Speaking in parliament today, he addressed the issues raised by siblings over the past 3 weeks in the ongoing Lee Family Feud in clearer detail.
PM Lee said that the public spat must not undermine the public’s confidence in the government:
“When the dust has settled on this unhappy episode, people must know that the Government operates transparently, impartially, and properly. That in Singapore, even Mr Lee’s house and his wishes are subject to the rule of law.”
(1) Preservation of 38 Oxley Road House
PM Lee said that as a son he wanted to honour LKY’s wishes and demolish the house, but he also had to act as the head of the nation.
He said that as such, he recused himself from the ministerial committee was set up to explore options for the 38 Oxley Road house besides demolition, and transferred the house to his younger brother Lee Hsien Yang.
“Suppose instead that I had decided as PM to knock the house down, and had pushed that decision through without allowing the Government to consider the alternatives, weigh the considerations, and go through due process, just because it was what my father wanted.”
Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling alleged that PM Lee’s wife Ho Ching exercised undue influence over the civil service.
But PM Lee said that Ho Ching works for Temasek Holdings and is not under charge:
“My wife, Ho Ching, is CEO of Temasek Holdings. As CEO, she reports to the Board, chaired by Mr Lim Boon Heng. As a company, Temasek Holdings answers to its shareholder, the Ministry of Finance, under Minister Heng Swee Keat… I have every confidence that both Lim Boon Heng and Heng Swee Keat understand the meaning of good, proper, corporate governance.”
PM Lee said that should Ho Ching behave inappropriately, the Temasek Board knows how to deal with her:
“It is the Temasek Board which appoints the CEO, and the appointment has to be confirmed by the President, who is advised by the Council of Presidential Advisors. If Ho Ching ever behaves improperly, I have no doubt that the Temasek Board, the President and CPA know what their duty is.”
(3) Milking the LKY Legacy
Another allegation by the Lee siblings was PM Lee wanted to retain 38 Oxley Road for its political capital so he could boost his personal popularity and facilitate the entry of his son Lee Hongyi into politics as a means towards building a “family cult”.
PM Lee said that Lee Hongyi has publicly stated he is not interested in politics, and that he has never pushed his son to enter politics.
He said that he doesn’t need 38 Oxley Road to maintain his standing as PM.
“Regarding the house, and how its continued existence enhances my aura as PM, if I needed such magic properties to bolster my authority even after being your PM for 13 years, I must be in a pretty sad state.”
(4) The “Improperly obtained” Deed of Gift
PM Lee also addressed allegations that he had improperly obtained the deed between Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang and the National Heritage Board (NHB).
He said that as Prime Minister, he had every right to see the deed, which Minister Lawrence Wong gave him.
“It is nonsensical to say that because I saw the Deed in my official capacity as PM, I could not raise the matter with a family member. If I come across anyone doing something wrong, even family, it is my duty to set them right.”
(5) Lee Kuan Yew’s Plans for 38 Oxley Road
PM Lee said that demolishment was not the only option Lee Kuan Yew had laid out for 38 Oxley Road.
He revealed that Lee Kuan Yew had explored various options for the house with family members, and approved a proposal for 38 Oxley Road to be redeveloped instead of demolished after his death.
PM Lee said that Lee Kuan Yew also signed the authorisation to submit a development application to the authorities in March 2012, in which The private living spaces of 38 Oxley Road would be removed and the house renovated without knocking it down.
He said that the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved the application in April 2012.
PM Lee said that when Lee Kuan Yew’s will was read before the family in April 2015, Lee Hsien Yang for the first time expressed his objection to the renovation plans their father had approved.