Property at 38 Oxley Road (photo - Google Maps)

Ministerial Committee announces three options for govt to take on 38 Oxley Road

The Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road announced that it has completed its work and released its Report on Monday (2 April).

The Report lays out a range of options for the Property,  from preservation on one end, to demolition and redevelopment on the other.

The report does not make any recommendations and there is no need to make a decision on the Property now. The various options in the Report are meant to help a future government make an informed and considered decision when the need arises.

The report addresses the Committee’s three terms of reference.

First, the Committee assesses that the Property has architectural, heritage and historical significance.

Second, it is the Committee’s view that while Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s preference was for the Property to be demolished, he was prepared to accept options other than demolition, provided that suitable arrangements were made to ensure that the Property was refurbished, and kept in a habitable state; and the family’s privacy was protected.

Third, the report lays out the possible plans and options for the Property, and the considerations for each of them, to serve as drawer plans for a future government.

The report says that the Cabinet (without the Prime Minister, who had recused himself from all discussions regarding 38 Oxley Road) decided in June 2016 to task a Ministerial Committee to prepare drawer plans of various options for the Property and to consider their implications, given the public interest on this matter.

“Cabinet felt it would be beneficial for a future Cabinet to hear the views of those who had directly discussed the matter with Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The report has been considered and approved by Cabinet,” it stated.

In drawing up the report, the committee invited representations from Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s children, namely Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, in order to obtain as full a picture as possible of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s thinking on 38 Oxley Road.

The report outlines a range of options that can be considered.

“A future Government can refer to this report and make a considered and informed decision when the time comes to decide on the matter,” it stated.

DPM Teo, the Chair of the Ministerial Committee said, “The Committee has considered a range of options for the Property as well as their implications. We did not make any recommendation because no decision is required at this point in time.”

“Ultimately, in the fullness of time, a future Government will have the responsibility to consider the public interest aspects of the Property, taking into account Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes. They will have to decide what to do with the Property and be able to carry the decision.”

“The Committee has carefully studied the representations from Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s children. In reaching our views on Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes, we relied particularly on the objective evidence placed before us and the key concrete steps that Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself took in his lifetime to put his wishes into effect.”

“This included the demolition clause in Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s last will, his letter to Cabinet dated 27 December 2011, as well as the renovation/redevelopment plans for 38 Oxley Road which he submitted to the URA in March 2012, and obtained approval for.”

“The work of this Ministerial Committee was thrust into the public spotlight last year. We therefore felt we owed it to Singaporeans to release our Report, explain our work, what were our findings, and the options for the Property that could be considered by a future Government. With this, we hope to close the chapter on this topic, and focus on other pressing national issues ahead of us,” he added.

The Committee was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, and 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.

The full report can be accessed here.

Commenting on the release, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote a Facebook post on Monday.

“I have read the report of the Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road. The report was considered and approved by the Cabinet, chaired by DPM Teo Chee Hean. I had recused myself from dealing with the matter,” he wrote.

He then stated that speaking as a son, he accepts the Committee’s conclusion on what his father’s wishes were regarding the house at 38 Oxley Road and the range of options it has laid out.

“As the Committee pointed out, there is no need to make a decision now. My sister is still living there, and is likely to continue doing so for the foreseeable future,” he wrote.

“I hope that when the time comes to decide on what to do with the house, this report will help the Government of the day to make an informed decision that both respects my father’s wishes and is in the public interest,” he added.

PM Lee was forced to apologise on video to the nation last year after his two siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Ms Lee Weiling issued a public statement, alleging him for misusing his authority to prevent the demolition of their father and founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Oxley Road house.

In the statement on 14 June 2017, the two siblings, among other things, they took issue with the formation of the committee and the scope of its work. Later the same day, they sent a letter to the committee, conveying their decision to cease to engage with it.

The PM then took two-days debate in Parliament in July to deny the allegations, taking Members of Parliament through the events that led up to the dispute erupting in public. He also spoke in an interview with CNBC last October, saying that the spat was in abeyance.