Singapore

Will accepts alternatives to Oxley Road house demolition: Indranee Rajah

It may be decades before Cabinet decides fate of Oxley house, says Indranee Rajah

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's final will specifically accepts and acknowledges that demolition of his Oxley Road house may not take place, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah.

In a Facebook post yesterday, she cited a clause on demolishing 38, Oxley Road, in the will, saying it shows demolition is not the only option the late Mr Lee considered.

The question of whether to demolish the house lies at the heart of a public feud between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

Yesterday, Ms Indranee noted that there are two parts to the demolition clause. The first part expresses the late Mr and Mrs Lee's wish to demolish the house, but the second recognises the house may not be demolished for a number of reasons, she said.

She cited the second part, which states: "If our children are unable to demolish the House as a result of any changes in the laws, rules or regulations binding them, it is my wish that the House never be opened to others except my children, their families and descendants."

Said Ms Indranee: "Much of the recent public discussion on this issue has been premised on the assumption that the 7th Will only contemplates one outcome - demolition. But this is not the case.

"The Will specifically accepts and acknowledges that demolition may not take place."

She also sought to clarify three other issues about the dispute, which became public last Wednesday when Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang issued a statement saying they had lost confidence in PM Lee, feared the use of state organs against them and accused their brother of misusing his power, among other allegations.

PUBLIC INTEREST

As to why the Government is involved in the fate of the house, Ms Indranee said that while the inheritance of the late Mr Lee's estate is a private matter, what happens to the house is a matter of public interest.

Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang have criticised the formation of a ministerial committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, to consider options for the house.

They alleged that the committee is focused solely on challenging the validity of the demolition clause in their father's will.

Ms Indranee said the Government has to be involved because the house is "not just any old piece of property. It is intertwined with the history of the nation".

It was where the country's founding fathers met to make important and historical decisions that led to internal self-government, merger and eventually independence, she said.

"The strategies to outflank the communists were developed there. It is where the People's Action Party was formed."

After Mr Lee died on March 23, 2015, there were many calls to turn 38, Oxley Road, into a museum or memorial, she noted.

The Government thus has a duty to consider the public interest and the historical and heritage perspective while "taking very seriously into account" the late Mr Lee's wishes, she said.

In any case, the house cannot be demolished now, she noted, because Dr Lee is still living there - as stipulated in Mr Lee's will.

It may be decades before a definite decision needs to be taken, and the Cabinet at that time will have to decide, she said.

"Most of the current Cabinet ministers are unlikely to be in Cabinet then," she added.

Ms Indranee also reiterated that PM Lee was not involved in government deliberations on the house. PM Lee had stated in Parliament on April 13, 2015, that as a son, he would like to see his parents' wishes carried out.

"However, as Prime Minister he would have to consider whether it is in the wider public interest to demolish the House given its historical significance.

"The answer to this may be different from his parents' or his own personal wishes," she said.

"It is a very difficult dilemma for him. For this reason, the Prime Minister has recused himself from taking part in any government consideration or decisions regarding 38, Oxley Road."

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oxley roadLee Kuan YewLee Hsien Loong