Poll: Most people back demolition of 38, Oxley Road

The online poll found that 77 per cent supported Mr Lee Kuan Yew's wishes for his home.
The online poll found that 77 per cent supported Mr Lee Kuan Yew's wishes for his home. ST FILE PHOTO

A majority of Singaporeans support demolishing the home of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in accordance with his wishes, a poll by Hong Kong-based market research firm YouGov found.

Of the 1,000 people polled online, 77 per cent said they backed his wish that the house at 38, Oxley Road be torn down.

Mr Lee, who died on March 23 this year aged 91, had lived in the modestly furnished pre-war bungalow since the 1940s. He said in his will that it was his wish that the house be demolished immediately after his death or, if his daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling, preferred to continue living in the original house, immediately after she moves out.

Of the respondents who supported this, 61 per cent felt it was important to honour his wish, while the rest wanted to respect his privacy.

Since his death, there have been calls by the public to preserve the property, and to turn it into a museum or heritage site. The YouGov poll found that 15 per cent of respondents want the house retained.

Of this group, 75 per cent said the house should be opened to the public because it has high historical and cultural value. It was in the house that the ruling People's Action Party, founded by the late Mr Lee and his team, was established.

The other 25 per cent felt the house "belongs to all Singaporeans and they should have a say regarding what happens to the house", YouGov said in a statement yesterday summarising the poll results.

On Dec 4, Mr Lee's children - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling - said in a joint statement that they hope the state would honour their late father's wishes regarding the house. The statement also said that PM Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had each agreed to donate half the value of the Oxley Road house to eight charities, in honour of their father.

The eight charities are the Education Fund, the NTUC-U Care Fund and the Garden City Fund, as well as five community self-help groups: the Chinese Development Assistance Council, Mendaki, the Association of Muslim Professionals, Singapore Indian Development Association and the Eurasian Association.

The survey, which also polled respondents about the decision by the two sons, found that 61 per cent felt the charitable act is "great".

On a related issue, 56 per cent of respondents supported building a Founders' Memorial to honour the founding leaders of Singapore.

But 34 per cent felt a memorial was not necessary as there were already existing monuments for such purposes. Of this group, 27 per cent thought it was a "vanity project", while 19 per cent "suspect it is just a way for the Government to gain more votes", said YouGov.

The online poll was carried out from Dec 9 to 11. Respondents were selected from a panel of people who had previously registered with YouGov to participate in various online surveys. YouGov said that data from the survey is weighted to be representative of the online population of Singapore, and respondents have an average age of 35 years.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2015, with the headline Poll: Most people back demolition of 38, Oxley Road. Subscribe