This post first appeared on the Facebook Page of Ong Ying Ping ESQ on June 20, 2017. You can view the post here.
Only the family of LKY can make philosophy a pulsating thriller.
At our last post, we saw how LKY’s Singapore straddle the Rule of Law and Rule of the Sage by deploying utilitarianism: when the greatest benefit goes to the greatest number , the harshest criticism of the loss of basic human rights to a small minority of dissidents simply dissipate if not disappear altogether.
Alas, this time around, the “monumental” impact of 38 Oxley Rd and the indomitable will (pun truly not intended) of LKY cut across the cracks in our utilitarian armor.
First, no dominant group can wear the “greatest good to the greatest number” tag. Few Singaporeans can claim the privilege or heritage associated with being brought up in the rarefied atmosphere of the compound of the family house of the Lees.
Nor can the next group, the innermost circle of Ministers. As commented in part 1, the selected members of the Ministerial Committee now debating the “permissibility” of demolition did not appear to have prevailed on LKY (another monumental achievement) since he publicly announced his wishes (and that of the late Mrs Lee Nee Kwa Geok Choo) that even LKY’s wishes must be subordinate to the wishes of fellow Singaporeans.
Naturally, one can well expeat the pragmatic Singaporean to say “LKY’s wishes and that of the ordinary Singaporean are one “. Such is the standing of the man Colossus that’s LKY by his lifelong deeds and habits that the protests of his junior PAP colleagues (had they tried this stunt) would likely have wilted in the glare bearing down on them if they suggested Sir, the rule of law means we, not you, decide if your wish to demolish can be granted.
Even the rich corporations seeking to capitalise on the surrounding neighbourhood if demolition goes ahead and planning guidelines now favour more high rise buildings in that neck of Oxley Road can hardly claim to be Utilitarian Sim’s darling especially as Singapore has yet to emerge from the property slump of recent years.
To bring up the crop of keyboard warriors as the beneficiaries of preserving 38 Oxley Rd is simply raising a point only to dismiss its worth.
Second, destroying the sanctity of LKY’s right to allow only members and descendants of the Lee family to enjoy the rights of access to the family home just seems too monstrous to contemplate trampling on the rights of any individual citizen, let alone the Man who came to symbolise our nation’s claim to unsurpassed greatness. In other words, any philosophy student can argue that trampling on individual rights is just wrong, no matter how many others may benefit in the process. Hence, JS Mills, the foremost follower of Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism, took care to temper the extreme harshness of utilitarianism towards minorities by introducing fundamental liberties. In this case, making a will regarding the Lee family home is, with due respect, an inalienable right, with all due respect to the Cabinet.
This feature article is the second of a three part series, as Mr Ong Ying Ping shares his thoughts over the recent dispute over 38 Oxley Road. You can continue reading part three here. If you have missed out on Part One of this article, you may wish to read it here.