Decision on preserving Lee Kuan Yew’s humble house deferred

Decision on preserving Lee Kuan Yew’s humble house deferred

 The basement room of Lee Kuan Yew's house where founding members of the People's Action Party discussed their plans. Photo: Straits Times

Singapore will honour its first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, by putting him on a special S$50 (HK$300) note, but other ideas such as renaming the airport or preserving his home will have to wait, said his son and current premier Lee Hsien Loong.

The Oxley Road house, on the fringe of the most expensive shopping belt in Singapore, has been the subject of much fascination since Lee Kuan Yew’s death on March 23, as interest in learning about his life was reignited among Singaporeans.

Pictures of the humble building with quaint, mismatched 1950s-style furniture had given an insight into the modest life he led. They also sparked calls from the public to turn it into a museum or a memorial site.

The house, which Lee moved into in 1945, was where he and other founders of the People’s Action Party planned their first steps. And Lee never moved out. While neighbouring houses made way for swanky multi-storey condominium projects, No 38 remained trapped in time.

On Sunday, two of Lee Hsien Loong’s younger siblings, Wei Ling and Hsien Yang, took Singaporeans by surprise with a statement saying firmly they wanted the house to be demolished in line with their parents’ wishes.

The two, who are executors and trustees of Lee’s last will and testament in December 2013, urged the public to respect their father’s request. The late Lee stated in the document that he and his wife, Kwa Geok Choo, wanted the house to be immediately demolished after his death or after his daughter moved out.

“I would ask each of my children to ensure our wishes with respect to the demolition of the house be carried out,” the elder Lee stated.

View of Lee Kuan Yew’s house on Oxley Road. Photo: Straits Times

Although the statement gave no reasons, his decision is in keeping with his legendary pragmatic bent. He had been opposed to any cult of personality around him while he was alive, only lending his name to educational causes.

Lee also added in his will that if his children were unable to demolish his home, because of changes to the law or rules or regulations, “it was his wish that the house never be opened to anyone other than his children, their families and descendants”.

On Monday, however, the eldest son, Hsien Loong, said there was no need to make a decision on the house now as Wei Ling would continue to live there.

But on what would happen after that, he said: “At that point, speaking as a son, I would like to see these wishes carried out. However, it will be up to the government of the day to consider the matter.”

On calls to turn the home into a museum or a memorial, he said his father was adamantly against the idea.

“He wrote formally to the cabinet at least twice to put his wishes on the record,” Hsien Loong said. “He said that he had seen too many other houses of famous people kept frozen in time … as a monument with people tramping in and out. They invariably become shabby.”

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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