Plans for Oxley house 'became less definitive' over time

Mr Janadas Devan said that when he met Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 2011 to discuss a possible book on the house, Mr Lee made plain that he wanted the house demolished. "But as the months and years passed, the nature of the project changed as it became less de
Mr Janadas Devan said that when he met Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 2011 to discuss a possible book on the house, Mr Lee made plain that he wanted the house 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," Mr Devan added.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Govt Communications chief calls Lee Wei Ling's post 'misleading'

Founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew may have wanted his 38, Oxley Road house torn down on 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 yesterday morning to a post by Dr Lee Wei Ling, the late Mr Lee's daughter.

Earlier in the day, she had posted on Facebook 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.

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

Dr Lee also produced an excerpt from a statutory declaration 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.

 

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

He said: "The e-mail you quote was written when I was associate editor of Straits Times, not chief of Government Communications."

The e-mail was sent to her by Mr Devan in 2011 after he had met Mr Lee, 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."

Yesterday, Mr Devan said 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," he wrote in his reply to Dr Lee.

"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 said there was "no doubt then or now" that Mr Lee's preference was for the house to be demolished, but he pointed out that "shifting instructions" from the Lee family from 2011 to 2012, including 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," Mr Devan said.

He also said to Dr Lee: "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."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2017, with the headline 'Plans for Oxley house 'became less definitive' over time'. Print Edition | Subscribe