Ministerial panel wants next government to make decision on Lee family home

PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - A ministerial committee set up to examine the future of a house that is at the centre of a family feud between Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his two siblings said on Monday it had decided a future government of the island state should make the final call.

In a 21-page report it said there were three options for the former home of modern Singapore's founding leader, Lee Kuan Yew, whose children are battling over the property. Lee Kuan Yew died in 2015.

The government could keep the entire property as a national monument for conservation, it could retain only the room with most historical significance (the dining room) and demolish the rest, or it could knock down the property and redevelop the site.

By releasing the report, the committee said it hoped at least one aspect of the matter had been settled. "With this, we hope to close the chapter on this topic, and focus on other pressing national issues ahead of us," said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chaired the panel.

Lee Hsien Loong may not be running the government that makes the final decision. He said in October he intends to step down and hand over to a successor in a couple of years time.

His younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, who owns the property, and sister Lee Wei Ling, who still lives there, had wanted the house to be eventually demolished in accordance with what they say were their father's wishes as stated in his will.

Last summer they accused their brother, the prime minister, of seeking to turn the home into a shrine to a political dynasty. They also said they feared their brother was going to use the organs of the state against them.

The prime minister last year denied there was any abuse of power and questioned whether his father really wanted the home, which is near Singapore's bustling Orchard Road shopping district, to be knocked down.

The committee said in its view "that while Mr Lee Kuan Yew's preference was for the Property to be demolished, he was prepared to accept options other than demolition," adding that their conclusions were made on the grounds that the house had an "architectural, heritage and historical significance".

I have read the report of the Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road. The report was considered and approved by the...

Posted by Lee Hsien Loong onĀ Monday, April 2, 2018

The public conflict that gripped Singapore for at least a month last year prompted a two-day long parliamentary debate which found no evidence of abuse of power. Prime Minister Lee's siblings called the debate a "whitewash" at the time.

In a statement on Facebook after the report was issued, the prime minister noted he had recused himself from the discussions and said that the committee was correct to point out that there was no need for a decision now as his sister was still living in the house.

"I hope that when the time comes to decide on what to do with the house, this report will help the Government of the day to make an informed decision that both respects my father's wishes and is in the public interest," he said.

38 Oxley road is Singapore's latest Instagram hotspot

  • In a quiet estate near busy Orchard Road, people are turning up to take selfies and pose with their loved ones and pets in front of an old, two-storey bungalow.
  • The house, barely visible behind a tall white fence flanked by two guardhouses, is 38, Oxley Road. PHOTO: Instagram/farhan.sham
  • The family home of Singapore's late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was the subject of a two-day parliamentary debate this week. PHOTO: Instagram/semleong0128
  • Mr Lee's son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, made a ministerial statement and answered questions about allegations of abuse of power by his younger siblings with regard to the house. PHOTO: Instagram/mel___chin
  • On social media platform Instagram, users have been seen posing near the century-old house, with the "38, Oxley Road" location tag showing more than 25 posts as of Wednesday evening (July 5). PHOTO: Instagram/
  • At the same time, "38 oxley road" was also the third-highest trending topic on Twitter Singapore. PHOTO: Instagram/chaycya
  • Some pose inside the iconic guardhouses. Security guards are no longer stationed there. PHOTO: Instagram/steph_yong
  • Mr Lee died in March 2015 at the age of 91 and the house is now occupied by his daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling. PHOTO: Instagram/pamgoestravelling
  • Some prefer to take pictures with the backdrop of the fence, which is lined with bougainvillea. Others take selfies from across the two-lane road. PHOTO: Instagram/sidpicky
  • When The Straits Times went to 38, Oxley Road over the weekend, at least eight people were spotted taking photos.
  • "Must take photo. Once demolish, no more already," the man was overheard saying.