Singapore PM's siblings attack panel's findings over home at centre of feud

By Fathin Ungku
FILE PHOTO: A view of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road residence in Singapore June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

By Fathin Ungku

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The brother and sister of Singapore's Prime Minister on Tuesday said that a ministerial panel's declarations about the future of a home lived in by their late father, the modern island state's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, were inaccurate.

In a sign that a family feud over the property may be far from over, they criticised a report published by the committee on Monday which said a future government should make the final decision about the home's use. It laid out three options: preserving the house as a national monument, preserving part of it, or demolishing it.

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

But the prime minister last year questioned whether his father really wanted the home at 38 Oxley Road, near Singapore's bustling Orchard Road shopping district, to be knocked down. He has said he has recused himself from government discussions on the matter.

"It is clear that our father was not endorsing alternatives to demolition," the siblings said in a joint statement on Facebook. "The Committee's statement does not accurately represent Lee Kuan Yew's wishes."

In a separate Facebook post, Lee Wei Ling said: "Papa was as direct as me. He made absolutely clear what he wanted done with the house. He and Mama had long decided they wanted it demolished after they were gone. It would require unbelievable lack of intelligence or determined denial to not understand what Pa & Ma so unambiguously wanted."

In a statement, the committee said it noted the siblings' response and would lodge them with the Cabinet Secretary, alongside previous remarks, so that they "can be referred to by a future government".

The feud over the home gripped Singapore for at least a month last year, and included accusations by the prime minister's siblings that he was prepared to use the organs of the state against them. The accusations were denied by the prime minister.

In a statement on Facebook on Monday, after the committee's report was issued, the prime minister 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.

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Writing by John Geddie; Editing by Martin Howell and Alex Richardson)