Singapore

'No mystery' behind ministerial panel

Committee on Lee Kuan Yew's house similar to others tackling important issues affecting Singapore

There is "no mystery" surrounding the formation of a ministerial committee to look at options for the house of late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

Often, similar committees of ministers are set up to deliberate on important issues affecting Singapore, he added, noting the practice began many years ago and has evolved.

"It's how we ensure that important issues are given in-depth attention, and the options are weighed by the ministers closer to the issue, before Cabinet makes its decisions and takes collective responsibility," he said in a Facebook post.

"It's how we ensure we are not a government that operates in silos, that the national interest prevails even when there are valid sectoral or private interests, and that the long view prevails over the short view wherever possible."

Questions had arisen over the ministerial committee on the fate of Mr Lee's house at 38, Oxley Road, after the siblings of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong charged that it was set up secretly to block the demolition of the house.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang - joint trustees and executors of their late father's estate - have accused their brother of abusing his power to preserve the house against their father's wishes, a claim that PM Lee has refuted.

Yesterday, Mr Tharman urged Singaporeans to "have confidence, no matter today's sad dispute", saying the Government can be counted on to uphold the system of governance - built by the late Mr Lee and his team - that respects the rule of law.

It's how we ensure that important issues are given in-depth attention, and the options are weighed by the ministers closer to the issue, before Cabinet makes its decisions and takes collective responsibility. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in a Facebook post

He also sought to dispel suggestions of nefarious intent behind the establishment of the ministerial committee on the house.

He said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had "explained straightforwardly" why he set it up: because it is ultimately the Government's responsibility to make decisions on matters which involve public interest.

Mr Teo, who chairs the committee, had also said that "this does not preclude public consultations or the involvement of some memorial committee at an appropriate time".

Shedding more light on ministerial committees, Mr Tharman said they are set up to consider a range of issues.

"They help us think through difficult choices in Government before they come to Cabinet, and to canvas views outside when appropriate," he said, adding that he chairs several committees, especially those that concern social and economic issues.

Mr Tharman added that balancing all the competing interests is a challenge in governance faced by governments around the world.

"We have never got it perfect in Singapore, and let's be frank, we've had our share of policies that have turned out quite wrong at different points in our history," he said.

RULE OF LAW

"But we have a system of preserving the rule of law, and of policymaking that balances public against private interests, and the long-term against the short-term, that's still a rarity in the world - and is at the core of how Singapore has succeeded."

He said this system, built by the late Mr Lee and his team, has continued through the governments under former prime minister Goh Chok Tong, who is now Emeritus Senior Minister, and PM Lee.

"You can count on PM Lee Hsien Loong and all of us in his team for that. You can count on the fourth generation leaders to keep to a system that upholds the laws of the land, prioritises the common good and looks to the long term. Never thinking Government has got everything right, but always wanting to do right for Singapore," he said.

"And count on Singaporeans to ensure Government sticks to those principles - and to play our part collectively to keep Singapore united and inclusive."

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Tharman ShanmugaratnamLee Hsien Yangoxley road