The legacy of Mr. Lee’s house

Amdist the brawl of the titans, I’m actually quite pleased at one fact:

That even the most powerful family in Singapore is subject to the laws of the land and no one is above it.

As a Singaporean, I am very glad my Prime Minister did not make his decisions on personal grounds. He could have said “My father wants it torn down, so I’ll have to do it”.

Can you imagine the consequences? If this is how he operates, then what of his next decision? Would he have to sack a Permanent Secretary just because someone in his family, or a powerful relative tells him to do so?

At the heart of the matter, is a question of national legacy. There is legislation for the preservation of monuments for future generations of Singaporeans. This matter has to be carefully thought through.

There was similar consideration for other places of national interest, some like Bukit Brown have come to common give and take. Others such as Pulau Ubin have been decided to be left untouched indefinitely. There are ancient tombs of Malay kings that many of us do not even know about, and they are still around preserved for posterity.

In the position of Government, you need to consider for the good of all Singaporeans – not just the wishes of one man, be it Lee Kuan Yew or not.

Mr. Lee himself may have been against such vanities and as a practical man, he wouldn’t have cared for, and indeed didn’t want his house preserved. However, he is still a Singaporean citizen subject to the rule of law, subject to governance.

The government on the other hand, had been charged with the duty to preserve our legacy for the future. No one will argue the importance of Mr. Lee and his house for Singapore. Great decisions have been made in those humble halls, great people raised, learned and taught.

Once destroyed, it will never come back.

It is a good thing even to see his children fighting – on one side for Mr. Lee’s private wishes, and on the other, for the culture, philosophy and history of Singapore. It is good that neither will give in to the other easily. In fact, this is classic Lee Kuan Yew; to fight for what you believe in and never back down.

Lee (Hsien Yang) and Lee (Wei Ling) have resorted to appealing to Singaporeans to back their decision and resorted to calling for a lack of confidence in the Prime Minister. They have cited abuse of power as the central reason.

It is all too easy to accuse the Singapore governance of abuse of power. To cite Reporters Sans Frontiers and point at how low we rank on Freedom of Press. Yes – this is Singapore. This is what we have been accused of since day one, by opposition, by human rights advocates, by the foreign press, by the liberal West. It is nothing new. This is our social contract; these are the freedoms we give up for the greater freedoms we receive.

Lee Wei Ling has been making public accusations and chided her brother on Facebook for a long time now. Until this mornings statement, we all wondered what the reason for her outburst was.

Now it is made clear: it is the matter of the house. At the end of it all, it is a squabble between trustees on the inheritance of property of the deceased. Except this time, it is not merely a matter for probate courts but a matter that concerns all Singaporeans and the actors have chosen to play it out in the court of public opinion.

 

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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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3 Comments

  • The late Mr Lee had expressed the wish, on several occasions, to demolish the family home on Oxley Road after his death. Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, who are the executors and trustees of the late Mr Lee’s will, said their father had given them clear instructions directly and in his will — dated Dec 17, 2013 — to demolish the house immediately after his death, or after Dr Lee moved out.

  • Nothing that we don’t know. I personally don’t care about the house.

    It’s just amusing to see the ranks break. And from within the top level.

    I wish at this moment, some reporter is ferreting through information, investigating if any abuse of powers have taken place.

    Such open accusations has been made and so many seemed to brush it off as a family squabble.

    I will never know if you are a muppet. With one sentence, you reframed the discussion, making the incident sound almost frivolous
    “the actors have chosen to play it out in the court of public opinion.”

    If I care at all about the truth, I will be quivering in excitement right now.

    But I shall bury my head in the sand, move on with my life and earn my wages to pay my bills. This is true legacy of our forefathers.

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