Singapore

Oxley Road dispute: 'No need to disagree on studying options', says DPM Teo

DPM Teo says Lee Hsien Yang seemed agreeable to memorial park option, no immediate demolition

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday that he and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had spoken of the option of building a memorial park at the site of the house of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

He also said the Government and Mr Lee Hsien Yang seemed to agree there was no need to make a decision on demolishing the house now, as Dr Lee Wei Ling was still living in it.

Given these points of agreement, he said there was no need to disagree on studying options for the time when a decision needs to be made on the fate of the house.

Mr Teo also said the ministerial committee set up for the task was not bent on preventing the demolition of 38, Oxley Road, as is believed by Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the younger son of the late Mr Lee.

He made these points in a statement responding to Mr Lee Hsien Yang's Facebook post earlier in the day, in the ongoing dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his two younger siblings.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang wrote that he and his sister, Dr Lee, had never asked the Government to demolish the house right away.

He also said they had offered to build a memorial garden on the site after Dr Lee moves out and the house is demolished. But Mr Teo "was reluctant and did not pursue the discussion further", he added.

Yesterday, Mr Teo, who chairs the ministerial committee, said Mr Lee Hsien Yang had seemed supportive of some of the intermediate options the committee was studying.

He said he met Mr Lee Hsien Yang several times between April and July 2015, and informed him PM Lee had recused himself on government decisions on the matter.

"I conveyed Cabinet's deep respect for Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and that Cabinet will take very seriously Mr Lee's wishes regarding the House, as expressed in his will, at a time when a decision has to be made regarding the house.

"I also informed him that no decision is needed now. Dr Lee Wei Ling is living in the house, and a decision made prospectively by the current government could not bind a future government."

From Mr Lee Hsien Yang's Facebook post yesterday, it appears he agrees a decision on the house need not be made now, said Mr Teo.

"So there is no difference of views between Mr LHY (Lee Hsien Yang) and the Government on when a decision is to be made," he added.

"Cabinet will only decide on which option to choose, when the time comes for a decision to be made on the house."

"If, for example, Dr LWL (Lee Wei Ling) ceases to live in the house next month, then Cabinet will have to decide next month. If she stays there for 30 more years, then the government in place, in 30 years, will have to decide."

Mr Teo said he had also verbally told Mr Lee Hsien Yang his personal views on some of the options, like demolishing the house but keeping the basement dining room with a heritage centre attached.

"My objective was to let him know that Government was not bent on retaining the house as he seems to believe, but that we are calmly and objectively examining a range of options," he said.

Addressing Mr Lee Hsien Yang's point on the memorial park, Mr Teo said he does not recall which of them made the suggestion. But, he said, Mr Lee Hsien Yang is "mistaken that I expressed reluctance".

"I said that I personally did not support the options on the extreme ends of the range - preserving the house as it is, or demolishing the House to redevelop it for new private residences," said Mr Teo.

In response to media queries on his siblings' Facebook posts yesterday, PM Lee said: "My siblings continue to make allegations about what I supposedly did or did not do. They are mostly inaccurate.

"As I earlier said, I will be making a statement in Parliament on July 3. I will, at that time, deal with the allegations that need to be addressed."

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oxley roadLee Kuan YewTeo Chee Hean