The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) has admitted that the Founders’ Memorial it is building will commemorate founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his values and ideals.
Plans to commemorate the late elder statesman through a memorial are moving forward in spite of his aversion to monuments.
The Government announced its plans to build a Founders’ Memorial a mere three months after the nation’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passed away in March 2015. At the time, the authorities seemed to position the memorial as though it would pay tribute to many historical figures, including but not solely focused on Lee Kuan Yew, who shaped Singapore.
Curiously, Lee Kuan Yew is the only figure who is explicitly identified in a statement on MCCY’s website, that provides an idea as to what Singaporeans can expect from the memorial.
Besides indicating that the aim of the Founders’ Memorial is “to commemorate the values and ideals of our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and his team who founded independent Singapore,” MCCY states that many Singaporeans support the idea of such a memorial:
“Many Singaporeans support the idea of a Founders’ Memorial to commemorate the values and ideals of our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and his team who founded independent Singapore. Singaporeans young and old expressed hope that the memorial will help current and future generations to cherish and live by such values and ideals. Most importantly, the Memorial will tell the extraordinary story of Singapore, written by ordinary Singaporeans.”
It remains unclear how MCCY arrived at the conclusion that Singaporeans support the idea of a Founders’ Memorial and whether the Ministry surveyed Singaporeans on their thoughts on erecting such a tribute.
Some netizens have also pointed out that plans to build such a Founders’ Memorial that seems to be centred on the late Lee Kuan Yew’s values and ideals are contrary to his well-known aversion to monuments of himself.
In April 2015, a month after his father’s passing, Singapore’s current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that his father did not care for monuments. He had said in Parliament: “Mr Lee made it very clear throughout his life that he did not need and did not want any monument… Mr Lee was very careful never to allow a personality cult to grow around him, much less to encourage one himself.”
That same month, Lee Kuan Yew’s second child and only daughter Lee Wei Ling wrote in an article on the national broadsheet: “…I was baffled by the news that our MPs were suggesting naming various structures or institutions after Papa.
“Papa had worked hard to prevent any personality cult from growing around him. It would most certainly go against what he would want and what he stood for in life, such as service to Singapore and Singaporeans, because that was the right thing to do, without any ulterior motive, least of all self-promotion.”
She added: “The best response to Papa’s passing is to honour the spirit of what he stood for, which is the welfare of Singaporeans. There is much that we can all work towards for this purpose.
“Similarly, to fuss over Papa’s personal objects or portrait defeats the purpose that he had strived for so diligently in life, which was the welfare of Singaporeans.”
Oddly, the Government commissioned a committee to look into developing a Founders’ Memorial two months after Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Wei Ling noted their father’s dislike for monuments, in June 2015.
Two years later, Lee Wei Ling and her younger brother Lee Hsien Yang alleged that Lee Hsien Loong was trying to preserve their father’s house at 38 Oxley Road against their father’s last wishes to demolish the house after his death.
The younger siblings alleged that their elder brother was trying to solidify his grip on power by preserving the house, that he had plans to groom his son for politics and that he used state organs to silence them.