How hard can it be to demolish a house?

Very. But to understand why, we need to cut away the matters obfuscating surrounding the Oxley house, it is necessary to list down all the matters in debate.

1.) We know that Lee Kuan Yew wants the house demolished

He has made this quite clear in his Will. However, we must take ourselves out of the emotional aspects of a Will, we must ignore for a minute that it is the wishes of a dead man and in this case, a very respected dead man. A Will is enforceable only against an executor, it cannot be enforced by the courts against any third party… let alone the Government.

2.) We know that all three parties, PM Lee, Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling agree to the house demolished

In December 2015, PM Lee and his two siblings said in a joint statement that they hoped the State would honour their late father’s wishes regarding the house. The statement also announced that PM Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had each agreed to donate half the value of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Oxley Road house to eight charities, in honour of their father.

It would be strange then to accuse the Prime Minister now of wanting to preserve the house for his own purposes. Where did this idea come about then?

3.) The Government has made no decision regarding what to do with 38 Oxley Road, for as long as Dr. Lee Wei Ling continues to live in the house. But a decision will have to be made some day. To facilitate this decision, a Ministerial Committee has been formed

Ah – so if the Prime Minister wants the house demolished, why has such a committee been formed then? Well, it isn’t really out of the ordinary. All important buildings and landmarks have faced similar decisions and have sought the Cabinet’s input. The National Theatre was earmarked for destruction because of unsafe foundations. The old National Library had to go because there was no other workaround around the vicinity that allowed for tunnelling. Bukit Brown had reached agreements for half-redevelopment for urban expansion. Developments to Pulau Ubin has halted indefinitely because of the input of environmental groups.

These decisions take place all the time – if you’re bothered to go and participate.

4.) Both Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling are accusing the Prime Minister of an abuse of power

This is a separate matter altogether. If this were true, then Dr. Lee and Mr. Lee (Hsien Yang) should and must put forth evidence of this abuse of power. Accusation with no factual basis is called “defamation”. Is this the reason why they are preparing to leave the country?

If it were true, then the Lees owe a duty to Singaporeans to show the evidence, show us how they have been persecuted, show us substantially how the Prime Minister have been abusing his position of power. As of now they might as well say something like “You Singaporeans are in trouble! We’re getting out of here! kthxbye!”

5.) They further accuse the Prime Minister of harbouring political ambitions for his son

This would be the easiest to set aside – the Prime Minister has refuted this. If he did have such intentions, he wouldn’t have refuted it because if ever Li Hong Yi comes into some sort of political power, he would from day one lost all credibility. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew never did deny that one of his children would hold political office.

In a nutshell: the Government has made no decision on the house, not as long as Dr. Lee Wei Ling continues to live there. The Prime Minister himself has declared that he agrees with the demolition of the house. He has even gone so far as to remove himself from decision making bodies in the Government, including this new committee that is setup.

PM Lee could have decided for the government, he could have decided on the basis that he was the son of the elder Lee and a direct beneficiary. But this would not have been the proper procedure and could result in a biased decision. It is precisely because the PM is not trying to abuse his power (as his siblings have alleged) that this committee was formed.

Moreover, the Government is not seeking a decision now. Not even anytime soon. It is only when Dr. Lee no longer lives there, which…could be maybe three decades from now. That is seven election cycles! We don’t even know if the PAP would be in power anymore! Whatever the Government’s committee discusses today, together with the statutory declarations of the three Lees (which LHY and LWL hasn’t made by the way) would form the basis of decision when it needs to be made then. Don’t forget how kiasu this government can be.

So there we have it – hope it makes the matter a little easier to understand.

 

 

About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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