Fate of home a private family matter

I am in two minds regarding Mr Teo Kok Seah's suggestion to officially gazette Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road as a national heritage site ("Preserve home where history was in the making"; yesterday).

On the one hand, as someone who enjoys visiting historical sites here and abroad, I would surely visit Mr Lee's house if it were open to the public, especially to see the basement of his house, where the founding fathers of the nation, such as Dr Toh Chin Chye, Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr S. Rajaratnam, were said to have gathered with Mr Lee to discuss their collective goals and plans.

However, Mr Lee previously told the Cabinet that he wanted his house demolished after he died. He had visited houses of historical greats, like India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and English playwright William Shakespeare, and did not want his home to meet the same fate as theirs, of turning into shambles after a while.

Therefore, it seems disrespectful and dishonourable to insist that Mr Lee's home be preserved, against his wishes. Perhaps a compromise can be reached after seeking consent from Mr Lee's family, for the house to be open for public visitation for a period of time, say a year or two; this can also allow sufficient time for historians to thoroughly photograph and document the house.

Ultimately, Mr Lee's house was his private property, and now, that of his children; its fate should also be a private family matter.

If his children do not wish for the house to be preserved, the public should respect their wishes and allow the house to be demolished without fanfare.

Chan Yeow Chuan

This article was first published on Mar 27, 2015.
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