Studies on options for Kuan Yew's house are continuing, says ministerial committee

03 Jul 2017 / 20:45 H.

SINGAPORE: The studies on options for the house of the founding father of Singapore, the late Lee Kuan Yew at 38, Oxley Road, are continuing, says Singapore Deputy Prime Minister, Teo Chee Hean.
Though there is no urgency to complete these studies within a specified time frame, Teo who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security said he will consult his colleagues to see if it is useful to put out a range of possibilities.
"It is to let the public ponder on the matter without having to arrive at any decision," he said when delivering an Opening Statement on Ministerial Committee formed for the house at the Parliament today.
"Lee Hsien Yang (Kuan Yew's younger son) now owns the property. As provided for in Mr Lee Kuan Yew's last Will of Dec 17, 2013, Dr Lee Wei Ling (Kuan Yew's daughter) can stay in it for as long as she wishes," said Teo who chairs the Committee.
He explained that the Ministerial Committee was formed as there was a significant public interest element involved when considering options for the house.
Teo noted that "there is a misconception that the Government is making a decision now."
"The Ministerial Committee does not decide," he said adding that it has made clear to Hsien Yang and Dr Lee that neither the Ministerial Committee nor Cabinet will be making any decision.
"There is no decision required so long as Dr Lee continues staying in the house. This is what Mr Lee wanted and expressed in his will. It might be twenty to thirty years later before a decision needs to be made.
"However, if Dr Lee chooses to leave earlier, say within a few months, then the Cabinet will have to decide, and it would be useful to have studied the different options," he said.
He informed the Parliament that the work of the Committee was to assess the historical and heritage significance of the property, the wishes of Kuan Yew, and the possible plans for the property and the neighbourhood, and the options to move forward.
"It was home to our founding Prime Minister. It was in its basement Dining Room that many important discussions and critical decisions on the future of Singapore were made by Mr Lee and our pioneer leaders," he said.
Teo recalled in his meeting with Cabinet in July 2011, Kuan Yew expressed his wish for the house to be demolished, but also listened carefully to the views of the cabinet members.
"While he expressed his personal wishes, he was also very proper. He did not direct the Government. He was aware of the Government's responsibilities and how the law on this matter operated.
"He wrote to the Cabinet five months later, informing us that he had reflected on the matter.
"Subsequently, as we have learnt from the beneficiaries of his Estate, he had also expressed his wishes on the property in Paragraph 7 of his last will."
Teo said the Committee wrote to all Kuan Yew's children on July 27, 2016, to invite them to share any views they would like on their father's thoughts on the property, and the context and circumstances relating to his thinking beyond what had already been stated in public, so that these could be taken into account.
The siblings wrote back to the Commitee, providing differing views, including on the drafting of the last will, said Teo.
As of what was the Committee's interest, Teo said the interest was confined to obtaining as full a picture as possible of Kuan Yew's thinking on the House.
"I should emphasise that it is not for the Committee to decide whose claims are valid," he said, stressing that "what we do try is to understand, as best we can, Mr Lee's wishes and thinking."
Teo said that it should be clear that the difference of views had origins that arose before the formation of the Committee in June 2016.
"The Committee is not the reason for these differences and dissolving the Committee does not resolve these differences," he said.
Teo said he personally does not support the options of preserving the house as it is for visitors to enter and see the private spaces as "it would be totally against the wishes of Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew."
He was also not in support of an option of demolishing the house and putting the property as "it allows this very history to be exploited for private profit, for example, by being marketed as "living at the former home of Mr Lee Kuan Yew".
"This remains my view," he said. — Bernama

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