Singapore

DPM Teo: Government 'has to decide Oxley's fate'

Under the law, it is the Government of the day that has to make a decision on the fate of the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's house in Oxley Road, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

That is why it is "incumbent on the Cabinet to consider and decide on the issues, and I have decided to set up a committee to assist Cabinet to do so".

"Cabinet cannot outsource decision-making," he added.

Mr Teo also said "setting up a ministerial committee to study... issues is part of normal Cabinet working processes."

His latest remarks on the committee he heads were made in response to a commentary by editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang in The Straits Times yesterday.

The commentary, "Three key issues in the Lee v Lee saga", is on the dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his younger siblings over the fate of their father's house. Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang are joint executors and trustees of their father's estate and want the house demolished.

PM Lee has recused himself from government decisions on the property but had said before that he would like his father's wishes to be honoured.

Mr Han suggested disbanding the ministerial committee, leaving the decision to the Founders' Memorial Committee. It was set up in 2015 to come up with the concept to honour the Republic's pioneer leaders.

In his statement, Mr Teo said the Government of the day is ultimately responsible for the decision on 38, Oxley Road.

"This is where the powers reside under the law, specifically the Preservation of Monuments Act and the Planning Act in this case. Mr Han himself acknowledges this," he said.

Mr Han, a senior fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, asked if it was necessary for ministers to be involved in matters like the will.

"Should they not have confined themselves to deciding only on what to do with the house - demolish, preserve or some intermediate option?"

Mr Teo replied that the committee's interest in the will is trying to understand the late Mr Lee's thinking on the house.

Hence, the committee sought the views of PM Lee and his siblings. It had to, as they "told us they had different views, and challenged each other's interpretations of Mr Lee's wishes".

These were donein private until it was brought out into the open, Mr Teo said, referring to a statement the younger siblings posted on June 14. The duo accused PM Lee, among other things, of abusing his power.

PM Lee has refuted their allegations. He will deliver a ministerial statement on July 3 in Parliament on the dispute.

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Teo Chee HeanLee Hsien LoongLee Hsien Yang