I plan to speak on this in Parliament on 3 July, and clear the air on the matter, as I was then the Minister in charge of MCCY.
But as there are several misperceptions circulating around, I thought it would be better to put out some facts earlier.
The deed of gift relates to items from the estate of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, for use in a major public exhibition by the NHB concerning Singapore’s founding leaders, including our founding Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Such a major public exhibition on our founding leaders is a matter for deliberation by the Government.
It would therefore be normal and in order, that the Prime Minister be kept informed about the contents and presentation of the exhibition.
The Prime Minister was given the deed in his official capacity.
If Mr Lee Hsien Loong had asked for the information in his private capacity, he would have been entitled to know about the exhibition and the items from the estate, given his position as the eldest son of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and beneficiary of the estate.
Unlike most donated items to our museums which are covered by NHB’s standard agreement, this deed of gift came with several unusual conditions.
First, the executors of the estate could buy back all the items for $1, so long as 38 Oxley Road was not demolished.
Second, NHB had to display prominently, throughout the exhibition and its publicity materials, part of the demolition clause from Mr Lee’s will regarding his wishes for 38 Oxley Road.
To recap, this is the demolition clause in Mr Lee’s will:
“I further declare that it is my wish, and the wish of my late wife, KWA GEOK CHOO, that our house at 38 Oxley Road, Singapore 238629 (“the House”) be demolished immediately after my death or, if my daughter, Wei Ling, would prefer to continue living in the original house, immediately after she moves out of the House. I would ask each of my children to ensure our wishes with respect to the demolition of the House be carried out.
If our children are unable to demolish the House as a result of any changes in the law, rules or regulations binding them, it is my wish that the House never be opened to others except my children, their families and descendants. My view on this has been made public before and remains unchanged. My statement of wishes in this paragraph 7 may be publicly disclosed notwithstanding that the rest of my Will is private.”
The first part sets out his wish for the House to be demolished.
The second part sets out his wish if the House could not be demolished due to any changes in the law, rules or regulations.
The deed of gift required NHB to display the first part of the demolition clause, but not the second.
I had discussed the matter with DPM Teo Chee Hean then, and we were concerned about the partial quote of the demolition clause from Mr Lee’s will. But we eventually decided not to pursue the matter, and to let NHB proceed with the exhibition.
I was also concerned about the tight timeline that NHB had to operate in. But the team did an excellent job. The exhibition opened in September 2015, and I attended the opening with Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Ms Lee Wei Ling. It was well received and the exhibition has been extended until now.
I hope this will provide some useful background on what happened with the exhibition and the deed of gift in 2015.
I will give a fuller explanation on the matter in Parliament.