Parliament: Do not rush into decisions on how best to honour Mr Lee Kuan Yew, says PM

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Parliament on Monday that Singapore should not rush into making decisions on how to best honour founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23.

In response to suggestions from MPs to rename the airport after Mr Lee, put his image on Singapore's currency or designate an annual Founders' Day, PM Lee said:

"These are all good ideas. But we should not rush into making decisions on this matter, especially so soon after Mr Lee has passed away. We should allow some time to pass, consider the ideas carefully, and make calm, considered decisions which will stand the test of time."

"We want to honour Mr Lee, but must do so in the right way."

He also addressed the issue of 38 Oxley Road, Mr Lee's lifelong home. Mr Lee made clear in his will that he wanted to see the house demolished, but there have been public calls to preserve it as part of Singapore's history.

On Sunday, the executors of Mr Lee's will - his daughter Dr Lee Wei Ling and younger son Mr Lee Hsien Yang - issued a public statement asking Singaporeans to support and respect his wishes.

PM Lee told Parliament on Monday that there is no immediate need to decide on the fate of 38 Oxley Road as Dr Lee Wei Ling will continue to live there.

Since my father’s passing, there have been many suggestions on how to remember and honour him. I spoke in Parliament...

Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Monday, April 13, 2015

"If and when Dr Lee Wei Ling no longer lives in the house, Mr Lee has stated his wishes as to what then should be done," said PM Lee. "At that point, speaking as a son, I would like to see these wishes carried out. However, it will be up to the Government of the day to consider the matter."

The wish for 38 Oxley Road to be demolished was strongly shared by his mother, the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo, said PM Lee. "She was most distressed at the thought of people coming through her private space after she and my father had passed away, to see how they had lived," he said.

PM Lee urged Singaporeans to honour Mr Lee in ways which are "faithful to the ideals he lived by and fought for."

He noted that Mr Lee disdained monuments and personality cults. In his life, Mr Lee consented to lend his name only to institutions and initiatives that he felt passionate about, or where his name served a greater purpose.

For example, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, created at the National University of Singapore on his 80th birthday, would help "establish the Singapore brand of governance and advance the school's mission - to raise standards of governance in Asia, improve the lives of people and contribute to the transformation of the region," said PM Lee.

The Lee Kuan Yew water prize and the Lee Kuan Yew fund for bilingualism had to do with causes that were Mr Lee's lifelong passions.

PM Lee told Parliament that he has asked Esplanade chairman Lee Tzu Yang to head a committee to conceptualise a memorial for Singapore's founding fathers, with views from the public.

"Mr Lee lived his life for Singapore, not for himself. Let us take time to consider the best way to honour his memory, in a way that is in keeping with his ideals," PM Lee concluded.

"In remembering the past, we must also look to the future. Whatever memorial we decide upon should not only be right for Singaporeans living today, but also for generations not yet born. The memorial should reflect and strengthen in all of us our sense of what it means to be a Singaporean, why Singapore is worth striving and fighting for, and how we can continue to build a harmonious and successful Singapore for future generations."

Read the text of PM Lee's statement here.

rchang@sph.com.sg


Straits Times e-books on Mr Lee Kuan Yew

The e-books are available on Apple's iPad (but not iPhone), and Android tablets and smartphones from The Straits Times Star E-books app. To get them:

- Go to the Apple App store  on your iPad, or Google Play Store on your Android tablet or smartphone.

- Type "The Straits Times Star" to search for The Straits Times Star E-books app.

- Download it onto your iPad or Android device.

- Go to "I'm just browsing"

- You will find Lee Kuan Yew: The Final Journey and Lee Kuan Yew: The Man And His Ideas inside the app.

The app is designed to work on iPad devices running iOS 6 and above. The app is best viewed on tablets.

Due to its size, it is best downloaded over Wi-Fi.

The Straits Times has also released the PDFs of its print coverage of Mr Lee's death, from March 23 to March 30. This is also sponsored by DBS Bank.