Singapore

Ministerial panel was set up to weigh options for Oxley Rd house

Ministerial panel was set up to weigh options for Oxley Rd house
The Oxley Road residence, which was the family home of the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY
Published: 6:32 PM, June 14, 2017
Updated: 11:58 PM, June 14, 2017

SINGAPORE — A ministerial committee had been set up by the Cabinet to weigh the various options for the family home of late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at 38 Oxley Road, Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong confirmed on Wednesday (June 14).

The committee, he said, will list out the various options and implications for the house, where Mr Lee had lived since the 1940s until his death in March 2015. It had looked into various aspects of the issue, “including the historical and heritage significance of the house, as well as to consider (the late) Mr Lee’s thinking and wishes in relation to the house”. 

“This will help a future Government when a decision needs to be taken about the house,” Mr Tan said in a statement. He added that the committee had made clear, following a query from Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang — the siblings of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — that the Government “has no intention of doing anything with the house as long as Dr Lee continues to reside there”.

The statement gave no further details about the committee’s deliberations or when it was set up. 

Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang first hinted at the existence of the committee in a joint statement put up on Facebook in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. 

They said they were informed by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in July last year that a Ministerial Committee had been set up to “consider options with respect to 38 Oxley Road and their implications”. 

They also alleged that PM Lee had made “extensive representations” to the committee, despite his undertakings to recuse himself from the matter. 

In his statement, Mr Tan clarified that PM Lee had not been involved in the Cabinet’s discussions with regard to the Oxley Road committee. “As (PM Lee) had previously stated, he has recused himself from all Government decisions concerning the house,” Mr Tan added. 

Nevertheless, the committee had sought the opinions of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s children, to see if they had further comments beyond what they had said in public previously. “Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s views were sought in his personal capacity, given his position as Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s eldest son and his interest as a beneficiary of the estate,” the Cabinet Secretary said. 

The late Mr Lee had expressed the wish, on several occasions, to demolish the family home on Oxley Road after his death. Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, who are the executors and trustees of the late Mr Lee’s will, said their father had given them clear instructions directly and in his will — dated Dec 17, 2013 — to demolish the house immediately after his death, or after Dr Lee moved out.

Mr Tan said the committee had, in the course of its work, “received representations from (PM Lee) on various facts and circumstances in relation to how Mr Lee’s last will was prepared”. 

“The committee has asked Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang some further questions about how the last will was prepared, and the role that Mrs Lee Suet Fern and lawyers from her legal firm played in preparing the last will,” Mr Tan added. Mrs Lee Suet Fern is the wife of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, and the managing partner of law firm Morgan Lewis Stamford. 

The committee had invited Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang to give their responses via a statutory declaration, as PM Lee had done. “Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang have not responded to date, and have indicated that if they respond at all, they will only be able to reply at the earliest by the end of June,” Mr Tan said.

SETTLEMENT REACHED IN LATE-2015

A settlement involving their Oxley Road family home was reached in late 2015 among the three children of late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The terms of the settlement were disclosed by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang in their joint statement put up in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

According to the statement, the settlement was initiated by PM Lee Hsien Loong in May 2015, and involved him giving an undertaking that he would recuse himself from all government decisions, and that in his personal capacity, he would like to see his father’s wish honoured. 

Following Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death on March 23, 2015, PM Lee told Parliament weeks later that although he would like his father’s wishes to be carried out, the matter would be for the Government of the day to consider. 

He also said that he had recused himself from all government decisions involving 38 Oxley Road, but no immediate decision on whether the house will be demolished will be made by the Government, as Dr Lee will continue to live there. 

As part of the settlement, Mr Lee Hsien Yang would also pay PM Lee full market value for the house, and donate an additional half the value of the house to charity. 

In return, Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang sought a joint public statement by all three siblings expressing hope that the Government will honour Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wish for the house to be demolished, and that all Singaporeans will support their cause. 

On Dec 4, 2015, the three siblings issued a public statement which said that PM Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang will each donate half the value of the home to eight charities: Education Fund, NTUC-U Care Fund, Garden City Fund, Chinese Development Assistance Council, Mendaki, Association of Muslim Professionals, Singapore Indian Development Association, and the Eurasian Association. 

No details on the value of the house or when Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Lee Hsien Yang would make the donation were provided in the announcement then.