Lee Kuan Yew wanted house demolished but 'nature of the project changed', says Janadas Devan

The exterior of the house at 38, Oxley Road.
The exterior of the house at 38, Oxley Road.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew may have wanted his 38, Oxley Road house torn down upon his death, but as time passed "it became less definitive whether the house would be demolished - and if so, when".

Chief of Government Communications Janadas Devan said this in a Facebook reply on Friday (June 30) morning to a post by Dr Lee Wei Ling, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's daughter.

Earlier in the morning, Dr Lee had posted a copy of an e-mail between her and Mr Devan, in which he appeared to affirm that Mr Lee wanted the house demolished after his death.

"We thought that Singaporeans should hear directly from Janadas Devan, chief of Government Communications at the Ministry of Communication and Information," added Dr Lee.

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In his reply to this, Mr Devan told Dr Lee: "Your latest post blares, tabloid-style, misleading information".

For one thing, he clarified: "The email you quote was written when I was Associate Editor of Straits Times, not Chief of Government Communications."

 

The e-mail that Dr Lee made public was sent to her by Mr Devan in 2011 after he had met Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was then Minister Mentor.

"Saw MM today. First meeting on Oxley book, together with team. He was in good form. He said house will be torn down. It is obvious that is what he wants," wrote Mr Devan.

The e-mail continued: "It will be a small minded people that denies him this personal wish. I think he's wrong wishing it, but I'd feel awful denying him what he obviously wants."

Mr Devan replied on Friday that he had met Mr Lee to discuss a possible book on the Oxley Road house.

He added that "when he met us in July 2011, he made plain that he wanted the house to be demolished".

"But as the months and years passed, the nature of the project changed as it became less definitive whether the house would be demolished - and if so, when," wrote Mr Devan.

"For example, we were told that you will be staying in the house for as long as you live. Then I learnt plans to build a model of the interior of 38 Oxley Rd was dropped - because, I gathered, Mr Lee was considering plans to gut the interior of the house altogether to remove traces of the private space."

Mr Devan added that there is "no doubt then or now" that Mr Lee Kuan Yew's preference was for the house to be demolished, but he pointed out that "shifting instructions" from the Lee family in 2011 to 2012, including from Dr Lee, "indicated, the fate of the house had by no means been decided at that point".

"My personal view remains that Mr Lee's wish to demolish 38 Oxley Rd should be granted the moment you are no longer living in it, which may be 20, 30 or more years in the future," added Mr Devan.

But he added: "I am as baffled as most Singaporeans why Hsien Yang and you wish to consume all of us in your personal family matters. Please: Think of Singapore, and forget the rest."

In her post, Dr Lee also shared an excerpt of a statutory declaration that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had made to a ministerial committee considering options for the Oxley Road house.

In it, PM Lee said his father had "taken a number of steps which put beyond any doubt that he came to accept Cabinet's position" that it was unlikely to agree to demolish the house after he died.

 

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