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Siblings of PM Lee said they felt 'threatened' over fate of Oxley Road home

SINGAPORE — The siblings of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have alleged in a six-page statement that they felt "threatened" in their attempt to carry out their late father's wish to demolish their family home on 38 Oxley Road. PM Lee and his wife Madam Ho Ching have denied the allegations.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang. TODAY file photo

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — The siblings of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have alleged in a six-page statement that they felt "threatened" in their attempt to carry out their late father's wish to demolish their family home on 38 Oxley Road - to the extent that one of them is leaving Singapore "for the foreseeable future".

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang also said they no longer trusted their elder brother and have lost confidence in him as a leader.

PM Lee, in a written response several hours later on Wednesday (June 14) morning, said he and his wife Madam Ho Ching deny the allegations. He also expressed disappointment and sadness at the public airing of private family matters.

"My siblings’ statement has hurt our father’s legacy," the Prime Minister wrote. "I will do my utmost to continue to do right by my parents. At the same time, I will continue serving Singaporeans honestly and to the best of my ability. In particular that means upholding meritocracy, which is a fundamental value of our society."

PM Lee, who is currently on overseas leave, added he would consider the matter further when he returns to Singapore this weekend.

Earlier, Dr Lee and the younger Mr Lee alleged in a joint statement, posted on their Facebook accounts at 2.20am on Wednesday, that they feared the "organs of state" might be used against them and the wife of the younger Mr Lee's wife, Ms Lim Suet Fern. 

"We feel extremely sad that we are pushed to this position," they added without giving details about the alleged persecution they said they felt. The statement, however, said Mr Lee Hsien Yang, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, felt "compelled to leave Singapore".

He was quoted saying in the statement: "It is with a very heavy heart that I will leave Singapore for the foreseeable future....I have no desire to leave. Hsien Loong is the only reason for my departure.”

Late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had lived in his Oxley Road home since the 1940s. He had expressed the wish, on several occasions, to demolish the house after his death.

Since the late Mr Lee’s death on March 23 2015, however, the issue of how to commemorate his legacy has been widely discussed, including what would become of his Oxley Road home. Some have called for the house to be conserved, while others suggested for it to be turned into a museum and memorial for the late Mr Lee.

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.

In his will, the late Mr Lee said this was also the wish of his wife Mdm Kwa Geok Choo. “I would ask each of my children to ensure our wishes with respect to the demolition of the House be carried out,” he wrote.

PM Lee, in a joint statement with his siblings on Dec 4 2015, said he had "recused himself from all government decisions involving 38 Oxley Road and, in his personal capacity, would also like to see this wish (of the late Mr Lee) honoured."

In their latest letter, however, Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang alleged that PM Lee had gone back on his word. They also decried the role of Madam Ho Ching, the Prime Minister's wife, in the matter.

They added that they were informed by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in July 2016 that a Ministerial Committee had been set up to "consider options with respect to 38 Oxley Road and their implications". Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang did not say if the committee had reached a new decision on the fate of the Oxley Road house.

They concluded in their letter: "We are private citizens with no political ambitions. We have nothing to gain from the demolition of 38 Oxley Road, other than the knowledge that we have honoured our father’s last wish."

Commenting on the exchange between PM Lee and his siblings, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said he was saddened by what had happened, adding that Singapore needs to focus on the multiple challenges before the country.

He told reporters on the sidelines of an Iftar event on Wednesday night: "PM must be going through a terrible time right now. There are so many issues, problems and challenges we are facing as a country. We need to focus and work on them.

"PM has my full support, as he leads us to tackle these important problems that we have."

This story is developing.

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