Looks like public opinion may override LKY’s personal wish
During the period of the late Lee Kuan Yew’s hospitalisation and subsequent national mourning period, there was quite a lot of debate on the eventual fate of his Oxley Road home.
Still undecided as to where you stand? Here is a quick compilation of the different arguments surrounding the famous but elusive home.
Some background information
Lee Kuan Yew lived at Oxley Road for over 60 years together with his late wife Kwa Geok Choo. His children also grew up there: sons Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Hsien Yang, and daughter Lee Wei Ling. Designed by a Jewish merchant, the bungalow is more than 100 years old. Lee described it as a “big, rambling house with five bedrooms, and three others at the back originally used as servants’ quarters.”
It has great historical significance because it was where the PAP was formed, and also where important decisions on Singapore were made.
No to demolition!
Many people have been asking for the home to be gazetted as a national monument. Under the Preservation of Monuments Act, the National Heritage Board can ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, to keep the bungalow if it fulfills certain criteria such as being culturally significant. And according to KhattarWong senior consultant Gopalan Raman, Oxley Road is definitely one with “great historical value”.
The late LKY had explicitly stated multiple times that upon his death, he wanted his Oxley Road home to be demolished. In an interview with a team of Straits Times journalists for his book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, Lee said “I’ve told the Cabinet, when I’m dead, demolish it.”
Ever frugal, Lee also worried about the cost of maintaining the house.
His younger son, Lee Hsien Yang, also stated that his father knew that the public would call for the preservation of Oxley Road. Hence, in the event that the Lee family is unable to demolish the bungalow, Lee stated in his will that the house be never open to the public and only to his “children, their families and descendants”.
Lee’s wife Kwa Geok Choo was also strongly against the idea of turning her home into a museum, and was “distressed at the thought”.
This is clearly an issue between a personal wish and the national interest. But in such a case, the national interest will take precedence. Like what heritage law expert Jack Lee says, the state will have “power over personal wishes”.
However, the final decision will not be made so quickly because Dr Lee Wei Ling is still and will continue living there.
Suggestions from the public
Many members of the public have written into the forums expressing their personal opinions about the Oxley Road conundrum. We have featured two contributors that have opposing views.
Teo Kok Seah: He suggested turning Oxley Road into a “public museum” for students and tourists. Instead of referring to mere pictures in the textbooks, students would be able to see for themselves LKY’s house in real life.
Chan Yeow Chuan: He agreed that if Oxley Road were eventually turned into a museum as suggested by Teo, he would definitely visit it. However, he felt that respecting LKY’s personal wish was more important, and urged the public to respect the final decision undertaken by the family.
“Ultimately, Mr Lee’s house was his private property, and now, that of his children; its fate should also be a private family matter.”
Personally, I hope that the house will be demolished. Although I’m all for preservation of national heritage, I feel that honouring and respecting our founding father’s wish is more important. This wasn’t a wish that he made in a casual conversation; he had reiterated it multiple times and for us to claim that we want to honour him and yet go against his wish is blatant hypocrisy.
“Our father has given his life in service to the people of Singapore. We hope that the people of Singapore will honour and respect his stated wish in his last will and testament.”
-Lee Hsien Yang & Lee Wei Ling
Should 38 Oxley Road be demolished?
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