The late Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter, Lee Wei Ling, has written an article in the Sunday Times today (‘Honour the spirit of what Papa stood for’, 19 Apr) in response to Singaporeans who propose to name structures and institutions after her father.
In particular, she was baffled by some suggestions from PAP MPs.
“I was baffled by the news that our MPs were suggesting naming various structures or institutions after Papa,” Ms Lee said.
On 13 April 2015, during a parliamentary sitting (‘PAP MPs to propose in Parliament to honor LKY further‘), PAP MP Foo Mee Har wanted the Singapore currency – both notes and coins – to bear the likeness of Mr Lee.
PAP MP Lily Neo asked the government to consider printing Mr Lee’s face on Singapore currency notes. She also suggested renaming Changi Airport after Mr Lee.
PAP MP Ang Wei Neng agreed with Ms Neo and asked the government to consider renaming Changi Airport or any other significant buildings or institutions after Mr Lee.
With regard to these suggestions, Ms Lee reminded everyone, “Papa had worked hard to prevent any personality cult from growing around him. It would most certainly go against what he would want and what he stood for in life, such as service to Singapore and Singaporeans, because that was the right thing to do, without any ulterior motive, least of all self-promotion.”
With regard to news that some villages in Tamil Nadu wanted to honour Mr Lee with monuments and statues, Ms Lee commented, “One village in Tamil Nadu is planning to build a statue of Papa, another a museum, while a third wants to devote a memorial hall to honour his memory. If Papa were not cremated, he would be turning in his grave in shock and distress.”
Ms Lee recalled that when an ex-PAP MP suggested naming a monument or public structure after Mr Lee when he was still alive, Mr Lee simply replied, “Remember Ozymandias.”
Ozymandias was a pharaoh in ancient Egypt. A sonnet by the 19th-century English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley refers to a huge but fragmented statue of Ozymandias with these words carved on its pedestal: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” The poet’s moral was that all prominent figures and the empires they build are impermanent with their legacies doomed to decay and oblivion.
Focus on welfare of Singaporeans
Ms Lee’s counter-proposal to those who want to name structures or institutions after Mr Lee, is to honour the spirit of what Mr Lee stood for, which is the welfare of Singaporeans.
And Ms Lee acknowledged that there is still much that Singaporeans can all work towards for this purpose.
“Similarly, to fuss over Papa’s personal objects or portrait defeats the purpose that he had strived for so diligently in life, which was the welfare of Singaporeans,” she added.
With regard to Mr Lee’s house at Oxley Road, Ms Lee reiterated that her father wanted it demolished. Ms Lee quoted her father’s will:
It is my wish, and the wish of my late wife, Kwa Geok Choo, that our house at 38 Oxley Road, Singapore 238629 be demolished immediately after my death or, if my daughter Wei Ling would prefer to continue living in the original house, immediately after she moves out of the house. I would ask each of my children to ensure our wishes with respect to the demolition of the house be carried out.
If our children are unable to demolish the house as a result of any changes in the law, rules or regulations binding them, it is my wish that the house never be opened to others except my children, their families and descendants.
My view on this has been made public before and remains unchanged. My statement of wishes in this paragraph may be publicly disclosed notwithstanding that the rest of my will is private.
Ms Lee concluded her article by asking Singaporeans to move on in a post-Lee Kuan Yew era and continue to behave with kindness and consideration towards each other and work towards a better Singapore for Singaporeans.
“If we, by the way, also benefit fellow humans who are not Singaporeans, that would not be a bad thing either. We are all born into this life and we shall all eventually die. Our existence between these points in time would be more meaningful and fulfilling if we can help other fellow human beings,” she said.