Singapore

PM: Now that air is cleared on abuse of power, let’s move on

PM Lee refutes new allegations that he deceived his late father over gazetting of family home

I did not deceive my father.

These were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's words in Parliament yesterday in addressing fresh allegations from his younger siblings that he had led their father to believe their former Oxley Road family home had been or would be gazetted.

Two hours before the debate over 38, Oxley Road, resumed at noon yesterday, the accusations appeared on Facebook.

The fact that their father left instructions for the house, should it be gazetted, did not mean he had accepted it, said his siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling.

Addressing the allegations, PM Lee said: "The simple answer is that I didn't deceive my father. I explained to you yesterday how my father's primary wish on the house had always been clear ­­­- he always wanted it knocked down."

But he differed from his siblings on whether their father was prepared to consider alternatives to demolition.

In an emotional speech, PM Lee regretted that he had to talk about private family members in Parliament.

"My purpose has not been to pursue a family fight, but to clear the air, and to restore public confidence in our system."

PM Lee explained that his father had asked him what he thought the Government would do with the house after he died.

"I told him, you've met the Cabinet, you've heard the ministers' views. If I chaired the Cabinet meeting, given that these are the views of the ministers and the public, I think it will be very hard to overwrite them and knock the house down.

"I would have to agree that the house has to be gazetted, to be kept. And if I'm not the PM or I don't chair the meeting, then all the more likely that the house would be gazetted. He understood," PM Lee told the House.

That was how a conservation plan came to be - to address their parents' concerns should demolition not be allowed.

"The conservation plan was done honestly and openly, not on false pretences," he said.

PM Lee said the two-day debate had cleared the air on such allegations as abuse of his power, of which there had been no evidence.

He urged the country to move forward and "get back to work".

But PM Lee admitted it would be unrealistic to hope the debate has put the matter to rest.

"I do not know what further statements or allegations my siblings may make," he added.

Several MPs had also asked him for his next course of action if this happened.

Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang reiterated that court was the platform to deal with the allegations.

He said: "His family is not any ordinary Singapore family. The person at the centre of the issue is the PM of Singapore... Own sibling cannot sue... but political critics, sue until your pants drop. I cannot square with this argument."

Others, such as nominated MP Kok Heng Leun, said a Committee of Inquiry or a select committee would be useful as the allegations would affect the Government.

PM Lee reiterated that he would have sued in "normal circumstances" but doing so against his siblings would "besmirch" their parents' names.

He also saw no basis for an independent inquiry because nobody had backed the allegations of abuse of power, added that the Government would consider it "very seriously" if his siblings make more allegations and it becomes necessary.

Political analysts were split on whether the debate had offered closure for Singaporeans.

ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute's Dr Mustafa Izzuddin said: "The reality is that closure can only be truly achieved when the airing of dirty linen on Facebook ends, and a definitive decision is made on the Oxley Road house."

Singapore Management University Associate Professor Eugene Tan said: "Given the emotions and allegations, we shouldn't be surprised if some Singaporeans remain confused, sad and shocked."

But National University of Singapore Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser thinks PM Lee has addressed the allegations and provided context in his replies.

They agreed that Singaporeans will move on unless Mr Lee and Dr Lee substantiate their allegations.

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oxley roadLee Hsien LoongLee Hsien Yang