Lee Kuan Yew never ‘accepted’ Ministerial Committee’s options for Oxley Road home: Hsien Yang

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
Lee Hsien Yang, the younger son of the late Lee Kuan Yew, at his office in late 2017. PHOTO: Nicholas Yong/Yahoo News Singapore

This story has been updated to reflect the Ministerial Committee’s response to the Lee siblings’ statements.

A Ministerial Committee’s recent statement on 38 Oxley Road does not accurately reflect the wishes of the late Lee Kuan Yew, said his younger son Hsien Yang on Tuesday (3 April), in his first public statement on the matter in five months.

“He wanted demolition unwaveringly, and stated his wish repeatedly in private and in public. He wanted demolition, not only out of a desire for privacy, but because he believed that it would be better for Singapore’s future,” said Hsien Yang in a Facebook post.

The 61-year-old added that the late Lee, Singapore’s first prime minister, had been given a “false impression” by his eldest son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, that the gazetting of the house was “inevitable”. In light of this, Hsien Yang claimed, his father had been “forced to consider options other than demolition”.

On Monday, the Ministerial Committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean issued a 21-page report outlining three broad options for the former Lee family home: retain the house; retain the dining room and tear down the rest of the house; or demolish the house and allow the site to be redeveloped.

The report noted the late Lee’s preference for the house to be demolished, but claimed that he was also “prepared to accept options than demolition”, provided that suitable arrangements were made to ensure that “it was refurbished, and kept in a habitable state” and that the family’s privacy was protected in line with his wishes.

In his post, Hsien Yang insisted that his father had never “accepted” these options and, instead, “merely set out what he wanted if the government prevented his house from being demolished”. In March 2012, Lee Kuan Yew “reluctantly went along” with proposed renovation plans for the property “only because he believed the government already intended to thwart his hopes”, he added.

Hsien Yang claimed that the Ministerial Committee had relied extensively on submissions by PM Lee to write its report, “even though he claimed to recuse himself from any discussions on 38 Oxley Road”.  He claimed that PM Lee had also made a statutory declaration to the Committee in which the latter said that the late Lee had come to “accept Cabinet’s position” that the house should be preserved.

“Combined with Lee Kuan Yew’s numerous and unwavering public statements on the matter, there is more than enough documentary evidence for a future government to understand – and hopefully grant – our father’s last wish,” said Hsien Yang in conclusion.

Separately, Wei Ling shared Hsien Yang’s post along with her own statement:

Hsien Yang and his elder sister Wei Ling are the sole executors and trustees of Lee Kuan Yew’s estate. In June 2017, the two siblings took to social media to accuse PM Lee of pursuing a personal agenda with regard to their late father’s house at 38 Oxley Road.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied these allegations.

Meanwhile, the Ministerial Committee chaired by DPM Teo has responded to the siblings’ statements.  “These views expressed by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling had already been carefully weighed by the Committee, together with other submissions from the parties in their personal capacities, including those in the form of statutory declarations, and objective evidence in the form of documents signed by Mr Lee Kuan Yew.”

It reiterated that it relied on three key objective documents from the late Lee: the entire demolition clause in his last will, Lee’s letter to the Cabinet on 27 December 2011, and Lee’s application dated 29 March 2012 to the Urban Redevelopment Authority for renovation/redevelopment plans for the property, as well as URA’s subsequent approval in April 2012.

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