Mr Lee's wishes on house not unreasonable

Mr Lee's wishes on house not unreasonable

A decision on the fate of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's home is not required for now ("Mr Lee's daughter to continue living in house"; yesterday).

But when the time comes, the right decision is to demolish it.

I had earlier expressed a hope that Mr Lee's family might consent to the house being opened to the public for a year or two before demolition ("Fate of home a private family matter"; March 27). But clearly, this would now not be possible, as Mr Lee has stated in his will that his wish was for his house not to be opened to the public ("'Respect Mr Lee's wish to demolish home' "; Monday).

On reflection, Mr Lee's wish is not unreasonable. He previously said that if his house were to be preserved, it would need to have its foundations reinforced and the whole building refurbished - a project requiring substantial resources.

Mr Lee was a frugal man, and I imagine he would have loathed the idea of significant taxpayers' money being channelled this way, when a more economical approach would be to demolish the building entirely.

In the book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, Mr Lee seemed to have expressed consideration for his neighbours in Oxley Road, who he acknowledged were disadvantaged by his home, and hoped that their land value might rise on a par with market valuations, once his house was demolished and the planning rules changed.

Most Singaporeans tend to forget that Oxley Road is a quiet residential enclave. If Mr Lee's home were converted into a museum, it would attract many visitors, leading to parking and road

congestion problems, and inconveniencing the residents.

A permanent space within the National Museum would be much better suited for the public to view memorabilia belonging to Mr Lee.

In addition, Mr Lee's wife, the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo, had been most distressed at the thought of the public going through her private spaces after she and Mr Lee died, to see how they had lived. Being the loving husband that Mr Lee was, this would surely have weighed on his mind when deciding on the fate of his house.

During the week of national mourning over Mr Lee's death, many Singaporeans openly demonstrated how much they honoured and respected Mr Lee.

I think it would also have pleased him greatly to know that someday, Singaporeans would carry out his wishes on his house speedily and without fanfare.

Chan Yeow Chuan

This article was first published on April 15, 2015.
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