a response to Teo’s response to the book

As Teo Chee Hean noted in Parliament today, the book, The battle over Lee Kuan Yew’s last will, is the product of a year of research by my team of researchers and me. It does not include any primary interviews, because I didn’t want to interview only a select few family members. I believed that that would be a biased approach. 

Instead, it is based almost entirely on the compilation of affidavits, pleadings, formal documents and submissions from the Law Society of Singapore versus Lee Suet Fern case—rich source material. In February last year, Singapore’s Supreme Court approved my request to access the case file specifically for this book. Presumably Teo would have preferred if it hadn’t.

Readers will see that the book is exhaustively footnoted. (It’s available freely for download here.) Others who wish to access the source material, which is referenced throughout, will have to make an application through the Supreme Court (Case C3J/OS 2/2020). Any citizen apparently can.

Teo has said that this book is an attempt to “to rewrite the facts”. But every single fact in the book is from the Supreme Court documents. I have not introduced any new facts. What the book does do is offer an interpretation of the collected facts that might differ from the interpretations that vested interests have, whether any of the Lee siblings, or others in the political elite.

As Singaporean society keeps maturing, I believe it’s important to encourage a diversity of perspectives on issues, and not to rely solely on those from people in power. I can understand why somebody like Teo might be uncomfortable with this notion.

Some of my main conclusions, based on the available evidence, are that:

– Lee Kuan Yew wanted his entire house at 38 Oxley Road demolished—nothing else—but he was aware that it might not be.

– The following people have been unfairly judged in this matter by their respective public critics: Ho Ching and Lee Suet Fern, Lee Kuan Yew’s daughters-in-law; as well as Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang.

– The formation and findings of the Ministerial Committee on 38 Oxley Road (MC) are, in my view, problematic.

I realise our findings are inconvenient for Teo. That the evidence to me seems to exonerate Ho Ching means he can’t paint me out to be a stooge for the Lees whom he’s fallen out of favour with. And, as the head of the MC, he may feel that our argument is critical of his actions—and, in that, a rare instance in this whole episode, he would be correct.

I believe Singaporeans can read the book and make up their own minds about our team’s editorial rigour and impartiality with the material. 

But I do think it’s important to show just two examples of how today’s parliamentary statement, particularly Annex C that scrutinises the book, is erroneous.

On p. 4 of WQ-2Mar23, in reference to the alleged lies under oath by Lee Suet Fern and Lee Hsien Yang and other judgements, Teo says: “Mr Thomas ignores these findings by the C3J and the DT, and the admissions made by Mr LHY and Mrs LSF.”

I urge readers to go to p. 28-29 of my book, where I lay out clearly the C3J’s findings, including the alleged inaccuracies offered by LHY and LSF.

The next point is particularly relevant for those interested in whether LKY wanted the house demolished. Refer to WQ-2Mar23: Annex C, p. C15.

Teo states: “Mr LKY did not have discussions with Ms KKL [Kwa Kim Li, his lawyer] about reinserting the Demolition Clause into the Last Will, and was not advised by Mrs LSF that the Last Will reinserted the Demolition Clause.

Mr Thomas states that the Last Will was based on Mr LKY’s orders and suggests that Mr LKY had made a conscious decision to include the Demolition Clause in his Last Will.”

Again, Teo is wrong. On p. 20 of my book, I state clearly: “there is no record of him [LKY] having asked anybody for the Clause to be reinserted in the seventh and last will.” Also, at no point do I say that LSF advised LKY about reinserting the Demolition Clause. 

However, there are salient facts here that Teo has omitted. How do we know that LKY wanted the Demolition Clause in his last will?

Most importantly, there is the e-mail from Lee Wei Ling, the only child living with LKY, at 10.06pm, Dec 16th 2013, the night before he signed his final will, saying: “Papa says go back to 2011 will”. (The so-called First Will, including the clause. See pages 35 and 70 of my book.)

Singaporeans can ask themselves why Teo has chosen to ignore LWL’s words. Though the answer may not be obvious. It still isn’t clear to me why this house seems to matter so much to a few.

Perhaps they are clinging to whatever they can.

17 thoughts on “a response to Teo’s response to the book

  1. What ever LKY want or said he wanted, the house or at least the basement cannot be demolished under the National Monuments Act. It’s part of Spore’s history as the PAP was formed there. Full stop

    1. Then that would be the Parliament over-riding LKY’s wishes. I guess the crux is really that certain individuals may not want to be seen to be going against an explicit instruction in the will (i.e the Demolition Clause), and hence they are fighting so hard to make it seem that LKY changed his mind in the end.

    2. You are missing the point. The Oxley property is that of LKY (ie he owns it) and he specifically and explicitly wrote in his Will that it be “demolished”. The one other condition that will override the immediate demolition after his death is if his daughter Wei Ling decides to live in the property and clearly stated that if she leaves, “demolish it”. The National Monuments Act is just an Act, it does not OWN LKY’s property not does it have the ability to cancel his Will. The PAP is a political entity, that’s all they are unless you’re implying that they are more than what they are supposed to be that they can even override the Will of LKY, you’re exposing yourself to be nothing more than a Marxist disguising himself as a ‘caring’ person’, hypocritically. Think hard about what you are implying when you signed off, “Full stop”.

    3. The old man was made to believe that the govt wanted to stop the demolition and informed by his son that a committee is being formed. But when the other son and daughter approached him about the demolition issue, he finally saw through the mist and said the demolition is now in the hands of the other son.

      1. Precisely, it was a family/personal matter with regards to Oxley but somewhere along it became a political issue in parliament. It was totally disrespectful to the old man’s last wish by those who participated in the family matter.

    4. The basement can be beautifully replicated, designed authentically, historically, culturally and become part of our independence struggle, and be housed at an appropriate museum( or at where we also have the British surrender story). More documents have just been released on our struggle for independence plus hopefully more documents will be released to map our pre-19663, pre-1965 paths. A lovely thought spot to spend a lot of time in. No need for no 38 Oxley Road to stay alive. Hence paying more attention to and noting that Respecting LKY’s wishes over most of his Wills as well as the disputed 7th Will. LKY is known for his consistency -most of the wills and often he has said ‘No stand up for No. 38’ and ‘no monuments etc for him’. So 100th Birthday celebrations/observations – it is our problem as we FEEL we must do some thing, forgetting that LKY does not want it. The something we could do is to have a very thorough and thought-provoking discourse at Lee Kuan Yew School of public Policymakers(LKY’s monument) to mark his 100th birthday!

  2. It’s about honouring the dead with utmost respect. “ACT” or “NO ACT”.
    The man had his own unknown reasons on the decision to demolish. It’s very sad that a LW&T had to be brought to the Courts by less important individuals.

    1. It’s not so that “the man had his own unknown reasons on the decision to demolish.”
      LKY drew a clear conclusion in his mind from his keen observation of monuments of historic leaders. That, as time passed, eventually, those buildings lay decrepit from no maintenance and no interest in generations to come. Fyi, LKY made public this conclusion of his.
      The current crop of PAP political leadership, fresh and fervent with nationalistic ideals, respectfully feel otherwise. Particularly with regard to the younger generations of Singaporeans whose worldview revolve around Hollywood, gravitate towards Western values and are immersed in Foodhism as their religion. Another words, a soulless Singaporean. The PAP Government got to start somewhere laying the most fundamental concrete foundation. Thus the moral justification for gazetting 38 Oxley Road. It is with future generations in mind.

      1. I rather everyone in this world embrace “Foodhism” than any other religions or political ideals. We may argue whose or which is better, but we won’t go to war.

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