Parliament No:13
Session No:1
Volume No:94
Sitting No:48
Sitting Date:04-07-2017
Section Name:Motions
Title:38 Oxley Road
MPs Speaking:The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Teo Chee Hean), The Prime Minister (Mr Lee Hsien Loong), Mdm Speaker, Mr Low Thia Khiang, Mr Leon Perera (Non-Constituency Member), Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong, Ms Chia Yong Yong (Nominated Member), Mr Lawrence Wong, Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang), Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied), Mr Kok Heng Leun (Nominated Member), Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol), Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied)

38 Oxley Road

(Debate on Ministerial Statements)

Debate resumed.

2.22 pm

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Teo Chee Hean): Thank you, Mdm Speaker. We have had two days of debate on this matter. Members from both sides of the House and our Nominated Members of Parliament have asked probing questions, as they should, and I would like to thank the Members who have spoken for their views and questions; more than 30 Members have spoken.

So, what have we covered in these past two days? The debate is first and foremost, focused on the integrity of Government – whether we have clean and honest Government, and how we address issues of conflict of interest; second, whether there is any basis for the allegations of abuse of power that have been hurled at the Government; and third, where do we go from here?

First, our rules for avoiding conflict of interest. In my Ministerial Statement yesterday, I explained how we maintain separation between private interest and public interest for political appointment holders, as well as public officers. There is the Code of Conduct for political appointment holders, Rules of Prudence for Members of Parliament from the People’s Action Party, and the Public Service Code of Conduct.

Let me reiterate. Every political appointment holder and public officer is expected, at all times, to act according to the highest standards of probity, accountability, honesty and integrity in the exercise of his public duties.

As Members of this House know, we treat allegations of misconduct very seriously. As I said yesterday, there are various avenues for members of the public, and public officers themselves to report suspected misconduct. If there is specific evidence on the abuse of power by any political appointment holder, public officer, or his or her family members, I can assure you that they will be held to account, and the necessary actions taken, if shown to be true.

Public officers are expected to be above board and impartial in their dealings, including with members of the public who happen to be family members of political appointees. Our senior public officers frequently receive ideas and suggestions from members of the public, including those who may be friends or family members. Most of them are well-motivated. I have received many suggestions on what I should do about football in Singapore.

I am confident that our senior public officers will go through the due process to evaluate which of these ideas and suggestions are good and useful ones and to put aside those which are unsuitable, regardless of who these may have come from.

Mr Charles Chong asked about the poll on our public officers. As part of regular stakeholder engagement, the Public Service Division (PSD) periodically seeks the sentiments of public officers on issues that matter to them. The PSD conducted the poll because the allegations made by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang go beyond private matters and extend to the integrity of the Government and public institutions.

Mdm Speaker, our officers continue to have confidence in the integrity of our institutions. Most officers felt that there is some impact on credibility of the Singapore Government among Singaporeans, but that Singapore's reputation will be able to recover. The Public Service will take this opportunity to reinforce in our officers the importance of understanding and living the Public Service code of conduct.

Singapore ranks highly on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for corruption. Others are watching and evaluating us as we conduct this debate. They are watching us to see how we address these allegations of abuse of power, and they will see that we are prepared to do so openly in this House, facing the issues directly to clear the air on these issues. Prime Minister, myself, the Ministers are held to account by all of you. Every MP must speak freely in this House, and we expect them to do so. But when a person casts aspersions on the whole of Parliament and its proceedings, and every one of us, from outside this House – that is a different matter and there are some rules governing this.

Mr Low Thia Khiang, Mr Kok Heng Leun, Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Png Eng Huat asked about the appointment of the Attorney-General and Deputy Attorney-General. There were also questions asked about the role of the Attorney-General and Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law with respect to 38 Oxley Road. Senior Minister of State Ms Indranee Rajah has comprehensively addressed these issues yesterday, and there is no need for me to add anything. We have strict rules on avoiding conflict of interest and they are scrupulously maintained.

Second, the allegations on the abuse of power. Minister Lawrence Wong has addressed issues related to the Deed of Gift between the executors and the NHB for the purpose of a major exhibition on our founding leaders in September 2015. Let me add my perspectives.

To recap, the Deed of Gift had several unusual conditions. One of these was the condition requiring the display of one part, but not the whole paragraph, related to Mr Lee’s wishes for the house, as stated in his will. The other was the $1 buy-back clause for the items donated. These were matters related to a private disagreement at that time, regarding the will and how Mr Lee had expressed his wishes regarding the house. It was a private matter at that time.

If the NHB is to be faulted for anything, it is that they were drawn, through the Deed of Gift, into this private disagreement. When Minister Lawrence Wong informed me of the conditions set out in the Deed, I was not comfortable with them. And I will explain why. NHB, a public institution, was being drawn into a private disagreement, and the exhibition, a major exhibition, was being used to put out only a part of Mr Lee's wishes on the house. Members will recall that Mr Lee had said in his will that the whole paragraph could be made public so that his wishes on the matter could be made known.

Mdm Speaker, there was really no need to make the display of this paragraph a condition for the donation at all. But to make the display of only one part of the paragraph and not all of it, was drawing NHB, a public agency, and this public exhibition it was organising, into presenting a particular point of view, which was incomplete.

NHB had already signed the Deed of Gift and I agreed with Minister Lawrence Wong that in the circumstances, we should proceed with it, rather than have a public controversy.

The point I am making is that contrary to this being an abuse of power, these were efforts to keep NHB, a public agency, and to keep a major public exhibition neutral – to keep them neutral in a matter which was then a private disagreement.

It is ironical that these efforts to keep our public agencies neutral is now being distorted into allegations of abuse of power for private interests.

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, Ms Sun Xueling, Mr Henry Kwek, Mr Louis Ng, Ms Jessica Tan, Dr Tan Wu Meng, Mr Christopher de Souza, Er Dr Lee Bee Wah, Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Mr Low Thia Khiang, Mr Murali Pillai, Mr Leon Perera, and some others today as well, have spoken on the Ministerial Committee.

Mdm Speaker, in my Ministerial Statement yesterday, I have clarified various issues related to the Ministerial Committee. I explained that the Ministerial Committee was formed to examine (i) historical and heritage significance of the property, (ii) the wishes of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in relation to the property and (iii) the possible plans for the property and the neighbourhood, and the options to move forward.

These are all matters which the Government has to take responsibility for, and must plan for. These are not private matters. I have also explained why we are starting the process now, to have drawer plans ready, for reference by the government of the day, when a decision needs to eventually be taken.

There is nothing unusual or mysterious about it. This is just the normal process of government doing its work, properly, calmly and objectively. Usually, people will find this quite boring, so there is nothing to get excited about when we formed yet another committee.

Several Members, Mr Low Thia Khiang, Mr Kok Heng Leun, Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Mr Louis Ng, Mr Leon Perera, have asked why do we set up a Ministerial Committee and not rely on the usual Government agency process to study the options on the House? I want to clarify that the Ministerial Committee is not replacing the agencies in their work. Instead, it provides coordination and oversight on the matter of 38 Oxley Road. As Ms Chia Yong Yong had said yesterday, it is only appropriate to give due consideration to Mr Lee's wishes. While at the same time, as the Minister for National Development has just explained, the National Heritage Board has been documenting the historical significance of the house while the Ministry of National Development and the URA have been studying options for the property, as well as the planning and zoning implications.

The assessment of buildings of significance is an inter-agency effort, where various Government agencies will do the baseline research. The establishment of a Ministerial Committee merely seeks to improve coordination and oversight on the matter. This also does not preclude the conduct of consultations with heritage professionals and the public at an appropriate stage.

Mr Murali Pillai and Ms Jessica Tan asked why the Ministerial Committee did not reveal its composition earlier. Mdm Speaker, we have informed Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling that "how the Committee functions is within the Cabinet's prerogative to decide". We could decide to bring in other members as and when needed, the Minister for Transport, for example, when we want to look at traffic issues, or the Minister for Home Affairs when we look at security considerations.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang decided to send their representations to the Committee to all the Cabinet Ministers. Since the Committee reports to the Cabinet less the Prime Minister, there is no issue with this, and they have been doing so. What was material and relevant had been communicated to them. In any case, should the Cabinet need to make a decision related to this matter, all Cabinet members less the Prime Minister would be involved and collective Cabinet responsibility applies. This is really not an issue.

We should put to rest the allegations about the Committee by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang. But before I come to this, let me answer some of the questions that Mr Lim Biow Chuan had. Mr Lim Biow Chuan asked whether the Prime Minister had any influence on the Cabinet or Ministerial Committee's decisions. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not. But Mr Lee Hsien Loong, as a private person, was invited to convey his views to the Ministerial Committee in the same way that his other siblings were. He did so formally and in writing. This is proper and correct; the lines are clear.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan also asked whether we are able to make decisions independently and several Members of Parliament have asked this question as well. Mdm Speaker, when I took command of the Navy in 1991 at the age of 36, I made a decision that I must be prepared to step down at any time if ever I have to do something which is against my principles. I continue to be guided by that.

So, as I said, Madam, we should put to rest the allegations about the Committee by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang. Essentially, all the siblings knew about the Committee and what its terms of reference are. They knew that neither the Committee nor the Government was going to make a decision on the house, as Dr Lee Wei Ling is residing in the house and no decision is needed now. They knew that the Committee was examining a range of options and had no pre-conceived ideas on the outcome. They also knew that the Committee was not a place where decisions on the legality of the will can be made and this is a matter between the beneficiaries. In fact, they had been making representations to the Committee and sending their representations to Cabinet members at large.

I have provided Members with letters and dates to establish these facts. So, I will leave it to Members, going through the facts and the chronology, whether there is any basis at all to Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang's claims and allegations about the Committee. Mdm Speaker, I think we should put this matter to rest.

It is not for me to delve into the motivations behind Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling’s allegations of abuse of power over the Committee. But they should not allege abuse of power simply because they were unhappy or felt uncomfortable about being asked to volunteer their views and clarifications on Mr Lee’s wishes regarding 38 Oxley Road.

Mdm Speaker, the allegations made by them have no basis. The opposite is true. Prime Minister Lee did the correct thing to recuse himself. And Cabinet and the Government carried out its roles and responsibilities properly.

So, where are we now? I informed Mr Lee Hsien Yang that I would personally not support the options at either end of the range. Those were my personal views. At one end, preserving the House as it is for visitors to enter and see the private spaces. And at the other end, demolishing the house and putting the property on the market to develop new private residences such as luxury apartments. Mr Lee Hsien Yang in his statement on 1 July 2017 stated the same thing.

The Committee has also been studying various intermediate options and I personally think that there are merits in these intermediate options. These studies are on-going. Mr Lee Hsien Yang has in his public statements indicated that he is open to some of these options.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang also acknowledges that no decision is required now because Dr Lee Wei Ling continues to live in the property. So, there is no disagreement on this. This is also the position of the Government.

In his statement on 1 July, Mr Lee Hsien Yang also said that he also recognised that "no man stands above the law". So, there is no disagreement on this either. As I have explained, the Government has a duty to go through the due process for when a decision needs to be taken, at some future time.

Mdm Speaker, as Ms Indranee Rajah and Er Dr Lee Bee Wah have also concluded, it appears to me that there is really no good reason to disagree and create such a public furore. Let us continue doing the work that is needed, calmly and objectively, to study the possible options for the time when a decision has to be made.

As I have said yesterday, I will consult my colleagues to see if it is useful to put out a range of possibilities, to let the public ponder on the matter, without having to arrive at any decision. But I need to weigh this against arousing emotions again, when what we can really benefit from now is time for calm reflection, especially when no decision is needed now.

In summary, Prime Minister and Ministers have cleared the air and showed that we have acted properly. I have described the robust processes we have for Political Appointment Holders, Civil Servants and Government MPs to address potential conflicts of interest. We help officers understand and live the code of conduct, and we deal with errant officers firmly.

This shows that the Government is open and transparent, and accountable for what it does. This session in Parliament demonstrates that too. This also shows that we have institutions to make sure that we can continue to have good and honest government in Singapore. I hope that these unfounded allegations will stop. They have no basis, and undermine confidence in our system of governance and unfairly tar our public officers who are trying their best to do their duty.

Mdm Speaker, I hope that with the conclusion of this debate, we can put the allegations of abuse of power to rest. But where do we go from here, as a nation and as a people?

Like many Singaporeans, I am sure that Members of this House have been deeply saddened, shocked and confused by the events of these past three weeks. I am certain that Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew would not have wanted this to have happened.

I have known Hsien Loong and Hsien Yang for over 40 years. We served together as colleagues and comrades in the Singapore Armed Forces. I have held both of them in high regard for their intellect, objectivity, commitment and dedication to Singapore.

The Hsien Loong I see now today is the same Hsien Loong I have known all these years – an upright earnest person who stands by his principles, and does what is right for Singapore. As Ms Sun Xueling, Er Dr Lee Bee Wah, others have mentioned, and many Singaporeans know, Hsien Loong has done much for Singapore, and he has much more to contribute serving Singapore and Singaporeans as our Prime Minister. I hope that he will contribute his knowledge and experience to Singapore for a long time to come.

Hsien Yang too has contributed much. He was my colleague, we worked together. He has contributed much in the Singapore Armed Forces and in the private and public sector. We have met a number of times since his father passed away. We spoke to each other with consideration and respect as we always have.

It is with deep sadness that the Hsien Yang I see now is not the Hsien Yang that I knew. I see hurt and strong emotions consuming him. I do not understand what underlying deep-rooted reasons there may be for this. But for Hsien Yang, I hope that these strong emotions that I see now in his heart will dampen over time and that he would find peace and solace within himself. He has more to contribute to Singapore if he chooses to do so. I wish Hsien Yang and his family well, as I always have.

I have known Wei Ling also for many years, though not as well. She must have been going through a difficult time over the past few years, living with her parents and looking after them while they were unwell. And losing both of them, while stoically facing her own health challenges.

For Wei Ling, the Government has said that we will not do anything to affect her right to continue living at 38 Oxley Road. I wish her happiness, time to do the things which she enjoys with her friends, now that she has the time and above all, good health and a long life.

Mdm Speaker, when Mr Lee passed away, it was an emotional period for all Singaporeans. And how much more so it must have been for the immediate members of the family. When emotions are raw, misunderstandings can arise and feelings can be hurt. When I met Hsien Yang and Hsien Loong in the weeks after Mr Lee’s passing, and Wei Ling a little later, my words to them were "let time pass".

I hope that with the passage of time and the cooling of emotions that the siblings can resolve their private disagreements within the family. Singaporeans too, can give the Prime Minister and his siblings space to work through their disagreements. And I hope that is possible.

Mdm Speaker, the Government, however, still has to carry out its responsibilities objectively, fairly and calmly. I would like to assure this House, and all the siblings, that on the matters that I have the responsibility to deal with, in particular with regard to 38 Oxley Road, I will continue to deal with them objectively and fairly, all the time working for the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans.

Mdm Speaker, Hsien Loong, Wei Ling and Hsien Yang, are the sons and daughter of Mr Lee. I agree with Dr Tan Wu Meng, that all of us too, in our own way, are also "sons and daughters" of Mr Lee. Mr Lee and his generation of leaders fought hard for all of us, and gave us the Singapore we have today.

He, and our pioneers brought us all up. Built this house which we call Singapore. We have learnt the lessons that he taught us, and which he demonstrated through his own example. No one is above the law, or bigger than our collective interest, as Ms Chia Yong Yong has passionately pointed out.

Mr Lee himself understood that he too had to abide by the processes and system that he helped build; and that the Government has a duty to consider the public interest and not just those of private individuals. He and his generation built the institutions which uphold these principles. But most of all, he taught us, all of us, to uphold these principles.

Mdm Speaker, we, all of us, also are "sons and daughters" brought up by Mr Lee. We have not been written into Mr Lee’s will. But what he has left to all of us, is more precious, more valuable. He left us Our Singapore, Our big House, which he worked together with us to build. And which we are all proud to call our home. This episode is a painful one for all of us.

But I am confident that this big House we call Singapore will remain strong and robust. Mr Lee and our pioneer leaders put in firm foundations – robust processes, institutions and a system of governance which we have continued to strengthen. Members of this House, Ministers, Prime Minister, our public officers, all Singaporeans – we were all brought up to do our utmost to respect and uphold the values, institutions and processes that are built upon the foundations laid by our founding generation.

Mdm Speaker, when Mr Lee passed on, Singaporeans came together. Our hearts wept, we grieved together. The moment united all of us, reminded us of who we are and what we stand for. It uplifted us, giving us renewed spirit to face the future together.

I hope that as we ponder the options for 38 Oxley Road, and how best to remember the struggles of our Independence years, and the values that Mr Lee and our pioneers passed down to us, this should also be an occasion to unite us. There is no reason why this should divide us. Mr Lee in his wisdom left us enough room to decide and placed his trust in us to do so.

Mdm Speaker, the House that Mr Lee and our pioneers left us is a strong one. It is built on firm foundations. I am confident that all of us, all Members of this House, all Singaporeans, our public officers will build upon the firm foundations of our House, Singapore, and make it even stronger.

This is the legacy that Mr Lee and his pioneer generation left us. This is what they would expect us to do. We can rise above this, we have the confidence and ability to do so. Let us unite together and fulfil that promise. Majulah Singapura! [Applause]

2.52 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr Lee Hsien Loong): Mdm Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank Members for this debate.

Two weeks ago, when I decided to bring this matter to Parliament, I explained my purpose: (a) to air fully all the accusations against me and my government; (b) to allow MPs to raise difficult and inconvenient questions, whether you are a PAP MP, an Opposition MP, or an NMP; (c) to enable me and my Cabinet to render account to Parliament and clear the air.

In my Ministerial Statement, I have fully addressed the allegations of abuse of power. In his Ministerial Statement, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has explained the Ministerial Committee and how we uphold the integrity of the Government.

I brought the matter to Parliament because I am answerable to MPs and to Singaporeans. I have opened myself up to questioning by Members. It is the Members’ responsibility to ask me any questions they want and get to the bottom of the issue.

So, I was surprised that some Members asked me why I had brought this to Parliament, and questioned if we should discuss this in Parliament. I agree that we should not fight private disputes in Parliament, nor have we done so. But grave accusations of abuse of power have been made against me as Prime Minister and against my government. Doubts have been cast on our Government and the leadership. 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.

Therefore, I am glad that in the last two days, we have had a good debate. Members, PAP and non-PAP MPs have raised questions and my Ministers have answered them and given a proper account.

What has been the outcome? Over the past two days, the allegations about me abusing power which prompted the sitting have been answered. No MPs have produced or alleged any additional facts or charges, or substantiated any of the allegations.

Mr Low Thia Khiang talks about "scattered evidence centred on family displeasure". But he has not accused the Government of anything nor has he given any concrete evidence or cited any. Mr Png Eng Huat read out the litany of allegations by my siblings but he did not endorse them and that is significant. Because it shows that the Government and I have acted properly and with due process and that there is no basis to the allegations of abuse of power made by my siblings, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

My Ministers have in the course of the debate dealt with most of the questions and points raised by the MPs. I would like to deal with just a few questions. Firstly, the Attorney-General’s Chamber. Secondly, whether I deceived my father. Thirdly, whether I considered or I am considering the legal options. And finally, where do we go next.

So, Attorney-General Chambers. Ms Sylvia Lim and several of her Workers' Party colleagues have raised questions about the propriety of appointing of Mr Lucien Wong as Attorney-General (AG) and Mr Hri Kumar as Deputy Attorney-General (DAG). Because Lucien Wong was previously my lawyer, and because Hri Kumar was a PAP MP.

Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah gave a clear reply yesterday. It is perfectly normal for lawyers to have existing clients and connections, and to encounter potential conflicts of interest when they change jobs. In fact, lawyers with no clients and connections probably have no job. But the way to deal with this is also quite standard – for the lawyers to recuse themselves when matters come up which they had previously dealt with in a previous capacity. The rules are quite clear. All professional lawyers know how to handle such matters and every time a lawyer moves from practice unto the Bench to become a judge, the judge has to do the same. Because he has old cases and cases may appear before the Courts and he cannot participate in the cases when they turn up before the Courts.

So, there is no problem of conflict at all for Lucien Wong or Hri Kumar to become AG and DAG. If matters come up which they had previously handled as private lawyers, they just recuse themselves and let others deal with it. And so it is with the dispute with my siblings on the house. Lucien Wong was my lawyer but now he is the AG, I have lost a good lawyer. He is not advising me any more on this matter. And in the AGC, the Government cannot use Lucien Wong either to advise it on this matter because he is conflicted, he used to represent me. So, in this matter, another officer in AGC takes charge. Lucien Wong is out of it.

When Lucien Wong’s name came up as a candidate to succeed Mr VK Rajah as AG, I endorsed him with confidence. He is known as one of Singapore’s top lawyers and has a high international reputation, especially in corporate and banking law. I was even more confident because I had direct personal experience working with him on this case, my personal case. I had also consulted him informally on Government matters before, when we were working on the Points of Agreement dispute with Malaysia. And I knew that he was a very good lawyer.

Everyone involved in the appointment was fully aware that this was the basis on which I was recommending him. I told them, I told the Cabinet, Lucien is my lawyer, he is a very good lawyer. But the Opposition will make an issue of this. I do not consider this an impediment because there is no difficulty of conflict of interest. I recommend him.

The AG's appointment has to be confirmed, approved by the President. I briefed the President before the matter formally went to him and I told him the same thing. He consulted the CPA. The CPA recommended that he approved the appointment. He did.

And, indeed, after the President approved Lucien Wong’s appointment and it was announced, the Law Society welcomed it. Likewise, my direct knowledge of Hri Kumar, as an MP and a lawyer, gave me confidence that he would make a good Deputy Attorney General. I know he has a good legal mind and he has a good heart as an MP for people.

It is critical for Singapore to have a strong Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and for the AGC to have a strong top leadership because the AG is a very important and demanding job, as Workers' Party MPs have themselves pointed out. It is very difficult to find people of the right calibre and range of experience. You can take my word for it. I have been involved doing this looking for suitable people to be Attorneys-General for quite a long time and I have had to do it several times. It is important that we get the best that are there to become the Attorney-General. The role is becoming more complex and we need the most capable people to defend our interests. You just look at Pedra Branca. You would have thought the matter was settled nine and a half years ago. No. Four days ago, on 30 June, Malaysia filed an application over the ICJ judgment on Pedra Branca. We are confident of our case. We think the Malaysian case has no merit but, unless we have a top notch team, we may mishandle the case with very serious consequences. Do you want to take a chance?

We have also outstanding officers within the AG's Chambers coming up the ranks and we have promoted them within AGC, we have elevated some of them to the Bench. For example, there is the Deputy Attorney-General Mr Lionel Yee, there are two Solicitors-General Mr Kwek Mean Luck and Ms Mavis Chionh, all promoted to their positions recently. And other career Legal Service officers have been elevated to the Bench to become Judicial Commissioners as a first step, like Pang Khang Chau, Aedit Abdullah, Hoo Sheau Peng, and Audrey Lim. So, we look for talent and we groom and develop talent within but, at the same time, we seek to reinforce the AG's Chambers with lawyers from the private sector because they will both reinforce the team and add to the talent pool, and also the AGC can benefit from their experience with private sector work.

We have a good team in AGC today. They hold their own with the very best to fight for Singapore’s interests abroad. They pursue cases in Court and handle very complicated cases professionally, competently, where necessary, aggressively. And the appointments of Lucien Wong and Hri Kumar will contribute to building this team and make the AG's Chambers an even stronger institution.

Now, let me turn to a few of the points which have to do with Oxley Road, starting with what Ms Cheng Li Hui asked just now, whether I deceived my father and made him believe that the house was gazetted. I think when the allegation is that you have deceived Mr Lee Kuan Yew and it is directed at the Prime Minister, that can never be a private allegation. It has enormous ramifications for my standing and reputation, and the matter has to be answered.

The simple answer is that I did not deceive my father. I explained to you yesterday how my father’s primary wish on the house has always been clear – he always wanted it knocked down. Where my siblings and I differ is on whether my father was prepared to consider alternatives should demolition not be possible. After meeting Cabinet on 21 July 2011, Mr Lee asked me for my view of what the Government would do with the house after he died. I gave him my honest assessment. I told him, you have met the Cabinet; you have heard the Ministers’ views. If I chaired the Cabinet meeting, given that these are the views of the Ministers and the public, I think it would be very hard for me to override them and knock the house down. I would have to agree that the house has to be gazetted, to be kept. And if I am not the PM or if I do not chair the meeting, all the more likely that the house would be gazetted. He understood.

In August 2011, about a month later, he decided to will the house to me, as I told Members yesterday, and he told the family. Ho Ching and I knew my father’s wishes and also my mother’s feelings on the house, and we wanted to address their concerns should demolition not be allowed. So, we came up with a proposal to renovate the house, to change the inside completely, to demolish the private spaces, but keep the historic basement dining room. And my wife kept the whole family comprehensively informed.

Mdm Speaker, may I ask the Clerk now to distribute the handout to Members?

Mdm Speaker: Yes please. [A handout was distributed to hon Members.]

Mr Lee Hsien Loong: I am distributing two family e-mails just to give Members a sense of the conversations and the discussions and how they were conducted. The first e-mail is dated 2 January 2012 and it is from Ho Ching to my father. In fact, it is to the whole family − Lee Wei Ling, Lee Hsien Yang, Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Suet Fern − to keep the whole family informed on what we were doing. It is a long e-mail. I will just take Members through the beginning and the end. It says:

"Hi Ling, just to update you on one of the ideas for Oxley renewal development. As Loong mentioned, the first preference is to demolish the Oxley house and build afresh. The next best alternative is to renovate and redevelop parts of the house or annex so that it is liveable, rentable for many more years but with a new internal layout. The renovation renewal idea is to keep or renew the main Oxley house structure, retaining its own world ambience but completely changing the internal layout except for the basement dining room and redeveloping the back annex into a two storey annex connected to the main house. Thus the current primary private family living spaces in the main house upstairs will be gone and family privacy protected."

And then there is a long description of all the different possibilities, and then we come to the conclusion on the second page:

"If there's objection to renting out to, say, expats, then the family could consider moving in at least for the initial years and then Ling can use one of the big bedrooms and so forth where who can go where. Weiwei (that is the architect) has done various projects including the renewal of Victoria Theatre as well as conservation of private dwellings, and as he explained, the conservation requirements typically do not mean preserving the house in its entirety. The interior layouts are often changed to reflect new family usage needs. So we have the option of redoing the entire interior layout to remove any linkages back to the private family space. Thanks." So, that is the first e-mail.

I give you a second e-mail which is 30 April 2012, that means, about four months later, from my wife Ho Ching to my father, again copied to the whole family, to say that the approvals have been secured and will be delivered to him and please let her know anything else needs to be done. And he replied about three hours later, "Noted, nothing to follow up or to sign by me. Permission has been granted as I had previously signed in letters to them. We'll send them to you."

So, you see, it is quite clear, it is quite open, it is not very curt. The conservation plan was done honestly, transparently and not on false pretences. After my father died, I said in Parliament on 13 April 2015, as I recounted yesterday, that the Government will take no decision on the house, so long as my sister was living in it. Why did I do that? Because people were then, three weeks after his passing, still very emotional over losing Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Some wanted to honour him by keeping the house. Others wanted to honour him by knocking the house down. Emotions were high. Whichever decision we made, one way or the other, significant numbers of people would be upset and we are just creating tensions and unhappiness and anxieties for nothing. Best if we postponed this major decision for a calmer time, let time pass before we come to the matter. That is why I said what I did in Parliament and I see it in no way contradicting my father's wishes or what I had advised my father when he was alive.

Now, many Members have asked me other specific questions on matters after my father died. Ms Sun Xueling was unsure why I had offered to transfer the house to my sister for $1, but subsequently sold it to Lee Hsien Yang at market value. Mr Henry Kwek asked why I had not raised matters on the will during probate and why am I expressing concern now and have put my views in the form of Statutory Declarations. And several Members have suggested that I take legal action to clear my name and put a stop to the matter once and for all.

Let me explain my overall approach to handling this family matter and, to do so, I beg your indulgence, Mdm Speaker, but I do have to go a little bit into the family history. It is a complicated story, but one golden thread running through it right from the beginning is my desire to manage the issue privately, without escalating the temperature and the dispute, and without forcing the issue of my legal rights. I adopted this approach because it involves family and I was hoping all along to work out an amicable resolution even if that meant compromising some of my own interests. When I learnt from others, who were meant to tell me, that my siblings were unhappy that my father had willed me the house, I tried to resolve the unhappiness. So, in May 2015, I offered to transfer the house to my sister for a nominal sum of $1. She has been living there for some time, in fact, all her life except when she was abroad − small gaps. And my father had wanted her to continue living in the house after he died if she wished to. So, it was natural to let her own the house. I only asked for one condition: that if the property was sold later, or acquired by the Government, that the proceeds would be donated to charity. I thought it was a very reasonable offer.

My brother wanted in on the deal. He wanted to join in and jointly buy the house with my sister from me for $1. My sister had no objection, so I agreed to this. But during the discussions, disagreement arose. My siblings started making allegations about me, and escalating them. So, I told them that 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 is no point. And they wanted me to give a certain undertaking − I would not go into all the details now − but I could not agree to what they asked for, so we were at an impasse.

We went back and forth for several months. Every few weeks, my letter would go to them, they would think about it, every few weeks their lawyer would reply to my lawyer, and so we continued the discussion.

Faced with these allegations, I reviewed my old family emails. Kwa Kim Li was my father’s lawyer before his last will. She did not do his last will. But she sent me and my siblings information about the previous wills of my father and also information about what she knew about the last will. Only then did I understand what had happened, before my father died, and became troubled by how the last will had been done. But I still held back from raising the issues with my siblings, because I still hoped for an amicable settlement.

In August 2015, I dissolved Parliament and called the General Election. My siblings then issued me an ultimatum, to accept their terms by 1 September 2015, which, perhaps coincidentally, was Nomination Day. I told them I was very busy. They would surely understand that I had many things on my plate, and I would respond as soon as the elections were over, which I did.

I could not allow myself, the Government or the PAP to be intimidated by such threats. I decided to ask my siblings to clarify the circumstances surrounding the last will. After that, for whatever reason, the 1 September deadline passed uneventfully.

After the election, I again tried to settle the matter. I told my siblings that we were not getting anywhere on the $1 offer, with the conditions on what each side could do or say. So, I made them a fresh offer, forget all the previous discussions, new offer, no conditions on what we can do or say, but I will sell the house to my brother at full market value. And the only condition, which is attached now, is that we each donate half of the value to charity. And then you do and say what you think fit, and I am free to be my own person, I am not constrained in any way. And I offered this arrangement, which involved the donation to charity, because it was a variation that we had discussed before Mr Lee died, but ultimately had not adopted. So, we said, well, if you want to settle the matter, there was this old variation, would you like to take it up now? He took it, we signed. And that was December 2015. Again I hoped that this would settle the problem and we could keep the matter low-key and, perhaps, gradually subsiding.

Later on, when the Ministerial Committee asked for views from my siblings and me, I wrote in to give my views. So did my siblings. We both commented on each other’s views. My siblings had put a lot weight on the first part of the demolition clause in the last will. So, I felt the need to explain the circumstances surrounding the preparation of the last will to the Ministerial Committee, so that it would understand what to make of the evidence.

And because of the gravity of the matter, I voluntarily made my submissions to the Ministerial Committee in the form of sworn statutory declarations, or as they say, in the coffee-shops, sumpah.

That means that if what I had put down is proven to be false, I can go to jail for perjury. The statements cannot be taken back – they are done, sworn, irrevocable. But I did this privately, because it was just to inform the Committee in their deliberations, and I did not want to escalate the quarrel.

Unfortunately, at 2.00 am on 14 June this year, my siblings made public allegations against me. I was forced to respond. I decided to put out the facts, and I released a summary of my statutory declarations. Again, in the first instance, I did not take the legal route and sue for defamation. I stand by what I swore in the statutory declarations and published in the statement, but, really, I do not want to go further along this way if I can help it. I did not, and still do not, want to escalate the quarrel.

At each point, I decided not to try to enforce my full legal rights. My priority was to resolve the matter privately and avoid a collision.

Some MPs still asked why I am not taking legal action against my siblings. For example, Mr Low Thia Khiang advocates my suing my siblings for defamation. This background which I have narrated to you explains why I have hesitated to do so. As I said yesterday, I have been advised that I have a strong legal case. And in normal circumstances, I would surely sue because the accusations of abuse of power are so grave. But suing my own brother and sister in Court would further besmirch our parents’ names. Mr Low may think that does not count, and it is neither here nor there. I take a different view.

Mr Low argued that we should "do whatever it takes to bring the issue to a quick resolution". I agree. But going to Court will not achieve this. It would drag out the process for years, cause further distress to Singaporeans, and distract us from the many urgent issues that we must deal with.

Several MPs − Mr Pritam Singh, Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, Mr Louis Ng, Mr Zaqy Mohamad − suggested a Select Committee, or a Commission of Inquiry, as an alternative. But what is the basis for this? There are no specifics to the headline charge of abuse of power. What specifically did I do that was wrong? And what was wrong with that, whatever that may be? Who was involved? When did it happen?

After two days of debate, nobody has stood behind these allegations or offered any evidence, not even Opposition MPs. The Workers' Party MPs say they are not in a position to judge. Indeed, Mr Low criticises my siblings for making "vague allegations €¦ based on scattered evidence centred on family displeasure".

If MPs believe that something is wrong, it is MPs' job to pursue the facts and make these allegations in their own name. Decide whether something seems to be wrong. And if you think something is wrong, even if you are not fully sure, then come to this House, confront the Government, and ask for explanations and answers. If having heard the Government, you are still not satisfied, then by all means demand a Select Committee or a Commission of Inquiry (COI). But do not just repeat allegations and attribute them to others, or ask for a Select Committee or COI because accusations are around, do not know what, but therefore we must have a COI to find out what. The accusers may not be in Parliament. But that should not stop MPs from talking to them to get their story. Nor would it stop the accusers from getting in touch with MPs, including Opposition MPs, to tell their story so that the MPs can raise it on their behalf in Parliament.

That is, in fact, how the MP system is meant to work. Those are the MPs' duties, and that is one reason why Parliamentary Privilege exists. So that MPs, who have heard troubling allegations or news, can make these allegations and raise the matters in the House, even if they are not completely proven and may be defamatory, without fear of being sued for defamation. That is how parliaments are supposed to function.

But none of this has happened over the last two days. No one says there is evidence of abuse of power. Even the Opposition is not accusing the Government of abuse of power. So, it is not a case of oneself defend oneself. Why do we need in these circumstances a Select Committee or a COI, and drag this out for months? It will be another Korean drama, full-scale serial.

Should we set up Select Committees to investigate every unsubstantiated allegation, every wild rumour? As Mr Low Thia Khiang says, "vague allegations", vague allegations based on scattered evidence centred on family displeasure, as a basis for ordering a Select Committee or a COI? That is not the basis. But if there is evidence of wrongdoing which emerges, or alleged evidence of wrongdoing which emerges, then I and the Government will consider what further steps to take. We can have a Select Committee, we can have a Commission of Inquiry, I may decide to sue for defamation or take some other legal action. But until then, let us get back to more important things that we should be working on.

Where do we go from here? The Ministerial Statements and the debate have been important and valuable. Facts and explanations have been put on the record. Singaporeans have received a full account of how the Government works, and what the Government has done, in the case of 38 Oxley Road. The allegations have been aired, have been answered, rebutted, and people can see that there has been no abuse of power, by me or the Government. I hope that this two-day debate has cleared the air and will calm things down.

It would be unrealistic to hope that the matter is now completely put to rest. I do not know what further statements or allegations my siblings may make. But with the benefit of the statements and debate in Parliament, Singaporeans are now in a better position to judge the facts, and see the issue in perspective. And we can all go back to what we should be focused on and not be distracted from national priorities and responsibilities.

I thank Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Ms Chia Yong Yong, Mr Charles Chong and many others, for your good wishes for reconciliation within the family. I, too, would like to think this is possible. It will be a difficult and long road. But I hope that one day, there will be rapprochement.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo reminded us about the national week of mourning when Mr Lee died. It was an emotional week for everybody. For Singaporeans, who lost their founding father; for my family, and for me.

For me, the most difficult and emotional moment in that whole week came when I was reading the eulogy at the state funeral service. When I recounted how when I was about 13, my father had told me: "If anything happens to me, please take care of your mother, and your younger sister and brother."

Singapore was then part of Malaysia. We were in a fierce fight with the central government and the communalists. My father did not tell me, but he knew his life was in danger. Fortunately, nothing happened to my father then. He brought up the family. And I thought we had a happy family, and he lived a long and full life. Little did I expect that after my parents died, these tensions would erupt, with such grievous consequences. And after so many years, I will be unable to fulfil the role which my father hoped I would.

So, I hope one day, these passions will subside, and we can begin to reconcile. At the very least, I hope that my siblings will not visit their resentments and grievances with one generation upon the next generation. And further, that they do not transmit their enmities and feuds to our children.

I am sad that this episode has happened. I regret that in addressing public accusations against me, I have had to talk about private family matters in Parliament. My purpose has not been to pursue a family fight, but to clear the air, and to restore public confidence in our system. This is how the system is supposed to work. When there are questions and doubts about the Government, we bring them out, deal with them openly, and clear the doubts. If anything is wrong, we must put it right. If nothing is wrong, we must say so.

Ms Chia Yong Yong spoke eloquently yesterday of the many issues she felt passionately about, the many challenges we face as a nation, and why we should be focusing on them, and not being distracted by this controversy. Mr Low Thia Khiang called on everyone to focus on rallying Singaporeans to be united in facing the challenges and not be participating in a divisive dispute. I fully agree with them.

We must all get back to work. This is not soap opera. Come together, tackle the challenges before us. My team and I will do our best to continue building this Singapore, keeping it safe and making it prosper. Thank you very much. [Applause]

Mdm Speaker: Mr Low Thia Khiang.

3.30 pm

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Thank you, Madam. I have two clarifications. First, can the Prime Minister confirm that he will sue his siblings in Court or agree to a Select Committee of Parliament if they make more allegations in public?

The second clarification: what are the terms or conditions his siblings wanted on 38 Oxley Road before General Election 2015 which they had threatened to go public with?

Mr Lee Hsien Loong: Mdm Speaker, on the first question whether I sue or have a Select Committee if the siblings say more things, it depends on what they say. When they say, we will assess. As I have said, if there is evidence of wrongdoing or serious evidence of alleged wrongdoing, certainly, I will have to decide what to do. And we will have to consider a Committee of Inquiry (COI), a Select Committee, defamation or there may be other options.

As for what the terms were, it is nothing very secret. Basically, as the discussions proceeded, more and more wild allegations were made against me, including that I was deceiving my father. So, at some point, I said, "No, this cannot continue. There is no point by selling you the house for $1 and then you keep going around saying that I deceived my father. That was why I sold you the house. So, I will sell you the house if you undertake to stop these allegations". They said that, "In that case, you Lee Hsien Loong undertake to help us get the house knocked down and support us having the house knocked down." I said, "I cannot do that. I do not know what you would do. I do not know whether I will agree with everything that you would do. I have already disagreed with you on NHB. So, it is best you do what you want. I keep my peace or I reserve my right to speak. You leave that separate. But I cannot sell you the house for $1 unless the accusations stop." And that is the impasse and that was the essence of the position when I dissolved Parliament.

Mdm Speaker: Mr Leon Perera.

Mr Leon Perera (Non-Constituency Member): Thank you, Madam. I have a clarification for Deputy Prime Minister Teo. I just have one clarification to put to the Deputy Prime Minister regarding his statement and it is in relation to the Ministerial Committee.

The hon Deputy Prime Minister has clarified that the Ministerial Committee operated independently. But would the Deputy Prime Minister acknowledge that there might be a perception that it is not independent by virtue of the structure of the Committee that the individuals who make up the Committee ultimately do report to an individual with personal ties to the matter at hand even though that is in his individual capacity?

And given that, the risk of that perception seems to have materialised in this case. And given that fact, would a better alternative have been, instead of a Ministerial Committee to look at this, an independent committee outside of the Cabinet where all the members do not report to the Prime Minister to assess it, make a recommendation to the Cabinet, perhaps a public recommendation and then the Cabinet could still decide and the Cabinet could still own that outcome? Would that not have avoided some of the perceptions associated with the Ministerial Committee?

Mr Teo Chee Hean: Mdm Speaker, the purpose of my explaining how we function was to explain why this perception is wrong, that we are quite capable of operating independently. As I have explained, this is no different from the board of a major company – you must have represented boards or been on some of the boards. And this is the way we deal with conflicts of interest. So, there should be no reason why Mr Leon Perera is unable to understand this unless he does not want to. That is a different matter. But I explained how we do this. It is quite common. We are quite capable of acting independently on issues such as this.

Whether we set up another committee, we could end up having a debate on whether this committee actually is independent or not, who are the members, how is it constituted and so on. And then, eventually, Cabinet still has to decide whether to accept the committee's recommendation or not. So, we still come back to the same issue. So, the important thing, I think here, is to know that we have processes in place, that we have honest upright people who can carry through these processes – honestly, independently and promptly.

Mdm Speaker: Assoc Prof Daniel Goh.

Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong: Thank you, Mdm Speaker. It is for the Prime Minister. He said in his statement yesterday, "It is nonsensical to say that because I saw the Deed in my official capacity as Prime Minister, I would not raise the matter with a family member." I am kind of concerned with this statement because I think it blurs the distinction between the public and the private, and I hope that the distinction may be restored.

I have two clarifications. First, it seems, from the public exchange, that this was not simply a case when an older brother straightened out his younger brother over coffee. With all due respect to the Prime Minister, he did not simply raise the matter to Mr Lee Hsien Yang. He sent a strongly worded letter of objection through one of the top lawyers in Singapore. And this letter sounds, to the layman at least, in all purposes, like a letter of demand with the implied threats of lawsuits. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is this method that he has used to raise this matter with his younger brother which has given rise to the perceptions and the allegations on the abuse of power? That is the first clarification.

The second clarification is, I am concerned that what he said will be said as justification for public servants who are acting in the official capacity, coming across information related to their family members doing something wrong, and for the public servants then to raise the matter with the family members, may possibly alert them to the wrongdoings inadvertently; and therefore, allowing the family members to try to take actions to avoid legal sanctions. So, I hope the Prime Minister could clarify his statement in respect and in relation to the code of conduct for public servants and family members.

Mr Lee Hsien Loong: Thank you. First, on the first point, whether I have "lim kopi" with my brother or whether I have sent my lawyer's letter which may be stronger than my kopi-o, I do not think it makes any difference. This is a concocted objection because I think my siblings did not like the message. It is the content, not the medium.

Secondly, I think, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Assoc Prof Daniel Goh has a point. If I am a policeman, I know that there is an investigation against some family members for mine for drugs or money-laundering or something, I have to keep that confidential. I cannot go and tell him. But if it comes to my knowledge that somebody, my wife or my daughter or my son-in-law, went to a Government department and roughed up the place and demanded to be given special attention, or demanded special terms for their deal, then I had better go and tell them straightaway. So, I think it is quite clear. I mean, you need common sense in applying the code of conduct but I presume that we will look for common sense in Ministers and Civil Servants.

Mdm Speaker: Ms Chia Yong Yong.

Ms Chia Yong Yong (Nominated Member): I seek clarification from the Minister of National Development on a related issue. Am I correct to recall that if a beneficiary were to write in to NHB for a copy of the Deed of Gift, the beneficiary will be entitled to a copy? Is that the position?

Mr Lawrence Wong: Yes, Madam, I said that just now.

Ms Chia Yong Yong: So, my follow-up point would be that, if in this case, a copy of the Deed of Gift was given to the Prime Minister in his official capacity and then assuming that he took no action on that but he wrote in again, in his personal capacity, as a beneficiary to ask for a copy and he got the same copy of the Deed of Gift, then he could have acted on the second copy, albeit that they are the same.

Mr Lawrence Wong: Yes, Madam, under the circumstances, I have said that if Mr Lee Hsien Loong, in his private capacity, given his circumstance as a beneficiary of the estate with interest in the assets, had written to NHB for information, NHB would have given him the information.

Ms Chia Yong Yong: Thank you. So, it therefore makes no difference. Am I correct to say that, in this case, there is no practical difference in whether he received one copy or two copies?

Mdm Speaker: Ms Chia, please address the Chair and please ask for permission from the Chair to ask your questions and not engage in a debate with the Minister.

Ms Chia Yong Yong: Sorry. My apologies.

Mdm Speaker: It will be your last clarification.

Ms Chia Yong Yong: So, my question then is that: if that were the case, then would it not be no difference whether the Prime Minister received one or two copies?

Mr Lawrence Wong: Indeed so, Madam, for all intents and purposes, I see no difference.

Mdm Speaker: Mr Zaqy Mohamad.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang): Madam, I have a question on the last will. I think in Prime Minister's speech, Prime Minister explained that the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's lawyer was not involved in the last will. So, will the Government or will Prime Minister, in your private capacity, be pursuing this matter?

Mr Lee Hsien Loong: Mdm Speaker, I do not think I need to answer that question here. It does not concern the House.

Mdm Speaker: Mr Low Thia Khiang.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Madam, I have a clarification for the Prime Minister. One of the evidence of abuse of power or allegation is that the Prime Minister's wife, Ho Ching, was acting on behalf of Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Was this true?

Mr Lee Hsien Loong: Mdm Speaker, we all practise making mountains out of molehills. It is a simple matter of a battleship telegram and three old letters which my wife came across in 38 Oxley Road, told me about. I thought they were significant and relevant to the exhibition on Mr Lee which NHB was putting up. And I facilitated and arranged for her to pass it to Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and for PMO to send it on to the NHB exhibition. That is all. You call that representing the Prime Minister's Office? She did not have a business card from Prime Minister's Office.

Mdm Speaker: Mr Chen Show Mao.

Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied): Madam, I am a Singaporean but Lee Kuan Yew is not my father. Nor do I consider Lee Kuan Yew my father. I have a question about the Ministerial Committee. I understand it was set up to look into the public interest aspects of the house. But what little we heard about what it concerns itself with was what Mr Lee Kuan Yew's wishes were, relating to the house. Are not these the proper subjects of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's will? I understand probate was granted − and should not this matter? For the will is a private matter, as the Prime Minister said just now relating to the seventh version of the will. What are the public interest aspects of this will?

Mr Teo Chee Hean: Mdm Speaker, I know that Mr Chen is a Singaporean. We all are. I am glad that he has stated his position very clearly on this subject. I took quite a long time to explain the public interest aspects in why we have an interest in wanting to know what Mr Lee's thinking was. We could have taken quite the opposite view, which is to say we disregard Mr Lee's view totally, and then we just decide without taking his view into consideration. We could have done that. I think Government does that also from time to time, regardless of what personal interests and wishes are.

But we felt that in this case, there was merit in taking Mr Lee Kuan Yew's wishes and understandings and thinking on the matter.

We had communication from him and we had discussions with him, too. And we take that into account. We had a letter which he sent to Cabinet. That was his last will. But we also wanted to understand what might have been some of his wishes and thinking around some of the possible options that we were considering. And, hence, we asked the children of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. If we wanted to understand his views and we decided not to ask his children, I think that would have been very strange, indeed, and the children would have had a reason to be upset with us − why are you not asking us, why are you ignoring us. We asked all the children.

And I have explained why and how the issue or subject of the will, how it was interpreted, came up. Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling placed a great deal of reliance on it. They were focused on one part of the will but not the other and offered various reasons for it. And that is how the subject came up, the will itself. So, we offered each party an opportunity to make clarifications if they wished to. In fact, we asked each party whether they would be alright with letting the other party have a look at the other party's views. And I think that was a very open and transparent process.

And if we had gone about our work and said, look, you know, Party A said this and Party B said that, and I cannot tell you what Party A said, and I cannot tell you what Party B said, there might also have been reason to be upset. But we were quite open and transparent. And we were very, very clear with the siblings, all three of them, that it is not the place of the Committee to determine the validity of the will. I said that clearly several times yesterday, and I said that again today, too. I hope that, with my saying it one more time, Mr Chen would understand it.

Mr Chen Show Mao: Mr Lee Kuan Yew had said often that Singapore is bigger than himself. In this light, I do not consider myself a son of Lee Kuan Yew. Others may”€

Mdm Speaker: Please state your clarification, Mr Chen.

Mr Chen Show Mao: ”€that is different strokes for different folks. My question is not about why Mr Lee Kuan Yew's private wishes should be taken into consideration but why do we look beyond a will that has been granted probate, that has been proven in Court, for his last wishes relating to the house. From all we have heard, that is what the Ministerial Committee concerns itself with. And the Prime Minister just now, in his response to questions about what he would do on the will, said it really has no public interest component.

So, does the Deputy Prime Minister not agree that these enquiries by the Committee beyond the will for clues of Mr Lee's wishes really undermine the work of the probate Court?

Mdm Speaker: Mr Chen, we run the risk of going through the two days' debate all over again about why the issue is placed before Parliament. But I shall leave to Deputy Prime Minister to reply.

Mr Teo Chee Hean: Mdm Speaker, I will try to do this without having to go through a 30-minute speech again. But as I have explained, the relevance is there. Certainly, this was not all the Committee was doing. I think Minister Lawrence Wong has explained what else the Committee was doing, what work the agencies have been doing for the Committee, and we have been considering various things. So, this was not all that the Committee was concerned about. We were concerned about the options, we are concerned about the history and so on.

We are not replacing the work of the Probate Court. I have said that already. Mr Chen is a lawyer. But we seek to understand what Mr Lee's wishes were, what was Mr Lee's thinking. And we make no judgement, we are not in a position to make judgement and we will not make any judgement on the validity of Mr Lee's will. I said so yesterday several times, I said so again today. I do not think I can be any clearer than that.

Mr Kok Heng Leun (Nominated Member): Thank you, Madam. I have two questions. One is for Minister Lawrence Wong. I would like to know, have any other ministerial committees been set up for other heritage sites, other than 38 Oxley Road. I think the second question is to the Prime Minister. We have been reading about the confidence of the Government after this whole saga. I think when we talk about confidence, it is not just about what had happened and what had you done. I think what is also important is how do we move on from here. So, assuming after today − and I would think we have a feeling that probably more allegations would come out − I can imagine then, the Government would start having to deal with these allegations again. Would that not then affect the function of this Government in some way? So, would not having a COI or a Select Parliamentary Committee for the purpose of setting a platform, setting a kind of agenda, as well as deadlines, such that if Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling have been invited to come for this platform and to make their presentations, whether they refuse or they do, that would actually help us to move on.

Mr Lawrence Wong: Madam, I explained earlier that when you look at sites of heritage and architectural significance, it is typically an inter-agency process. The different relevant agencies will come together to discuss this, and there have been instances where the discussions have involved the relevant Ministers as well. Of course, with Oxley Road, it is a unique case because it is not just about heritage. The terms of the reference of the Ministerial Committee are also to look at the range of options and to understand Mr Lee's thinking and wishes for the house. And that is why we have put together this Committee and we are coordinating the work of the agencies.

Mr Lee Hsien Loong: Mdm Speaker, just to answer Mr Kok's second question. I think it would be very desirable if all the allegations to be made came out in one neat bundle and then we can deal with all of them at once. There is nothing to stop my siblings or anybody else who wants to accuse me on this subject to hold a press conference, lay out all their facts and information and charges and open themselves to questioning. And then we will all be the wiser. It is up to them. But as of now, on the basis of what they have said, there is not a reason to convene a Select Committee or a COI. If they say more and it becomes necessary, we will consider it very seriously, and when such a formal forum is convened, I am sure there will be processes to invite, subpoena, produce witnesses, and then to have the matter resolved to the best of our ability. Whether it is the last word, that is very difficult to say because there is freedom of speech.

Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol): I would like to enquire how the Ministerial Committee intends to continue with its work, given the strong feelings of the executors.

Mr Teo Chee Hean: Mdm Speaker, as I have explained, I am really quite puzzled actually what is the difference between the position of Dr Lee Wei Ling, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and what we have been doing. We agree that Dr Lee does not need to move out now, so no decision is needed. We agree on so many things. What some of the perimeters are, we agree that rule of law needs to apply. So, I am actually not quite sure why there is a need for such a furore. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh alluded to certain things, but that is not for me to know. But I hope that we are able to proceed and let the due process that needs to be taken get on with its work. There is work to be done. And I hope that we are able to proceed calmly, objectively in a considered way to do so without all these heightened emotions being involved in this. And at the appropriate time, when we are ready, we will make a decision, then we can consider the matter and decide on the matter. And if it is useful, without heightening public emotions again, to air some of these, I would consider whether it is appropriate to do so.

Mdm Speaker: Mr Pritam Singh, please make it short and quick.

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Mdm Speaker, the subject of the Hotel Properties Ltd saga came up during this debate more than once. It is helpful for us to think about the mood of the day in 1996. There was an editorial in the Straits Times which summed it up quite perfectly actually. Just one line: "More important from the standpoint of a people's faith in their elected leaders and a nation, and its fair system of governance was that the conclusion was reached after an exhaustive process of investigation followed by a full ventilation in the House." The issue here is the accuser − and I am just referring to Mr Lee Hsien Yang here − yes, the Minister for Finance is correct, these are accusations, aspersions. But who is he? He is not just the brother of the Prime Minister; he is a senior member of the establishment, whether we like it or not. President Scholar, Singapore Armed Forces Scholar, Brigadier-General in the Army, CEO of SingTel, Chairman of the Stock Exchange at one point, Chairman of Republic Polytechnic and a member of the International Advisory Board of Rolls Royce even.

While I agree with the Prime Minister that these are just allegations, I am not sure that closure is something that has been achieved in this House. So, my question to the Prime Minister, if these allegations continue, does he not agree that damage would still be done to the Government in some way or another?

Mr Lee Hsien Loong: Mdm Speaker, I have already stated my position and what I consider the best way to deal with this, which is that we have stated our piece. I think Singaporeans have had a surfeit of news on this subject and I do not think they want more. If more statements are made, we will have to consider the position. And I have already explained the circumstances under which we will consider options, whether a Select Committee, a Commission of Inquiry or legal action.

Mdm Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order No 44(2), the Motion to consider two Ministerial Statements on 38 Oxley Road lapses at the conclusion of debate.

Order. I propose to take the break now. I suspend the Sitting and will take the Chair again at 4.20 pm.

Sitting accordingly suspended

at 3.58 pm until 4.20 pm.

Sitting resumed at 4.20 pm

[Mdm Speaker in the Chair]