Yeoh Lam Keong succinctly explains why Oxley Road should not be considered a memorial site

You can't honour the Power Rangers, while holding a memorial site at just Red Ranger's house.

By Nyi Nyi Thet | July 6, 2017

Yeoh Lam Keong, former chief economist of GIC, and current adjunct professor at National University of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew School of Policy, weighed in on the Oxley Road saga on Jul 6.

His focus was primarily on the notion of “Who built Singapore?”

And whether by building a memorial, or locating a heritage site at Lee Kuan Yew’s residence will undermine the contributions of the other founding members of Singapore.

Here is his Facebook post.

In case you can’t read it, here is his main point.

“Actually, the issue of a memorial in Oxley to remember the PAPs founding in its basement is not a straightforward one.

Lee Kuan Yew, for all the vital roles he played as party and government leader, was only one of an incredible multiracial team of PAP founders that current popular narrative tends to downplay : men like Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye, S Rajaratnam, Hon Sui Sen, Lim Kim San, Ong Pang Boon, EW Barker, Devan Nair, Ahmad Ibrahim, Yong Nyuk Lin, Jek Yuen Thong, Othman Wok and many others in government and on the ground.

Singapore’s foundations and the key institutions on which it rests : HDB, EDB, JTC, MAS, GIC, NWC, NTUC, MINDEF, DBS, the civil service, MFA was in fact created by an amazing team effort by a group of national heroes, all of whom contributed immensely and all of whom deserve to be remembered much more than they currently are.

Hence the important heritage idea that such a memorial should not be built centred on the Oxley basement or the Oxley Road house so as not to to over identity our founders achievements with Lee Kuan Yews residence or Lee Kuan Yew alone.

I am sure Lee Kuan Yew himself would not wish this potential distortion of our founding history. This, I suspect, is one reason he did not argue strongly for the basements preservation. He was abhorrent of the idea of any personality cult around himself and we should respect this as one of his truly great qualities as a leader.

I hope the current govt Ministerial committee, and Founders Memorial Committee will both collaborate to take this important factor into account.”

He also quoted from NMP Kuik Shiao Yen’s impressive speech in parliament.

The part he quotes from highlights the thinking on the ground, as well as her wishes for the house.

“Here are the eloquent words of NMP Kuik Shiao Yen, a member of the founders committee set up in 2015:

“We are no country of one man. We are no country for one man.

We are a country of many people, many families, many interests.

I have been serving on the Founder’s Memorial Committee since 2015.

Please let me share some insights. We’ve gathered views from thousands of Singaporeans – historians, architects, regular people, youths – about what kind of memorial would best honour the legacy of our founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the pioneering team of leaders that built the nation alongside him.

Incidentally, Oxley never came up as a major suggestion. Singaporeans talked of far more public spaces like Fort Canning or Singapore River. What we learnt is that many Singaporeans wanted a Memorial that could go beyond a mere recollection of the past.

They wanted a Memorial to be forward-looking and ever relevant to a new generation, a Memorial that didn’t just centre on particular personalities but powerful principles that could be passed on to endure forever. Many hoped for the Founder’s Memorial, whenever and wherever it does get built, to ultimately stand for unity across the divides.

I imagine whatever Singaporeans want for the Founders’ Memorial, they would want for the Oxley house as well.

Whether Oxley stays or goes or becomes a memorial garden with a basement, I hope we can find some compromise that will enable it to not go down in our history as a memorial born in bitterness. Mr Lee Hsien Yang seems open to that memorial garden idea so hopefully that can be the beginning of some common ground.”

About Nyi Nyi Thet

Thet has a chronic fear of teenage girls laughing at him. He sometimes puts on a cap in his room and yells “Gryffindor”.

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