38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

Singapore: The big house greater than 38, Oxley Road

The three Lee siblings are tangled in a dispute over the fate of their family home at 38, Oxley Road. But Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said Singapore is a "greater house" than the one in Oxley Road.
The three Lee siblings are tangled in a dispute over the fate of their family home at 38, Oxley Road. But Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said Singapore is a "greater house" than the one in Oxley Road.ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

The real house that founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew built is not the one at 38, Oxley Road, but Singapore - the country that he had left to all Singaporeans.

Ministers and several MPs yesterday urged Singaporeans to focus on building up this "big house" and move forward from the ugly spat Mr Lee's children are embroiled in.

The three siblings are tangled in a dispute over the fate of their family home: 38, Oxley Road.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang want the house demolished, which they say is in accordance with their father's wishes.

But Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, they allege, wants to preserve it for political gain and, in his bid to do so, abused his powers.

PM Lee has refuted their allegations.

Several MPs lamented in Parliament yesterday that the dispute has damaged Singapore's reputation.

Deputy Speaker Charles Chong (Punggol East) said there was a "sense of disquiet" among those who considered Mr Lee Kuan Yew the foremost founding father of modern Singapore.

The late Mr Lee would not wish to see his family in this current state, he added.

"But more importantly, I think Mr Lee Kuan Yew would not wish to see his family affairs demolish the standing and the reputation of Singapore that he had spent a lifetime building," he said.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) said he and his residents were grieved by the allegations made by the two siblings, saying the accusations had brought "dishonour" to their father's name.

There are ways to resolve such disputes without the need for such "public accusations".

"The legacy of (Mr Lee Kuan Yew) seems likely to be damaged by the continued accusations, and we just have to move on," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean sought to draw the attention of the House back to Singapore, the house the late Mr Lee "left to all of us".

He said Singaporeans are "sons and daughters" who have been brought up by Mr Lee and his team of pioneer leaders, and learnt the lessons that he taught.

"He and our pioneers brought us all up. Built this house which we call Singapore," said DPM Teo.

"We have not been written into Mr Lee's will. But what he has left to all of us is more precious, more valuable. He left us our Singapore, our big house, which he worked together with us to build."

Earlier, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said that Singapore is a "greater house" than 38, Oxley Road, one that Mr Lee had built lovingly.

He urged MPs not to let the dispute distract them from the task of honouring Mr Lee's wish for a successful Singapore, a mission he had devoted his life to.

This was the way to "honour Mr Lee's wishes and legacy", he added.

"This house - we cannot allow to be demolished," Mr Heng said to loud approval from MPs as they thumped the arms of their chairs.

Taking the call a step further, DPM Teo expressed confidence in Singapore, saying it will remain strong and robust.

"Mr Lee and our pioneer leaders put in firm foundations - robust processes, institutions and a system of governance which continue to strengthen," he said.

As Singapore ponders the options for 38, Oxley Road, Singaporeans should remember the struggles of the country's early years and the values passed down by the country's leaders, he added.

"This should also be an occasion to unite us. There is no reason why this should divide us. Mr Lee in his wisdom left us enough room to decide, and placed his trust in us to do so," DPM Teo said.

Danson Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore: The big house greater than 38, Oxley Road'. Print Edition | Subscribe