Lee Wei Ling drags chief of govt comms Janadas Devan into Oxley Road dispute in latest post
'It will be a small minded people that denies him this personal wish.'
Should this be surprising to any of us these days?
In the final few days leading up to Monday’s big Parliamentary discussion about the ongoing Lee family saga, the late Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter Lee Wei Ling drops a new bomb that drags a new person into the outward-spiralling conflict: Chief of Government Communications Janadas Devan.
You might remember us telling you about the salty Facebook exchange Janadas had with her in April last year, which involved him outing her for being allegedly notorious for her “fog”-like commentary writing.
And perhaps they’re still on bad terms, because Wei Ling, in a Facebook post somewhere around 7:20am, appended a screenshot of an email he wrote to her on July 28, 2011.
We doubt anyone will be able to twist these words, which state quite clearly the late LKY’s intention regarding the house, shortly after meeting him:
Here’s what the email reads:
“Saw MM (Lee) today. First meeting on Oxley book, together with team He was in good form. He said house will be torn down. It is obvious that is what he wants. It will be a small minded people that denies him this personal wish. I think he’s wrong wishing it, but I’d feel awful denying him what he obviously wants.“
The last line was also bolded in the screenshot Wei Ling shared.
Now, quite a few things we can glean from these very short and clear seven sentences:
1) LKY said the “house will be torn down”.
2) It is obvious to Janadas that LKY wants the house demolished.
3) People who choose to prevent the house from being demolished are “small minded”.
4) Janadas himself disagrees with LKY’s wish to demolish it, but would feel bad to stand in his way.
Janadas, a veteran journalist, editor and longtime commentary-writer himself, writes about as clearly as anyone can possibly be. And if he did indeed write that email, the above four points are true.
But that said, it’s also important that we place this email in the timeline of what was happening back then:
The statement from Hsien Yang and Wei Ling tells us, for instance, that LKY met with Cabinet on July 21, 2011:
On Hsien Loong’s insistence, Lee Kuan Yew met with the Singapore Cabinet on 21 July 2011 to discuss the fate of his personal home… On 3 October 2011, Lee Kuan Yew wrote: “Loong as PM has indicated that he will declare it a heritage site.”
And then according to PM Lee Hsien Loong’s 3,882-word statement, LKY’s first will was written on August 20, 2011:
3. The Demolition Clause first appeared in Mr Lee’s first will made on 20 August 2011 (the “First Will”).
It is also via that declaration that we know that LKY wrote a letter to Cabinet on December 27, 2011, which stated, according to an April 13, 2015 speech by PM Lee in parliament:
So in December 2011, after he had retired from the Cabinet, and after he had written to us the second time, I held a special Cabinet meeting and invited Mr Lee to attend, in order to discuss 38 Oxley Road.
The ministers tried hard to change his mind. After the meeting, Mr Lee wrote to the Cabinet, and I quote from his letter:
“Cabinet members were unanimous that 38 Oxley Road should not be demolished as I wanted. I have reflected on this and decided that if 38 Oxley Road is to be preserved, it needs to have its foundations reinforced and the whole building refurbished. It must then be let out for people to live in. An empty building will soon decline and decay.” End of the quote and that was the letter.
We’re not sure if there was another meeting held in December 2011, after the July 21 meeting mentioned in Hsien Loong’s siblings’ statement, but since PM Lee mentioned a letter from LKY, which he said he would quote during his parliamentary speech, the above might be referring to the same letter.
We’re also not able to verify the screenshot she posted in the photo above, which appears to have been taken from PM Lee’s full statutory declaration, not the 41-paragraph summarised version released to the public.
Now, it’s also worth taking into consideration what Janadas was doing at the time.
Janadas would only go on to join the Ministry of Communications and Information and take on this role on July 1 2012:
According to his professional bio on the Institute of Policy Studies, which he continues to head as Director, Janadas was appointed to his IPS role on July 1, 2011, while also still Associate Editor at The Straits Times. He only resigned from ST when he joined the government.
So at the time he wrote that email to Lee Wei Ling, Janadas had been head of IPS for a month, and was also still at ST. Not yet wearing his current hat as head of government comms, but hey, it doesn’t make his communication of LKY’s intentions (at the time) any less clear.
Just to help put things in the right context of time.
Read Lee Wei Ling’s Facebook post here:
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Top photo via file, Institute of Policy Studies