SINGAPORE: Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s assertion that his sons will not bemoan the loss of their family home at 38 Oxley Road is recirculating in chat forums online, as the longstanding dispute between his sons escalated last week.
In the interviews for the book “Lee Kuan Yew Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going,” Mr Lee had said that he had already informed the Cabinet of his wish to have the house demolished after his passing. The elder statesman, who was then 87, said: “I’ve told the Cabinet, when I’m dead, demolish it.”
Sharing some of the reasons why he wanted his house demolished, Mr Lee said: “I have seen other houses – Nehru’s, Shakespeare’s – and it’s a shambles after a while, people trot through and so on.”
He added with a smile, “And because of my house, the neighboring houses cannot build high. And I said, demolish my house and change the planning rules, my land value will go up.”
The journalists who were interviewing Mr Lee insisted that the house should be preserved as it is a historical landmark. When told that Singaporeans will bemoan the loss of the home, Mr Lee said with an air of finality:
“I don’t think my daughter or my wife or I, who lived in it, or my sons who grew up in it, will bemoan its loss. They have old photos to remind them of the past.”
That was in 2011. Two years after the former PM passed in 2015, a bitter dispute broke out between his sons. The feud, between current Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his estranged younger brother Lee Hsien Yang, initially centered around disagreements on what would happen to the family home.
The younger Mr Lee, along with their sister Lee Wei Ling, insisted that the house be demolished as per their father’s last wishes while the Government toyed with the idea of preserving the family home.
The younger siblings went on to allege that the PM was seeking to preserve the house against their father’s wishes and use it to bolster his political credentials. PM Lee denied the allegations and defended his actions as prime minister and Parliament absolved him.
The dispute was eventually resolved through a private family settlement in 2019, which saw PM Lee agreeing to respect his father’s wishes and allow the house to be demolished after his death.
Describing the family feud as being in “abeyance,” PM Lee said in 2018, “I’m not sure if it’s solved,” but expressed hope that relations with his siblings will improve in future, when “emotions have subsided.”
The rift between the brothers, however, has only widened since then, after the Singapore authorities took action against Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s wife and son. The feud continues to rage on, with the latest development being a police investigation against Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife alleging that they lied about Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s last will.
On his part, Mr Lee Hsien Yang has dubbed the action continued “persecution” by the Singapore authorities. He has also registered an interest in perhaps running for President, later this year.
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