Irene Ng: “Demolish the house, end the saga now, and let’s all move on”

Former People's Action Party Member of Parliament, Irene Ng has posted a Facebook note calling for the demolishing of 38 Oxley Road in hope for a definitive end to the saga and in light of the statement of Dr Lee Weiling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang on 6 July.

The two siblings wrote that the two will cease presenting further evidence on social media, provided that they and Lee Kuan Yew's wish are not attacked or misrepresented.

Ms Ng believes that as long as the house stands, the saga will not end.

She wrote that Singapore should be very proud that it has a founding leader who did not want or need monuments to himself. "He did not want a personality cult built around him. We should honour that. We should respect his wish to demolish his house after his death."

She also suggests that the historical significance of the house for future generations can be preserved by siting the Founders’ Memorial there,  marked with a plaque explaining why Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted the house demolished, a statement in itself of his style of leadership and that of his team.

Similar to Mr Inderjit Singh, Ms Ng recommends that Dr Lee to evict from 38 Oxley Road now so that the house can be demolished now.

She warns that if the government were to gazette the property without the commitment to demolish it, will no doubt be the invitation for the siblings to start their accusations all over again.

Below is Ms Ng's post in full

END the saga now.

This has been the plaintive cry heard in many corners of Singapore, including in Parliament, on the bitter dispute between the three children of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew over the fate of his Oxley Road’s house.

Since June 14, when the younger siblings Wei Ling and Hsien Yang started their online open warfare against their elder brother Hsien Loong, also our Prime Minister, the entire nation has been dragged into the dispute, and also into some disrepute.

There seems to be a glimmer of hope that the public feud between Mr Lee’s three children might now quieten down. After PM Lee’s statement in Parliament presenting his case and expressing hopes for reconciliation, his younger siblings Wei Ling and Hsien Yang have declared a sort of online ceasefire. It comes, however, with a caveat: “For now, we will cease presenting further evidence on social media, provided that we and our father's wish are not attacked or misrepresented," they wrote in a joint statement on July 6. This is the dreaded sort of truce that comes with guns cocked and reloaded, and there is no telling what can set them off again.

I believe that as long as the core issue remains – what to do with the house – and as long as the house stands, the saga will not end. It will be a running sore. The Lee family will continue to suffer, and we will not be spared.

I do not think this is what Mr Lee Kuan Yew would have wanted. Despite his wisdom, he could not have foreseen that, when he willed his house to Hsien Loong while making his other two children the executors of his estate, it would lead to such family strife to the extent that his own name would be besmirched in some circles and the country’s reputation dragged down with the public feud.

How can we put a definitive end to the saga now? I have a suggestion, but it will come with a price for all involved.

Demolish the house now. We should be very proud that we have a founding leader who did not want or need monuments to himself. He did not want a personality cult built around him. We should honour that. We should respect his wish to demolish his house after his death.

At the same time, preserve the historical significance of the house for future generations. How? Site the Founders’ Memorial there. After all, the basement was where, more than 50 years ago, Mr Lee gathered frequently with the group of future leaders to discuss the formation of a mass-based left-wing political party and their struggle for Singapore’s self-autonomy and subsequent independence from British rule.

Let the heritage value of Oxley Road be focused more on the fact that this was where it all began with the group of people who would become the founding leaders of Singapore – rather than just about Lee Kuan Yew. That would be in keeping with the spirit of not only Mr Lee’s values, but also be true to the facts of history – that it was not just one great man who built Singapore, but a group of great men led by a great man. Lions led by a lion.

To end the saga now by demolishing the house, all parties involved have to pay a price:

1. Lee Wei Ling has to forfeit her unfettered right to live there, and move out. Her father has left her his Cluny Road flat.
2. Lee Hsien Yang will have to forfeit the potential profit that can be made from the sale of the land. To be fair, Hsien Yang says he has no desire to profit from the property. Hence, this should not be an issue.
3. PM Lee has to let go of his reservations over the making of the last will, and accept that as representing Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s final wishes.
4. The government has to unwind some of the ideas being considered for the Founders' Memorial and the Oxley Road house. The government’s tentative ideas for a memorial park (also suggested by HsienYang) and a heritage centre for the Oxley Road house can be worked into the plans for the Founders’ Memorial if sited at Oxley Road. On keeping the basement dining room – it is nice to have, but not essential. With 3D technology and other film and digital media formats, visitors can have a sense of how it was like without its physical four walls. The furniture in the basement can be considered as historical artefacts, and exhibited in a replica of the basement in the heritage centre. The site should be marked with a plaque explaining why Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted the house demolished, a statement in itself of his style of leadership and that of his team.

Due process can and should still be carried out. It should factor in the fact that the house will be gutted and renovated entirely, as Mr Lee Kuan Yew has also set that in motion with his approval of an architectural plan. It will not be in its original state. There is lesser historical merit in preserving the house if it has been modified from its original state. If Wei Ling continues to live there till her ripe old age, this process of structural change will likely continue unless the house is gazetted. Yet to gazette it, without the commitment to demolish it, will no doubt be the invitation for the siblings to open fire all over again.

The act of demolishing Lee Kuan Yew’s house itself will carry its own unique historical significance. We are after all dealing with a unique founding leader.

As his Old Guard colleague S Rajaratnam said of Mr Lee at the latter’s 60th birthday in 1983: “Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s greatest achievement is not the physical transformation of Singapore but the transformation of the mind and character of the average Singaporean.”

Referring to Napoleon’s quip that he would rather have an army of rabbits led by lion than an army of lions led by rabbits, Mr Rajaratnam said that Mr Lee’s goal is “not a nation of rabbits led by lions, or a nation of lions led by rabbits, or worse still, rabbits led by rabbits, but as befits the Lion City, a nation of lions led by a lion.“ Lions led by a lion.

Demolish the house, end the saga now, and let's all move on.

 

 

This entry was posted in Politics.