” of Cabinet Committees considering a variety of matters. He said, “Their composition is not public and they report to the Cabinet.”

In response, Hsien Yang claimed in a Facebook post that Shanmugam’s presence on the committee represented a “clear conflict of interest”, given that the minister had advised Lee Kuan Yew, Hsien Yang and Wei Ling on aspects of the late Lee’s will related to his wishes for the house.

“We found the refusal to identify the members of the committee, and to confirm Shanmugam’s recusal particularly troubling as he is an experienced Senior Counsel and Minister for Law who should well understand the problem of conflicts of interests. Only now do we find out that he is indeed a member of this Committee.”

Posting his remarks shortly after, Shanmugam declared that the suggestion that he is in conflict was “ridiculous.” He added, “I was already a Cabinet Minister when I spoke with some members of the Lee family – at their behest – and gave them my views. They were not my clients. Nothing that I said then precludes me from serving in this Committee.

“I am well aware of the rules of conflict, having been in practice for over 22 years. If Mr Lee Hsien Yang seriously believes that I was in conflict, he can get a lawyer to write to me and I will respond.”

Meanwhile, ESM Goh also said that he supports the “careful way” in which Teo and the Government are handling the issue as public interests are involved. “I advised (DPM Teo) to respect Lee Kuan Yew’s wish but agreed that it would be disrespectful of our own heritage to just demolish the house for it to be replaced by a commercial building or another private residence.”

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