PM raises ‘serious questions’ over making of Mr Lee’s Last Will
SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has raised “grave concerns” about events surrounding the making of his father’s Last Will, saying on Thursday it was untenable for him not to respond to his siblings’ allegations before he returned from leave overseas.
Giving his version of how Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Last Will of December 2013 came to be made — contents of which he said he only learnt about in April 2015, after his father’s death the previous month — PM Lee questioned the role of his sister-in-law, Mrs Lee Suet Fern, in the will and whether there was conflict of interest on her part. Among other questions, he also asked whether the provisions of the will were explained to Mr Lee Kuan Yew and if his father gave specific instructions to re-insert the demolition clause.
Without “proper and complete answers” to these and other questions, “there are serious doubts about whether Mr Lee (Kuan Yew) was properly and independently advised on the content of the Last Will before he signed it”, he said.
And not least because of the “deeply troubling circumstances” concerning the making of the Last Will, PM Lee said there was no basis for the claims of his siblings — Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling — that the demolition clause in the will showed that Mr Lee was firm in his wish that the house be demolished, and that he was not prepared to accept its preservation or contemplate other options.
The Prime Minister said he believed it necessary to “go beyond the Last Will in order to establish what Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s thinking and wishes were in relation to the house”.
Releasing an edited summary of the statutory declarations he made to a ministerial committee looking into options for 38 Oxley Road, PM Lee said preparations were carried out for the Last Will (the seventh) after a discussion between Mr Lee Hsien Yang and their father in late 2013. The Last Will was to revert to the three children receiving equal shares of his estate, instead of Dr Lee receiving a larger share than her brothers.
“Yet, the Last Will that (Mrs Lee Suet Fern) and her law firm prepared and got Mr Lee (Kuan Yew) to sign went beyond that. Significantly, they re-inserted the demolition clause, even though that clause does not appear to have been discussed at the time of the making of the Last Will and had been in fact removed by Mr Lee from (the fifth and sixth wills),” said PM Lee, calling the circumstances “deeply troubling”.
He said there appears to be a conflict of interest that Mrs Lee Suet Fern was involved in the Last Will while her husband was a beneficiary and stood to gain from the removal of Dr Lee’s extra share. PM Lee noted that at one point, Dr Lee “began to harbour grave suspicions about the change in the shares in the Last Will”. Dr Lee also told PM Lee’s wife Ho Ching she did not trust Mrs Lee Suet Fern, who has “great influence” on Mr Lee Hsien Yang.
In a span of 41 minutes on Dec 16, 2013, Mrs Lee Suet Fern had seen to the preparation of the new will and got a lawyer from her law firm to be on standby to get it executed by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, he said. In that duration, their cousin Kwa Kim Li, who had prepared the first six wills of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, was removed from the email loop by Mr Lee Hsien Yang, he claimed.
After the Last Will was read to the three siblings and Mrs Lee Suet Fern and Ms Ho on April 12, 2015, Mr Lee Hsien Yang “repeatedly insisted on the immediate demolition of the house”, PM Lee claimed. “I said that such a move so soon after Mr Lee (Kuan Yew’s) passing, when the public’s emotions were still raw, might force the Government to promptly react by deciding to gazette the house, and that would not be in the interests of Mr Lee’s legacy or Singapore.”
Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee have said they want to carry out their late father’s wish, and have alleged that their eldest brother has abused his position as Prime Minister and wants to preserve the house to enhance his political capital. They also accused PM Lee and his wife of wanting to milk their father’s legacy and harbouring political ambitions for their son, Hongyi. The latter posted on Facebook on Thursday that he had “no interest in politics”.
Soon after PM Lee made public his representations to the committee, Dr Lee said in a Facebook post that the Prime Minister and Ms Ho were “being mischievous and dishonest” by selectively using quotes from her “out of context”.
PM Lee and Ms Ho were trying to “suggest that Hsien Yang and his wife were trying to cheat me in our father’s final will”, Dr Lee said.
Dr Lee said she had “much earlier and repeatedly made clear to Hsien Loong and Ho Ching the truth that there was no duplicity by Hsien Yang and his wife, Suet Fern”.
“(PM Lee) continues to repeat a position that I have both clarified and discredited as a smokescreen to obscure the key point that Lee Kuan Yew’s final will of December 17, 2013, is in the same terms as his will of August 19, 2011, including the demolition clause, exactly as our father had intended.”
Dr Lee said that after the will of Aug 19, 2011, PM Lee and Ms Ho were unhappy that she had been given a right to live at the house.
“They pushed and persuaded my father very hard on this issue. This eventually resulted in 2012 in my losing my right to stay in the house and my share of my father’s estate being reduced to only a life interest. I was very upset and quarrelled with my father. It was in fact my sister-in-law, Suet Fern, who interceded with my father (when Ho Ching and Hsien Loong were overseas) on my behalf,” Dr Lee said. “My father did reinstate me and gave me an extra 1/7 share as a result.”
“Hsien Yang and his wife were never informed of this extra share and continued to worry that I should be fairly treated and have a right to live in the house. I, too, was concerned about my right to live at 38 Oxley Road. Lee Kuan Yew’s final will of December 17, 2013, gave me that right. It is this that Ho Ching and Hsien Loong are trying to deny me.”
Mr Lee Hsien Yang also responded by rebutting PM Lee’s assertion that “there is no evidence that Mr Lee (Kuan Yew) even knew that the Demolition Clause had been re-inserted into the Last Will”. “How could Lee Kuan Yew not know when he initialled right beneath the Demolition Clause, and (Lee Hsien Loong) has the will?” he said on Facebook in a post that was accompanied by a picture showing the text of the clause and Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s signature under it.
In a separate Facebook post on Thursday, Mr Lee Hsien Yang accused his brother of adopting differing positions on the property in public and in private. He listed several instances of PM Lee’s statements in public about the house, juxtaposed against what he claims were positions held by the Prime Minister in private. PM Lee had said in Parliament in April 2015 that there was no need for the Government to take a decision on the house until his sister no longer resides there, and that it would be up to the Government of the day to take up the matter. He had also posted on Facebook previously that he hopes “the Government will allow the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wish for the demolition of the house to be honoured”.
Earlier on Thursday, Dr Lee also took to Facebook — at 2am — to say that the main message she and her brother want to put out is that “if PM can misuse his official power to abuse his siblings who can fight back”, there is no telling “what else he could do to ordinary citizens”. PM Lee had sought to “punish” his brother for “blocking what he wants to do with the house”, she alleged.