PM Lee Hsien Loong obtained deed of gift for Oxley House items in official capacity: Lawrence Wong

PHOTO: Ronald Wittek – Pool /Getty Images)
PHOTO: Ronald Wittek – Pool /Getty Images)

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong obtained a deed of gift relating to items from his late father’s estate, which were to be used in a public exhibition by the National Heritage Board, in his official capacity as PM, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday (23 June).

“Such a major public exhibition on our founding leaders is a matter for 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,” said Wong in a Facebook post.

He added that if PM Lee had asked for the information in his private capacity, “he would have been entitled to know about the exhibition and the items from the estate, given his position as the eldest son of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and beneficiary of the estate.”

Wong, who is now the fifth senior political figure to weigh in on the ongoing Lee family feud, added that he would give a fuller account of the matter during the next Parliamentary sitting on 3 July. At the same sitting, PM Lee will give a Ministerial Statement to address the issues arising from the feud.

On Thursday, Lee Hsien Yang said that the deed of gift was obtained by his older brother in his official capacity as PM. A deed of gift is a legal agreement to transfer ownership of possessions with no monetary transaction.

On the same day, Hsien Yang accused his sister-in-law Ho Ching of acting beyond her authority, claiming that she had represented the Prime Minister’s Office in collecting several items from his late father’s house at 38 Oxley Road. The items were displayed at the ‘In Memoriam: Lee Kuan Yew’ exhibition held at the National Museum of Singapore.

Wong noted that the use of the items from the late Lee’s estate came with “several unusual conditions”. “The deed of gift required NHB to display the first part of the demolition clause (in Lee Kuan Yew’s will, but not the second,” said Wong, adding that this had concerned him and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. But they decided not to pursue the matter and let NHB proceed with the exhibition.

Wong reproduced the demolition clause in full:

“I further declare that it is my wish, and the wish of my late wife, KWA GEOK CHOO, that our house at 38 Oxley Road, Singapore 238629 (“the House”) be demolished immediately after my death or, if my daughter, Wei Ling, would prefer to continue living in the original house, immediately after she moves out of the House. I would ask each of my children to ensure our wishes with respect to the demolition of the House be carried out.

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. My view on this has been made public before and remains unchanged. My statement of wishes in this paragraph 7 may be publicly disclosed notwithstanding that the rest of my Will is private.”

In response to the post by Wong, Hsien Yang reproduced on his Facebook page what was supposedly an email that he and his sister Wei Ling wrote to Rosa Daniel, CEO of NHB.

In the post, Hsien Yang said the deed of gift was signed with Daniel on the evening of 8 June 2015, and that NHB had accepted the “unusual conditions”. But less than two days later, Daniel informed him that Wong had “changed his mind” and NHB would not proceed with the Oxley Road House component of the exhibition, according to Hsien Yang.

The siblings claimed that Daniel acknowledged that NHB would be breaching the deed of gift but did not give any reasons for the Minister’s decisions.

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