The Lee Family Feud is back in the public spotlight, after Lee Hsien Yang, son of the late Lee Kuan Yew and brother of current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, claimed that he is being “persecuted” by the government.
This comes as he and his wife, Lee Suet Fern, are being investigated by police for allegedly giving false evidence in judicial proceedings over Lee Kuan Yew’s will.
The dispute between the Lee bros centres around the demolition of Lee Kuan Yew’s 38 Oxley Road house, with Lee Hsien Yang calling for it to be torn down in accordance with his father’s wishes.
As far back as 2011, in an interview with the Straits Times at the launch of his book “Hard Truths”, Lee Kuan Yew explicitly said that he wanted 38 Oxley Road torn down.
When asked by reporters about why he didn’t do much to renovate his home, Lee said:
“I’ve told the Cabinet that when I’m dead, demolish it. I’ve seen other houses, Nehru’s, Shakespeare’s. They become a shambles after a while. People trudge through. Because of my house the neighbouring houses cannot build high. Now demolish my house and change the planning rules. Go up, the land value will go up.”
When asked whether 38 Oxley Road should be preserved as it was “part of Singapore’s history”, Lee said:
The cost of preserving… it’s an old house built over a hundred years ago. No foundation. Damp comes up the wall because there’s no foundation, so the piling around my house has led to cracks.”
The interviewers further questioned Lee on whether he felt it was right to tear down the house, comparing 38 Oxley Road to the old National Library, saying that “people still bemoan its loss today”.
To this, Lee said:
“I don’t think my daughter, or my wife, or I who lived in it, or my sons who grew up in it will bemoan its loss.
Lee Kuan Yew died in 2015.
The messy Lee Family Feud was propelled into the public eye in 2017 when Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Lee Wei Ling put up Facebook posts accusing Lee Hsien Loong of abusing his executive powers to preserve the family bungalow.
They said that Lee Kuan Yew had wanted it demolished.
The government, at that time, was toying with the idea of preserving the house.
Lee Hsien Loong then went before parliament and rejected the allegations by his siblings, adding that he had recused himself from the government’s decision-making process.
The ministerial committee that was formed to look into the demolition or preservation of the house laid out 3 options which a future government could consider when the time came to decide on the fate of 38 Oxley Road.
These include a complete preservation of the home as a national monument, and a partial preservation of the basement dining room.