The PAP released a video yesterday saying that Lee Kuan Yew’s will has been “selectively quoted” by “others” in the dispute over whether his 38 Oxley Road house should be demolished.
This comes about a week before Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is due to speak in parliament and take questions regarding the matter (3 Jul).
LKY’s final will included a “demolition clause” which his children Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling have used to push for the levelling of the house.
They say that such a move would be in line with LKY’s wishes, and that Big Bro PM Lee is pulling stunt to retain the house so he can milk LKY’s political capital.
Such moves, they claim, include the “abuse” of his role as PM to obtain documents related to 38 Oxley Road, and the setting up of a “secret” ministerial committee to decide on the fate of the house.
The PAP video states what hasn’t been mentioned publicly is the part where Lee Kuan Yew stated that since “Cabinet members were unanimous that 38 Oxley Road should not be demolished,” he decided that if the house is to be preserved it must have its foundations reinforced and the whole building refurbished.
LKY also said in his will that if his children are unable to demolish the house due to changes in the law, he does not want his house open to the public.
The video emphasised that LKY recognised that the house “could be preserved”.
This extract of LKY’s “intentions” stems from a Parliamentary Statement on calls to honour Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 13 April 2015 made by PM Lee Hsien Loong.
PM Lee said that LKY was adamant that 38 Oxley Road should be demolished after his passing:
“He wrote formally to the Cabinet at least twice to put his wishes on the record – once soon after my mother his wife had died, and the second time soon after he had stepped down from office in 2011. He said, talking about Oxley Road, that ‘it should not be kept as a kind of relic’. He said that he had seen too many other houses of famous people ‘kept frozen in time … as a monument with people tramping in and out’. They invariably ‘become shabby’, in his words. My mother also felt strongly about this. She was most distressed at the thought of people coming through her private spaces after she and my father had passed away, to see how they had lived.
Mr Lee stated his view on this matter in one of his books, Hard Truths. This caused a public reaction, as some people wanted the house preserved. So in December 2011, after he had retired from the Cabinet, and after he had written to us the second time, I held a special Cabinet meeting and invited Mr Lee to attend, in order to discuss 38 Oxley Road.
The ministers tried hard to change his mind. After the meeting, Mr Lee wrote to the Cabinet, and I quote from his letter:
‘Cabinet members were unanimous that 38 Oxley Road should not be demolished as I wanted. I have reflected on this and decided that if 38 Oxley Road is to be preserved, it needs to have its foundations reinforced and the whole building refurbished. It must then be let out for people to live in. An empty building will soon decline and decay.” End of the quote and that was the letter.’
Two years later (in December 2013) Mr Lee made his Will. He appointed my brother Mr Lee Hsien Yang and sister Dr Lee Wei Ling as his executors and trustees. Mr Lee wrote (in paragraph 7 of his Will), and I quote:
‘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.’
Mr Lee’s position on 38 Oxley Road was unwavering over the years, and fully consistent with his lifelong values. We should respect his wishes, as well as those of Mrs Lee.”