Lee Hsien Yang: Ministerial Committee not transparent nor proper, kept quiet over queries sent on agenda of the committee for months

Mr Lee Hsien Yang has come up with yet another follow up post on the Lee family saga, explaining why the Ministerial Committee formed to deliberate on the government’s decision on 38 Oxley Road is not transparent nor proper.

In his post, LHY claims that the primary focus of the ministerial committee is to parrot Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s attack on late Lee Kuan Yew’s wish to have the house demolished and PM Lee’s attempts to discredit the final will of their father.

LHY also alleges that although the committee had claimed that it was just discussing options for the house, it is only an excuse offered after its operations were exposed.

He wrote, “Whether or not LHL supposedly recused him from decision-making, his own subordinates cannot be the judge of a matter in which he has a direct personal interest.”

According to LHY, the ministerial committee had refused to list the options it was considering for 38 Oxley Road, even after repeated requests from LKY’s Estate.

Sharing a screenshot of what appears to be a document on the matter, LHY states that the closest hint it gave to any discussion on options by the committee was from a vague paragraph, from Minister Lawrence Wong, allegedly sent on 24 August 2016.

The paragraph wrote,

“The Committee has been setup to look at the different options for the property (if and when a decision has to be made), and the implications of these options, including for the neighbourhood.

For example, if the property were to be converted to a park, we would like to examine the implications for other properties in the vicinity (including zoning and planning options), and the extent to which the treatment of the neighbourhood will be consistent with Mr Lee’s wishes for the property. This is highlighted by way of illustration.

LHY highlighted that the paragraph avoided confirmation of whether the property being converted to a park is an option under sincere consideration as the option is only discussed as “by way of illustration” without confirming or denying that this is a concrete option on the table.

He and his sister wrote back to the Ministerial Committee on 20 Dec for concrete information. They wrote supposedly to Minister Lawrence Wong:

“It is imperative that the Ministerial Committee’s process is transparent, fair, impartial and objective. We would therefore raise again some of the queries posed in our letter of 8 august 2016, and ask that you let us know.

a. The identity of the other members of the Ministerial Committee, apart from DPM Teo Chee Hean and yourself;
b. the various “options in respect of 38 Oxley Road” which are presently or will be under consideration by the Ministerial Committee;
c. the intended or expected proceedings of the Ministerial Committee and its decision-making process;
d. the time frame within which the Ministerial Committee will perform its work;
e. whether the Estate of Lee Kuan Yew will be permitted to attend before the Ministerial Committee to make representations in person or in writing (in addition to our letter of 31 October 2016 and any comments on LHL’s full views that we may be given the opportunity to make); and
f. the final deliverable from the Ministerial Committee.

According to LHY, they wrote to the Ministerial Committee again on 28 Feb 2017. LHY shows two paragraphs of a letter, which was also supposedly sent to Wong:

Third, in paragraph 7 of our letter of 20 December 2016, we posed several queries as to the process being undertaken by the Ministerial Committee. We regret that your letter has not addressed these queries. Instead, we are told that the Ministerial Committee itself will decide how it functions. We continue to remain completely in the dark on basic questions such as:

a. the identity of the members of the Ministerial Committee, other than DPM Teo Chee Hean and yourself;
b. the options in respect to 38 Oxley Road that are being or will be considered by the Ministerial Committee; and
c. the final deliverable from the Ministerial Committee.

We do not see anything controversial in these requests or any reasonable basis to deny us the information. It is only fair that we have some idea of the functioning of the Ministerial Committee to which we have been asked to provide input. We therefore repeat the queries in paragraph 7 of our letter of 20 December 2016.

LHY states that the committee did not answer their queries but instead spent most of its time repeating PM Lee’s attacks on their father’s demolition wish. He further states that the focus of the committee was not options on the house.

“It was an extra-judicial secret attack, through a committee of Hsien Loong’s subordinates, aimed at undermining out father’s last will and his unwavering wish.” wrote LHY and noted that whether or not PM Lee recuses himself from the decision of the 38 Oxley Road, his own subordinates cannot be his secret judges.

Statements about Ministerial Committee vague

In Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean’s statement on 17 June, he wrote that he set up a Ministerial Committee to consider the options for 38 Oxley Road and the implications of these options. He also shared that the committee members included cabinet members responsible for heritage, land issues and urban planning, i.e. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Minister for Law K Shanmugam, and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, but does not indicate if that is the full committee.

On 27 June, LHY wrote on his Facebook that they have offered to DPM Teo that the house be demolished after Dr Lee Wei Ling’s departure, and a memorial garden be built in its place. He stated that DPM Teo was reluctant and did not pursue the discussion further and PM Lee also rejected this offer.

In response, DPM wrote in a statement on 27 June,

“A misconception that Mr LHY may have is that the Committee is bent on preventing the demolition of the house. This is not true.

The Committee was set up to study and set out the range of possible options for the House and present them to Cabinet. Cabinet will only decide on which option to choose, when the time comes for a decision to be made on the House. If, for example, Dr LWL ceases to live in the House next month, then Cabinet will have to decide next month. If she stays there for 30 more years, then the Government in place, in 30 years, will have to decide. The Committee had written to Mr LHY and Dr LWL to clarify that it would list the various options and study their implications. By way of illustration, we highlighted that converting the House to a park would require studying the implications on the area, including for planning and zoning. This is in writing.”

He also wrote,

“I had also shared my personal views, verbally, on some of the options with Mr LHY, such as demolishing the House but keeping the basement dining room with a heritage centre attached. My objective was to let him know that government was not bent on retaining the house as he seems to believe, but that we are calmly and objectively examining a range of options. I do not recall whether it was Mr LHY or I who suggested a memorial park, but he is mistaken that I expressed reluctance. I said that I personally did not support the options on the extreme ends of the range – preserving the House as it is, or demolishing the House to redevelop it for new private residences. There are indeed a range of viable intermediate options between these. Mr LHY seems supportive of some of the intermediate options we are studying.”

On 17 June, Minister of Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam challenged LHY to write a legal letter to him, after making claims that the Minister had a conflict of interest for having to advised late LKY in and being a part of the Ministerial Committee. He did not make any other remarks about the Ministerial Committee.

On 24 June, former MCCY Minister Lawrence Wong did not comment on the Ministerial Committee or his communications with the two siblings but commented solely on how PM Lee got his hand on the deed of gift. He said that was normal, and in order, PM Lee to be given the deed in his official capacity. LHY had accused PM Lee for abusing his authority to obtain the deed of gift for personal affairs.

As for Minister Grace Fu, she has kept her silence thus far.

None of the statements so far by Cabinet Secretary Mr Tan Kee Yong, Prime Minister himself, DPM Teo and other ministers have clarified when the Ministerial Committee was formed nor presented any documents to counter what the two siblings have published on their Facebook pages. Will PM Lee and DPM Teo finally present evidence to refute the allegations by the two siblings on Monday or will they stick to empty rhetorics and get into a circle-jerking exercise as they always do?