Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has issued a statement in response to an opinion piece by Han Fook Kwang, editor-at-large for Straits Times.
Straits Times earlier published Mr Han’s opinion piece, “Three key issues in the Lee vs Lee saga” on Wednesday. The piece asks three pertinent questions in regards to the on-going Lee family saga that have intrigued both local and international community.
- How involved ministers should be on the issue of the 38 Oxley Road dispute and suggested that the ministers should have stayed clear of the dispute over the will.
- Do Singaporeans want to know and to participate in the discussion of the saga, given the accusations field by Prime Minister’s siblings of him abusing public powers to achieve his personal agenda.
- How people would want to move forward, beyond the record and achievements of their past leaders.
In his response, DPM Teo addressed to the question of the minister’s involvement by saying that the issue of what to do with 38 Oxley Road cannot simply be left in the hands of the Founders’ Memorial Committee and the Cabinet of the day and its ministers cannot avoid taking responsibility for making the required decisions on matters where the public interest is involved.
In April 2015 after the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Founders’ Memorial Committee would be chaired by Mr Lee Tzu Yang to gather views from the public, and conceptualise a memorial for Singapore’s founding fathers.
While DPM Teo claims that the committee was formed by him, it is unknown when the ministerial committee was formed and whether was it formed after the three siblings had the agreement for the property to be sold to Mr Lee Hsien Yang, so as to allow him to decide on what to do with the property at 38 Oxley Road.
PM Lee has made a public statement on 19 June to apologise for the dispute between him and his siblings and stated that he will make a ministerial statement to refute the allegations made against him and will subject himself to questioning by the Members of Parliament on 3 July with party whip lifted for his party.
Below is DPM Teo’s statement in full
Mr Han Fook Kwang in his article “Three key issues in the Lee vs Lee saga” asks about the need to set up a Ministerial Committee. Setting up a Ministerial Committee to study or work on issues is part of normal Cabinet working processes. Even boards of companies set up committees to look into specific issues. He also asked why the issue of what to do with 38 Oxley Road cannot simply be left in the hands of the Founders’ Memorial Committee. Ultimately, it is the Government of the day which has to be responsible for making a decision on the property as this is where the powers reside under the law, specifically the Preservation of Monuments Act and the Planning Act in this case. Mr Han himself acknowledges this. It is therefore incumbent on Cabinet to consider and decide on the issues, and I have decided to set up a committee to assist Cabinet to do so. Cabinet cannot outsource decision-making. But this does not preclude public consultations or the involvement of some memorial committee at an appropriate time. Indeed members of the public have already written in offering suggestions.
Prime Minister Lee has recused himself from government decisions on the property. No decision is required now as Dr Lee Wei Ling continues to live in the house.
Whoever makes a recommendation, the public or some memorial committee, and when Cabinet eventually makes a decision, founding Prime Minister Mr Lee’s thinking is an important factor which we would all want to take into account. The committee invited views from the siblings to understand Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s thinking on this matter. It is only proper that the committee seek their views. Indeed, the Committee had to, since the siblings themselves told us they had different views, and challenged each other’s interpretations of Mr Lee’s wishes. All views were given voluntarily, including those in the form of statutory declarations. Where there were different views, clarifications were sought including the offer for them to be made as statutory declarations. As I have said, the interest of the Committee in Mr Lee’s will is confined to helping us understand his thinking on the matter. This process was conducted through correspondence, and out of the public eye until it was brought out onto a public platform. We should be clear that the difference of views did not arise because there was a Ministerial committee. We still hope that differences of views on private matters can be resolved within the family. But ultimately, the Cabinet of the day and its ministers cannot avoid taking responsibility for making the required decisions on matters where the public interest is involved, and due process is required. Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself understood this and would have expected the government to do so.