Trouble At 38 Oxley Paradise: War Of The Lee Siblings
38 Oxley Road in Singapore isn’t just another pedestrian address. It is the omphalos of the nation’s founding history — where many a powwow was held among the pioneering leaders and vital decisions made for the emerging nation — along with being the historic residence of the country’s first Premiere Family, namely, the lifelong home of the paramount founder of modern Singapore, ex-PM Lee Kuan Yew (LKY).
Feud Looming In Paradise…
So when rumblings of a family feud between the Premiere Family siblings first erupted and shattered the serenity at that very address shortly following the demise of the family’s sire in early 2015, Singaporeans were dismayed by it. What started out as an internal familial altercation between the siblings over the demolition/preservation of their father’s Oxley abode — with the two younger siblings who are the will’s executors, Dr. Lee Wei Ling and her younger brother Lee Hsien Yang being adamantly insistent on its demolition in keeping their father’s express wishes per his final will, while their eldest brother, PM Lee Hsien Loong is, with good reason, patently partial to initiatives for its preservation — that very private altercation has of late gone off the rails, morphing into a full-on personal attack on the oldest sibling, waged openly on social media of all forums, Facebook to wit.
Slugging It Out Publicly, Punctuated By Uneasy Truce…
In mid-June, the war between the Lee siblings was en fuego as Dr. Wei Ling and her younger brother Hsien Yang jointly posted on their respective Facebook pages — augmented by follow-up successive retorts — what amounted to a bill of indictment against the personal character and conduct of their big brother, PM Lee. These personal broadsides against the PM comprised sweeping allegations of just about everything but the kitchen sink… of a furtive campaign in sibling alienation, persecution and beleaguerment, of abuse of power, self-aggrandizement and familial cult worship at the top including nepotistic machination to perpetuate a ruling dynasty. Given the gravity of these charges, in otherwise normal circumstance, an all-out litigious counteroffensive in short order would only be a matter of course. Rather, PM Lee plumped for damage control; he convened a 2-day parliamentary Q and A instead in early July, which expended some nine hours in toto, in a spirited effort to clear the air — and his name. His parliamentary gambit did pay off for the nonce in a manner of speaking as the feuding parties have subsequently acquiesced, however awkwardly, to an interim ceasefire. But surely no one, least of all PM himself, reckoned to see closure to the Oxley feud out of that lop-sided, two days’ worth of parliamentary perorations.
Two Difficult Modes Of Resolution On Tap, With A Quicker Third Way Out…
With a truce presently in place albeit a fragile one, hopefully cooler heads will prevail… they have our best wishes in their renewed effort at resolving the altercation privately away from the media glare — as they should. However, since Dr. Wei Ling is conceded the full run of the Oxley residence until she alone decides otherwise, it would be tempting and thus a mistake for the parties to temporize on the matter, choosing to kick the can down the road past the current PM’s tenure, or worse, putting it off till the next decade or two just prior to senescence setting in on all concerned. Surely, the nation would heave a sigh of relief if the siblings could privately come to terms with a definitive resolution to the Oxley dispute, but I much doubt that is feasible given their outright irreconcilable differences over the fate of 38 Oxley. However, should the feuding parties become deadlocked despite their best private endeavors and the government then intercedes to ‘gazette’ 38 Oxley as a heritage property, that would most certainly trigger a legal challenge from the will’s executors; anything short of taking legal action in the above scenario would be deemed remiss on their part. Hence, in all probability, the matter will eventually wend its way to court. Alas, litigation should be the very last recourse of choice — descending into the legal weeds in the above matter would be messy and ugly and emotionally ruinous for all, to say nothing of the marathon nature of such legal wrangling.
The Golden Mean…
So, if all else fails privately, I humbly suggest a third way out: resolve the Oxley impasse by means of a national poll rather than through public trial in litigation. [ For a full treatment, go to article Ten Reasons For Resolving An Oxley Impasse By Means Of National Polling @ https://lester978.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/a-follow-up-to-trouble-in-paradise-the-ultimate-in-resolution/ ] If I have to single out here just one most salient rationale for prescribing such a poll, it’ll be that it’s the most obvious and pragmatic golden mean… what could be more definitive an exercise in democracy than a ‘ballot initiative’?… to effect closure to an otherwise hopelessly stalemated debate of historical importance which began clumsily as a family dispute but is now writ large on the national psyche.
Sample Of A Suggested Format For National Polling…
The ‘ballot initiative’ shall be offered to all eligible registered voters online — along with local balloting booths to be set up for the older folks. Prior to polling, a live TV debate will be conducted between the disputants (a 1-versus-2 format) with each side given the latitude to designate one debate moderator of his or their choice. The Oxley propositions to be decided in the ballot will be arrayed in 3 main categories: A) in favor of demolition; B) in favor of preservation and C) no opinion. A simple majority is all it takes to prevail in the above categories, which are to be followed by one additional ‘initiative’ selection in the appropriate follow-up sub-categories under A or B, i.e., A1/A2/A3 or B1/B2/B3; again a simple majority would be deemed the winner in these sub-categories:
A1) total demolition, period;
A2) total demolition with a public memorial park erected in its place;
A3) total demolition with a replica erected elsewhere (the Istana a possible venue?);
B1) preservation (except for private living quarters) under the care of NHB;
B2) conservation of same with will’s executor(s) participating in steering committee;
B3) remodel premise into a mini museum and/or a mini prime ministerial library.
In closing, it’s worth reiterating that very old saw, ‘out of sight out of mind’, only to be reminded that it’ll not apply to the Oxley contretemps. The ominous black clouds that have rolled up the valley at 38 Oxley had better disperse — and soon — lest the paradisiacal image of Little Red Dot be in for a real soaking.