It was revealed in court that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching were removed as executors of PM Lee’s father and Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s first will.

On the second day of the PM’s defamation suit trial against TOC chief editor Terry Xu on Tuesday (1 December), Mr Xu’s lawyer Lim Tean questioned PM Lee if Mr LKY had removed him and Mdm Ho as executors — and named Mr LHY and Dr LWL as executors — in a revised version of the Lee patriarch’s will.

PM Lee’s defamation suit against Mr Xu pertains to an article published on TOC on 15 August last year titled “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members”.

The article contained alleged defamatory statements made by PM Lee’s siblings Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling in relation to the 38 Oxley Road dispute.

PM Lee testified at the witness stand during Mr Lim’s cross-examination of him that Mdm Ho “was never an executor”.

He added that while he was made an executor of a will that Mr LKY “made a long time ago”, the elder Lee had removed PM Lee as an executor as matters on the 38 Oxley Road property “can be contentious”.

“He told me on 23 July and I note it and accepted it. It is for him to decide. It is his will. It is his property. His estate. I left it entirely to him,” said PM Lee, referencing Mr LKY’s email to him after a Cabinet meeting on 38 Oxley Road on 21 July 2011.

PM Lee’s lawyer Davinder Singh interjected at this point to reference an email, but Mr Lim stressed that he was asking PM Lee about Mr LKY’s will.

Mr Lim then told PM Lee to look at Mr LKY’s first will – which was drafted by Mr LKY’s wife and PM Lee’s mother Kwa Geok Choo – following which PM Lee acknowledged that according to the said will, Mdm Ho was named as an executor.

“Ah, sorry, then I withdraw my previous statement. According to this, Ho Ching was an executor for the old will,” said PM Lee.

“Yes. Ho Ching was the executor under the old will, the first will, drafted by your late mother?” Mr Lim prompted, to which PM Lee replied in the affirmative.

PM Lee then hastened to explain why it “made sense”, saying that based on the aforementioned email on 23 July, he was taken out as executor as Mr LKY said that “the house is worth 20 million and both of them have told me they would resist confiscation without compensation”.

PM Lee explained that the above refers to any attempt by the Government to acquire the house.

“Therefore, if I am an executor in that estate and at the same time prime minister it will put me in an awkward position and therefore he took me out as executor and I said, “Yes, I fully understand,” said PM Lee.

Background of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s defamation suit against TOC chief editor Terry Xu

PM Lee’s defamation suit against Mr Xu pertains to an article published on TOC on 15 August last year titled “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members”.

The article contained alleged defamatory statements made by PM Lee’s siblings Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling in relation to the 38 Oxley Road dispute.

At the heart of the 38 Oxley Road dispute is the house owned by the Lee siblings’ late father and Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the elder Lee’s wish to have the house demolished instead of being turned into a museum or government relic.

Mr LHY and Dr LWL are joint executors and trustees of Mr LKY’s estate.

In a joint statement released on 14 June 2017, which was shared on their Facebook pages, PM Lee’s two younger siblings claimed, among multiple other allegations, that PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching had defied Mr LKY’s wish to demolish the house.

They also alleged that PM Lee and Mdm Ho were responsible for instilling and perpetuating the Government’s stance to preserve the house at 38 Oxley Road, including PM Lee’s purported move to demonstrate that Mr LKY had changed his mind on having the house demolished.

Mr LHY and Dr LWL also claimed that PM Lee had engaged in abuse of power as Prime Minister to obtain a copy of the Deed of Gift from then-Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong, which was then passed to his personal lawyer Lucien Wong at the time for his own purpose.

The younger Lee siblings also alleged that Mdm Ho wielded significant influence in the Government despite not being a public official.

PM Lee issued a statement the same day to counter the allegations. Despite that, Mr LHY and Dr LWL continued to make claims against PM Lee in subsequent Facebook posts.

Following that, PM Lee announced in June the same year his plans to deliver a ministerial statement in Parliament the next month to address the allegations made by his siblings.

The prime minister delivered his ministerial statement on 3 July 2017, in which he branded the allegations as baseless.

PM Lee also said that he would not be suing Mr LHY and Dr LWL as doing so would further besmirch their parents’ name.

The next day, PM Lee delivered another ministerial statement, in which he said that he would not call for a Select Committee or a Commission of Inquiry to be convened into the 38 Oxley Road dispute and his siblings’ allegations.

Mr LHY and Dr LWL on 4 July — the same day PM Lee made his second ministerial statement on the matter — in a joint statement alleged that PM Lee had improperly misrepresented to LKY that the gazetting of 38 Oxley Road was either “inevitable” or that the house was already gazetted.

Two days later on 6 July, Mr LHY and Dr LWL jointly stated that they would not post any further evidence on the allegations if PM Lee and the Government do not interfere with Mr LKY’s wish — as well as their own — to have the house demolished.

PM Lee responded the same day by saying that he could not concede to his siblings’ demand to withdraw plans to deliver his ministerial statement and to hold the debate in Parliament, as well as disbanding the Ministerial Committee and not responding to their accusations.

Mr LHY and Dr LWL henceforth continued to make posts on matters relating to 38 Oxley Road.

However, PM Lee decided to file a defamation suit against Mr Xu for publishing the article that contained the allegedly defamatory statements made by Mr LHY and Dr LWL in relation to the 38 Oxley Road dispute.

Prior to that, PM Lee’s press secretary Chang Li Lin wrote to Mr Xu, asking the latter to remove the “libellous” article and to publish a “full and unconditional” apology.

PM Lee later began legal proceedings against Mr Xu after the latter had refused the demands made in Ms Chang’s letter.

The trial is adjourned to Wednesday morning (2 December) at 10 am.

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