I am heartened that some semblance of an open discussion is finally happening in relation to the 38 Oxley Road disagreement. DPM Teo Chee Hean yesterday issued a reply to a Straits Times article questioning the need for a Ministerial Committee with regards to the former home of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
In his statement, DPM Teo said that the Government of the day had to take responsibility for 38 Oxley Road because it was a matter of “public interest”.
Personally, I don’t agree that this is of public interest at all – not at its outset at least.
This was the private home of a former leader. It has no official status. I can understand if the property in question was the Istana which is an official residence funded by public money. While Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a public figure, his private life and home has no bearing on state matters whatsoever. By this analogy, should the private home of former PM Goh Chok Tong also become a matter for the Government of the day after he passes?
Whatever motivated the Lee siblings to bring this matter into the public domain, they have raised certain concerns that have now made this a matter of public interest. Most notably, their allegations of misuse of power must be investigated now that it has been brought to the attention of Singaporeans.
However, before such allegations were made, the Oxley Road property was 100% a family issue. As such, DPM Teo’s explanation does not really answer the question of why this issue concerned the ministers in its outset.
What is causing discomfort to the general public is not that there is a dispute between the Lees. What is raising eyebrows are the accusations of abuse of position and the blurred lines between family and state that the spat has unveiled.
Chiefly, why are the ministers involved in what to do with a private residence in the first place? Is it to capitalise on party power and the LKY name? Is it a question of party interests or public interests? These are two issues that should not be fudged but is so easy to confuse given our particular political structure.
For the matter to be properly resolved, a public inquiry into why a ministerial committee was convened in the first place needs to be prioritised. Only after we have gone to the root of the problem can we begin to unravel the rest of the puzzle. After all, was the setting up of the ministerial committee the beginning of an abuse of power in itself?
There are definitely many questions to answer but for the matter to be satisfactorily resolved, we have to go to the root of the issue.