Public spat is bad… but let the Singaporeans decide

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By T K Chua

The late Lee Kuan Yew would have turned in his grave if he knew of the “goings on” over his house at 38 Oxley Road, Singapore.

Disagreements among the siblings in dealing with the house after the elder Lee’s passing has spilled into the public space, giving the impression that the siblings are less than amicable and conciliatory.

I think only Singapore has the luxury of arguing over the will of its first prime minister. They are probably too comfortable to be concerned with other matters or issues.

What was bequeathed by Lee is important, no doubt. Generally children would carry out the will as bequeathed out of reverence and respect for their parents.

But Lee is more than a private individual, even after his death. He is part of Singapore’s history. The house at 38 Oxley Road is more than a private home. Many momentous meetings, ideas and decisions were contemplated and made there.

I would prefer to think that Singaporeans, through the government they elect, may want to look at the house differently, notwithstanding Lee’s unequivocal will.

As a distant observer, I would prefer to think that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the government of Singapore might be motivated to preserve the house because it is a vital link to Singapore’s initial years as an independent nation.

Some of the points highlighted by the younger siblings are quite disturbing although I can appreciate where they are coming from – to fulfil the wishes of their late father.

I think it is a little far-fetched to argue that Hsien Loong needs to preserve the house to sustain his popularity and legitimacy.

The younger siblings have even gone to the extent of saying that Hsien Loong is now promoting his son to be the future PM of Singapore.

And more troubling, the attack was also against Hsien Loong’s wife for being too “interfering” and “domineering” over public officials, such as permanent secretaries and heads of departments.

I do not know the true relationship between the children of the late Lee, but to openly accuse the elder brother of all this is grave and damaging.

If they have problems among themselves, they should take it somewhere else. They should certainly not use the will and the house.

The house at 38 Oxley Road is a house with a rich history. I think there is no need for a public spat among the siblings.

Let the Singaporeans decide.

T K Chua is an FMT reader.

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