Ministerial panel lists three options for house at 38, Oxley Rd

The ministerial committee set up to consider the future of 38 Oxley Road says the decision on which option to take will be left to a future government.

It says options are for future govt to make an informed choice; no need for decision now

The Ministerial Committee tasked to consider the future of 38, Oxley Road has laid out three broad options for the house, but left the final decision on it to a future government.

It released a 21-page report yesterday listing the three possibilities for the home of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew:

•Retain the house by gazetting it as a national monument or for conservation;

•retain the basement dining room which has the greatest historical significance, and tear down the rest of the house;

•allow it to be fully demolished for redevelopment, either by the property owner or the state.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chaired the four-member panel, said it did not make any recommendations as no decision is required now. Mr Lee's daughter Lee Wei Ling has said she intends to continue living in the house.

DPM Teo said: "Ultimately, in the fullness of time, a future government will have the responsibility to consider the public interest aspects of the property, taking into account Mr Lee's wishes. They will have to decide what to do with the property and be able to carry the decision."

 

The committee assessed that the house - where the People's Action Party was founded - has architectural, heritage and historical significance. It also concluded that the late Mr Lee's preference was for his house to be demolished after his death, based on evidence that included statements he had made.


STRAITS TIMES PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

However, the late Mr Lee was also prepared to accept options other than demolition, the committee said, citing documents such as his Dec 27, 2011 letter to the Cabinet saying that if the house were to be preserved, it should be refurbished and let out for people to live in.

Responding to the report, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote on Facebook: "Speaking as a son, I accept the committee's conclusion on what my father's wishes were regarding the house at 38, Oxley Road, and the range of options it has laid out."

He noted that he had recused himself from discussions on his father's property, and expressed his hope that when the time comes, the report will help the government of the day "make an informed decision that both respects my father's wishes and is in the public interest".

When reached at his home in Caldecottt Close, the PM's younger brother Lee Hsien Yang declined comment. Dr Lee, when contacted on the phone, said she has nothing to say at the moment.

The fate of 38, Oxley Road was thrust into the public spotlight in June last year when the duo accused PM Lee of misusing his power in a bid to preserve their late father's house. They alleged that he was doing it for political gain. Among other things, they accused PM Lee of using his position to influence the ministerial panel into challenging the validity of a clause to demolish the house in Mr Lee's final will.

The public falling-out stunned the country. PM Lee later apologised for the grief it caused, and delivered a statement in Parliament to refute their accusations.

The committee yesterday said it is possible to preserve 38, Oxley Road in its entirety. On the other end of the spectrum, it could be fully demolished and turned into a public space or redeveloped into a five-storey residential building. The last option though, said the panel, "would result in the loss of a historically significant property", and possibly allow the historical site to be leveraged for profit.

It also detailed possible "intermediate" options that include preserving just the basement dining room and integrating it with a park or heritage centre.

Such plans would be compatible with Mr Lee's wishes and still retain the heritage value of the site for future generations, said the committee.

DPM Teo said yesterday that the committee felt it owed it to Singaporeans to release its findings, as the dispute over 38, Oxley Road had thrust its work into the spotlight.

He added: "With this, we hope to close the chapter on this topic, and focus on other pressing national issues ahead of us."

SEE TOP OF THE NEWS

Panel sets out range of possibilities for site

Moves show Lee's wishes

Experts for preservation, but split on intermediate option

Bungalow has a rich and colourful history

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2018, with the headline 'Ministerial panel lists three options for house at 38, Oxley Rd'. Print Edition | Subscribe