Lee Hsien Yang believes he has forced the hand of DPM Teo Chee Hean, such that our deputy prime minister has finally revealed who sits on the so-called “secret” ministerial committee which is looking into the administration of the late Lee Kuan Yew’s 38 Oxley Road home.
This comes after DPM Teo let on today that he chairs the committee, which comprises Cabinet ministers responsible for heritage, land issues and urban planning, naming Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Minister for Law K. Shanmugam, and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.
DPM Teo also denied Lee Hsien Yang’s allegations that the committee was “secret”.
Said Mr Lee:
“DPM Teo has finally revealed the composition of the shadowy committee members. This was information that Wei Ling and I had asked for repeatedly from the outset for almost a year, and been denied. It is clear that a committee of one’s subordinates, should not be sitting arbitrating an issue related to their boss. That is why the Committee is fundamentally flawed. As the subordinates of the PM, how can they possibly be in a position to deal in this private disagreement? This is the wrong forum.”
Mr Lee also reiterated that the composition of the committee leads to a conflict of interest:
“We had expressed specific concerns on the possible membership of Shanmugam and his conflict of interest having advised Lee Kuan Yew and us on options to help achieve Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes, and the drafting of the demolition wish. This represents a clear conflict of interest. When we raised this in writing, we were brushed off by Lawrence Wong with “Nothing you have stated precludes any member of the Cabinet from taking part in the Committee’s work or its deliberations, with the exception of the Prime Minister.” We found the refusal to identify the members of the committee, and to confirm Shanmugam’s recusal particularly troubling as he is an experienced Senior Counsel and Minister for Law who should well understand the problem of conflicts of interests. Only now do we find out that he is indeed a member of this Committee.”
DPM Teo today also addressed Mr Lee’s allegation that “it’s evident from Loong’s submissions that this secret committee is entirely uninterested in exploring options for the house, instead focusing solely on challenging the validity of the demolition clause in LKY’s will.”
He said that the Government is responsible for considering the public interest aspects of any property with heritage and historical significance, and this applies to 38 Oxley Road.
“Many critical decisions on the future of Singapore were made there by Mr Lee and our pioneer leaders. The Committee has thus been looking at the options available for 38, Oxley Road while paying particular attention to respecting Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes for his house.”
He added that several other factors were taken into consideration:
First, if Dr Lee chooses to move out of the house in the near future, a decision on what to do about the house might have to be taken at that point.
Second, soon after their father’s death, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee had, as executors of the late Mr Lee’s will, wanted the Government to commit itself immediately to demolish the house, though Dr Lee might continue to live in the house for many more years.
Third, he said some members of Cabinet – including himself – felt it would be useful if a future Government deciding on the house had a set of options that came from ministers who had personally discussed this matter with Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
DPM Teo also said he personally would not support preserving 48 Oxley Road for the purpose of visitors to enter and view as that would be against LKY’s wishes.
However, he said he didn’t want to see the other extreme where the house is demolished and the property put on the market for new private residences either.