Options for Oxley home beyond 'demolish v preserve' being studied

EMERITUS SENIOR MINISTER GOH CHOK TONG
EMERITUS SENIOR MINISTER GOH CHOK TONG

Useful for future Govt to have set of choices to consider: DPM Teo

A ministerial committee is studying various "intermediate options" for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

This includes keeping the basement dining room, where many important historical meetings took place, with an appropriate heritage centre attached.

DPM Teo said he has shared with the Lee siblings some of the options that relevant agencies are studying for the property .

In a Facebook post last night, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said Mr Teo had shared the range of options with him last year.

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"I advised him to respect Lee Kuan Yew's wish but agreed that it would be disrespectful of our own heritage to just demolish the house for it to be replaced by a commercial building or another private residence," Mr Goh said.

He added that DPM Teo is "right to explore options beyond the binary demolish-preserve decision".

CARE NEEDED IN HANDLING ISSUE

I support the careful way in which DPM (Teo) and the Government (are) handling the issue as public interests are involved. He is right to explore options beyond the binary demolish-preserve decision. I conveyed his thinking to Lee Hsien Yang last year but the latter remained unhappy over the delay and uncertainty in demolishing the house.

EMERITUS SENIOR MINISTER GOH CHOK TONG, on how the exploration of options for 38, Oxley Road should be carried out.

In his statement yesterday, Mr Teo said he personally would not support options at either end of the range. "At one end, preserving the house as it is for visitors to enter and see would be totally against the wishes of Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew; and at the other, demolishing the house and putting the property on the market for new private residences."

DPM Teo also said the Government has stated on several occasions that it will not do anything to affect Dr Lee Wei Ling's right to continue living at the house.

On why he set up a ministerial committee when no immediate decision was needed, he said there must be due process to consider the various options before making any decisions on the house, and this can take some time.

DPM Teo also cited three other factors.

First, if Dr Lee chooses to move out of the house in the near future, a decision on the house might have to be taken at that point.

He noted that soon after the late Mr Lee died, Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, as executors of his will, wanted the Government to commit itself to immediately demolishing the house. This was even though Dr Lee might continue living there for many years.

Third, DPM Teo said some Cabinet ministers, including himself, felt it would be useful if a future Government deciding on the house had a set of options that came from ministers who had personally discussed the matter with the late Mr Lee.

Mr Goh said he supports the careful way in which DPM Teo and the Government are handling the issue, as public interests are involved.

He shared DPM Teo's thinking with Mr Lee Hsien Yang last year, but "the latter remained unhappy over the delay and uncertainty in demolishing the house".

Mr Goh also said Singaporeans can urge the Lee siblings to settle their dispute amicably in private or through closed-door arbitration.

"It is not worth tearing up family bonds built over a lifetime over these differences, however serious they are. This is not the family legacy which their father would have wanted to leave behind."

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'Options for Oxley home beyond 'demolish v preserve' being studied'. Print Edition | Subscribe