PM Lee: Why I stopped $1 transfer of house
'After I agreed to do so, my siblings made allegations against me'
In his closing speech yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed new allegations by his brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, about the fate of their former family house.
Releasing new e-mails from his late father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, including an alleged "curt" reply about renovation plans, Mr Lee Hsien Yang yesterday alleged that talk about renovating 38, Oxley Road, was "instigated" by PM Lee "representing that the house would inevitably be gazetted".
"It did not come about because LKY 'accepted' preservation," he wrote on Facebook.
He added that their father would have made it known to the public, just like he had with his wish for the house to be knocked down if he had changed his mind.
PM Lee told Parliament that he and his wife Ho Ching had come up with the alternative of renovations plans for the house only after having explained to the late Mr Lee the likelihood of the Government gazetting the house, which his father had understood.
The couple then kept the entire family involved via e-mails.
Sharing copies of two family e-mails in early 2012, PM Lee read the e-mails aloud, including a reply from his father that read: "Noted. Nothing to follow up to sign by me. Permission has been granted as I had previously signed in letters to them. We'll send them to you."
Said PM Lee: "So it is quite clear; it is quite open. It is not very curt."
He also addressed the following questions raised by MPs in the past two days:
WHY DEBATE ISSUE IN PARLIAMENT?
While private disputes should be kept out of Parliament, the "grave accusations" of the abuse of power have cast doubt on the Government and its leadership, said PM Lee.
"How can my ministers and I not discuss them in Parliament? Imagine the scandal if MPs filed Parliamentary questions on these accusations, and the Government replied that Parliament is not the place to discuss the matter.
"So whatever else I or the Government may or may not do to deal with this matter, we have to come to Parliament to render account. It is our duty," he said.
WHY TRANSFER OXLEY ROAD HOUSE AT MARKET VALUE?
PM Lee said he had offered to transfer the house that was willed to him to his younger sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, for a nominal $1 In May 2015.
Mr Lee Hsien Yang became part of the deal after Dr Lee asked him to join in, but the offer fell through when disagreements arose.
PM Lee said: "My siblings started making allegations about me and escalating them.
"So I told them they would have to stop attacking me if they wanted the deal done, because otherwise if I transfer the house to them and the quarrel continues, there was no point.
"And they wanted me to give a certain undertaking... I could not agree to what they asked for." He later said his siblings had wanted him to help them get the house demolished - a request he refused.
After the 2015 General Election, PM Lee made his siblings a different offer: He would sell the house to Mr Lee Hsien Yang at full market value paid to him, plus another 50 per cent given to charity, with no other conditions. This time, they reached an agreement. PM Lee donated the amount he got to charity. So, together the brothers gave 1½ times the value of the house to charity.
WHY THE RESTRAINT IN HANDLING DISPUTE?
The "one golden thread" that runs through the dispute, PM Lee said, is his desire to manage the issue privately without escalating it and forcing the issue of his legal rights. He wanted to work out an amicable solution with his siblings, even if it meant compromising his personal interest, he said.
WHY NO LEGAL ACTION?
Taking his siblings to court would drag out the process for years, cause further distress, and distract the Government from urgent issues.
There is also no basis to call for a Committee of Inquiry (COI) as there are "no specifics to the headline charge of abuse of power".
PM Lee said: "After two days of debate, nobody has stood behind these allegations or offered any evidence, not even opposition MPs. So why do we need a select committee or COI, and drag this out for months?"
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