NHB 'clerical error' sparks more allegations in Lee family dispute

NHB 'clerical error' sparks more allegations in Lee family dispute
Mdm Ho Ching and Mr Lee Hsien Yang. TODAY file photos
Published: 6:20 PM, June 22, 2017
Updated: 12:23 AM, June 23, 2017

SINGAPORE — The National Heritage Board (NHB) said on Thursday (June 22) that a clerical error resulted in wrongly recorded dates which were at the centre of more allegations in the dispute among the Lee siblings over their family home on 38 Oxley Road. 

In a Facebook post on Thursday evening on the family dispute over 38 Oxley Road, Mr Lee Hsien Yang alleged that his sister-in-law Ho Ching collected some items belonging to Mr Lee Kuan Yew from his Oxley Road home while he was gravely ill in hospital. He attached a picture in the post of a document detailing the items were allegedly transferred by Madam Ho, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to the NHB.

To NHB’s admission of the error in dates, which showed the items transferred after Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death, he said: “This is even more troubling. By LKY’s will, the estate’s residual items, such as personal documents, fall under the absolute discretion of the executors Wei Ling and myself. Unapproved removal of these items, even by a beneficiary, constitutes both theft and intermeddling. Ho Ching is not an executor or a beneficiary to our father’s estate. We also still do not understand how she is a proper contact representative for the PMO.”

Mr Lee Hsien Yang alleged that Madam Ho “helped herself” to the items and handed them “to the NHB (ostensibly on loan) under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)”. 

He added: “She had no business doing this when LKY was in ICU and it is deeply troubling that someone can represent the PMO despite holding no official position.”

He said that she had visited the Oxley Road house on Feb 6, 2015, a day after Singapore’s founding Prime Minister was warded in hospital. 

But a check on the website of the Prime Minister's Office showed that Madam Ho was in Spain at that time, accompanying PM Lee on an official visit.

A photo posted by PM Lee on his Facebook page on February 7 2015 showed he, his wife, and other Singaporean officials being hosted to lunch in Madrid by the Spanish minister of economy and competitiveness, Mr Luis de Guindos.

When this was pointed out to him, Mr Lee Hsien Yang added to his original Facebook post: “In that case, since this official NHB document lists Ho Ching as the PMO point of contact, can she please identify the subordinate she instructed to take our father’s belongings?”

However, in response to media queries, NHB said several dates shown on the list were wrong, and most of the items were received on April 6, 2015 — and not Feb 6, 2015 as stated. “All the items were loaned to NHB after the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away, to be displayed at the In Memoriam: Lee Kuan Yew exhibition held at the National Museum of Singapore,” said NHB, adding that it has a receipt for the items on loan from PMO dated April 6, 2015.

Among the items transferred were four documents and Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s iconic “red box”, a briefcase he used for his working documents. They included a memo from the Director of Posts, dated Feb 11, 1952, telling the Postal and Telecommunications Uniformed Staff Union that the British government had no objection to Mr Lee Kuan Yew representing them in their dispute with the colonial government.

The other items were a telegram from Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and a document from British lawyer John Laycock, the founder of Laycock and Ong, dated April 13, 1953, where Laycock wrote that members of the firm, including Mr Lee, were spending too much time on “lengthy arbitrations or commissions on wages etc which are now all the vogue”.

The list posted by Mr Lee Hsien Yang shows that most of the items were received by the NHB on Feb 6, 2015 — which turned out to be wrong after NHB admitted the clerical error — except for the “red box” which was received on March 27, 2015, four days after Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death.