Singapore DPM: Government not bent on retaining Oxley Rd house

DPM Teo Chee Hean and Lee Hsien Yang. — Picture by TODAY/AFP
DPM Teo Chee Hean and Lee Hsien Yang. — Picture by TODAY/AFP

SINGAPORE, June 28 — It is not true that the Ministerial Committee set up to look at the options for 38 Oxley Road is bent on preventing its demolition, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

Separately, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong dismissed his siblings’ continued allegations as largely untrue, and reiterated that he will address the accusations in his ministeral statement on the matter on July 3 in Parliament.

“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 ... I will at that time deal with the allegations that need to be addressed,” he said in a brief statement in response to media queries.

Teo also issued a media statement, where he noted that Lee Hsien Yang may have a “misconception” that the committee he chairs is determined to stop the house from being torn down.

He pointed out that its task was to “study and set out the range of possible options” for the Lee family home and to present them to the Cabinet.

“Cabinet will only decide on which option to choose when the time comes for a decision to be made on the house,” he said in a media statement.

The government had said previously that no immediate decision is needed on what to do with the house, as Dr Lee Wei Ling is still living in it.

Teo said that if, for example, Dr Lee ceases to live there next month, then the 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,” Teo said.

The committee had written to Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee to clarify that it would list the various options and study their implications.

“By way of illustration, we highlighted that converting the house to a park would require studying the implications on the area, including for planning and zoning. This is in writing,” Teo added.

He said he met Lee Hsien Yang “several times between April and July 2015”, and informed him that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had recused himself on government decisions relating to the house.

Teo added that during those meetings, he conveyed the Cabinet’s deep respect for founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and that the Cabinet “will take very seriously (his) wishes regarding the House, as expressed in his will, at a time when a decision has to be made regarding the House”.

He also informed Lee Hsien Yang “that no decision is needed now”.

“(Dr Lee) is living in the house, and a decision made prospectively by the current government could not bind a future government,” Teo added.

Teo was responding to one of Lee Hsien Yang’s Facebook posts yesterday, where he said, among other things, that he and Dr Lee “have never asked the government to allow us to demolish the house now, only after Wei Ling’s departure”.

Referring to the post, Teo noted that Lee Hsien Yang agrees that there is no need for a decision on the house now. “So there is no difference of views between (Lee Hsien Yang) and the government on when a decision is to be made,” he said.

Teo said he had also shared his “personal views, verbally” on some of the options with Lee Hsien Yang, such as 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.

In a Facebook post, Lee Hsien Yang had also said that “long before the committee was formed”, he and his sister offered a suggestion to Teo that the house be demolished after Dr Lee no longer lives there, and a memorial garden be built in its place.

But Teo was “reluctant and did not pursue the discussion further”, and PM Lee also rejected this offer, Lee Hsien Yang claimed.

Teo said he does not recall whether it was Lee Hsien Yang or him who suggested a memorial park, “but he 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.

“There are indeed a range of viable intermediate options between these.”

On Monday, Senior Minister of State (Finance and Law) Indranee Rajah had also mentioned the option of tearing down the house and building a “tasteful memorial or symbolic marker in a park setting” as among the possibilities that the government is considering.

Noting that Lee Hsien Yang “seems supportive of some of the intermediate options” that the committee is studying, Teo said “there should be no need to disagree on studying the options for the time when a decision needs to be made”. — TODAY

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