Following days of repeated badgering by Lee Hsien Yang asking the government of his brother to reveal who the members of the “secret” Ministerial committee deliberating on the fate of 38 Oxley Road were, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee released a statement today acknowledging that it was set-up and chaired by him.
Mr Teo confirmed that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had recused himself from all Government decisions to be taken on 38 Oxley Road. He added that other Ministers like Grace Fu, K Shanmugam, and Lawrence Wong, were also on the Committee.
His statement did not say what the Terms of Reference of the Committee were, but said that the Government had a “responsibility to consider the public interest aspects of any property with heritage and historical significance, and this applies to 38 Oxley Road.”
His statement further explained why the Committee was established when no immediate decision was necessary on the issue. The DPM said that he tasked relevant government agencies to study a range of options for the property.
Lee Kuan Yew’s younger son, Lee Hsien Yang, hit back almost immediately after DPM Teo’s statement was released. Mr Lee said that his sister and he had asked repeatedly for information – from the outset for almost a year – about who comprised of this Committee, but that this information was denied to them.
DPM Teo has finally revealed the composition of the shadowy committee members. This was information that Wei Ling and I…
Mr Lee called the Committee a “wrong forum” and “fundamentally flawed” because it was made up of his elder brother’s subordinates, and they were arbitrating on an issue related to their boss.
“As the subordinates of the PM, how can they possibly be in a position to deal in this private disagreement?”
He further divulged how Minister Lawrence Wong brushed him and his sister off when they raised concerns about a member in the Committee.
“We had expressed specific concerns on the possible membership of Shanmugam and his conflict of interest having advised Lee Kuan Yew and us on options to help achieve Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes, and the drafting of the demolition wish. This represents a clear conflict of interest.
When we raised this in writing, we were brushed off by Lawrence Wong with “Nothing you have stated precludes any member of the Cabinet from taking part in the Committee’s work or its deliberations, with the exception of the Prime Minister.””
Mr Lee said that his sister and him found the refusal to identify the members of the committee, and to confirm the Law Minister’s recusal particularly troubling.
Mr Lee also released part of an email conversation his sister had with the Law Minister in 2011 on the matter. The email titled “Oxley”, written by his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, addressed to Mr Shanmugam and copied to Mr Lee Hsien Yang read:
“MM thinks Loong asked him to speak to the cabinet because Loong wanted cabinet to tell father they want it preserved. He is agreeable with your suggestion. I told him after you meet with Yang and me, then we decide how to draft his will with regards to this house.”
Dr Lee shared her brother’s post and said: “Shanmugam was extensively consulted and advised my father over lunch.”