Here’s a timeline on LKY’s Oxley Road house over its more than 100-year history
The juicier bits happened more recently.
The late Lee Kuan Yew’s (LKY) old bungalow at 38 Oxley Road has hit the news again with two of Lee’s children – Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling – airing their grievances openly in a public statement on the matter of demolishing the old house.
Here is a general historical timeline of the house.
Mid 1800s: The Oxley area that the bungalow is situated in was named after British medical doctor Thomas Oxley, who owned a nutmeg plantation in the area in the 1800s. Oxley was also at one point the assistant surgeon at the Singapore General Hospital in the 1830s.
Late 1800s/Early 1900s: The bungalow was built by a Jewish merchant. At this time, the Oxley area itself was associated with Jewish businessman Manasseh Meyer, who owned several properties in the area and built the Chesed-El Synagogue at Oxley Rise.
1945: 22-year-old Lee Kuan Yew and his family moved into 38 Oxley Road.
1952: Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) was born.
1954: Founding members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) met regularly in the bungalow’s basement to discuss the setting up of the party.
1955: Lee Wei Ling (LWL) was born.
1957: Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) was born.
2011: In an interview for the book Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going, LKY expressed his wish for the house to be demolished after his passing.
And in the public statement by LHY and LWL, this was what happened in 2011:
LKY attended a Cabinet meeting on July 21, 2011 to discuss the fate of his Oxley Road house, was “anguished and despondent” after the meeting and purportedly said to LWL: “I should not have listened to Loong and gone to meet Cabinet.”. The statement also said that LKY was “pained that Hsien Loong, his own son, opposed his wishes (demolishing the house) in this manner.”
October 3, 2011: LKY was alleged by LHY to have written: “Loong as PM has indicated that he will declare it a heritage site.” – Note: It seems unclear whom it was that LKY had written to.
December 17, 2013: LKY made his last Will and Testament reiterating his wish for the bungalow to be demolished.
March 23, 2015: LKY passed away.
After March 23, 2015: After LKY’s passing, LHY and LWL executed a “Deed of Gift” with the National Heritage Board (NHB) for the donation and public exhibition of significant items from the Oxley Road house, with a stipulation that the exhibition prominently displays LKY’s wish for the demolition of the house. It was alleged that LHL’s personal lawyer wrote to LHY and LWL to object to their wishes on the exhibition.
April 2015: LHL said in Parliament that there was no need for the Government to take a decision on the house until Wei Ling no longer resided there, and that it would be up to the Government of the day to consider the matter.
May 2015: LWL and LHY were thinking of challenging “the disposition of the house” to LHL “based on his misrepresentations”. LHL had “represented” that the sale of his share of the house would give LWL and LWY “a free hand to demolish the house”. LHL initiated a settlement with LWL and LHY on this matter.
October, 6, 2015: Probate granted, and LKY’s will and his wish to demolish the house “became the full, final, and legally binding word on his intentions as to his estate.”
Late 2015: Settlement reached on LHL’s sale of his share of the house. LHY paid “full market value for the house (and donate an additional half the value of the house to charity)”. All three siblings issued a joint public statement, expressing hope that the government would allow the house to be demolished, and for all Singaporeans to support the demolition. LHL recused himself from all government decisions involving the house.
December 2015: YouGov survey findings show that 77% of Singaporeans supported the demolition of Lee Kuan Yew’s house and 17% opposed it.
July 2016: Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong wrote to LWL and LHY informing them that a Ministerial Committee had been set up to consider options with respect to the house and their implications.
Top image from here.