By Fathin Ungku
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A ministerial committee set up to examine the future of a house that is at the center 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”.
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.
(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Martin Howell)