Exhibition on Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s personal items opens today
Exhibition on first 10 years of S'pore's independence opens today
It started its life as a shared table where tutors taught the three Lee children.
The wooden writing table later morphed into Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's personal desk.
Jokingly referring to the late Mr Lee as a "tiger" father, his younger son Lee Hsien Yang said: "There are some who might blame Singapore's tuition industry on my father. It is true that all three children had extensive after-school tuition. The desk that you see at this exhibition started life as a shared table where tuition was conducted and later morphed into Papa's personal desk.
"I can still picture him in my mind's eyes, regularly working into the wee hours of the morning at this desk - reading, writing, thinking."
He was speaking at the launch of We Built A Nation, an exhibition detailing the country's first 10 years of independence and its founding fathers.
The desk and other artefacts from the late Mr Lee's home at Oxley Road were donated to the National Museum of Singapore by his daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling, and younger son Hsien Yang, the executors and trustees of his estate.
Also on display: the recently de-classified secret document - the Albatross Separation File from Dr Goh Keng Swee - Mr Othman Wok's typewriter, Mr Hon Sui Sen's calculator and Mr Lim Kim San's Colt Cobra revolver.
During the tumultuous years of nation-building, cabinet ministers were issued revolvers to protect themselves.
The artefacts are categorised into eight sections, such as foreign policy and diplomacy, security and defence. Many of them have not been displayed before.
The exhibition is open to the public daily from 10am to 7pm from today, for a year.
Admission is free for Singaporeans and permanent residents.
At the exhibition's launch yesterday, Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said the motivation behind it arose after an exhibition in memory of Mr Lee earlier this year drew large crowds. It was extended twice.
He said the team behind this current exhibition, which also includes the largest and most thorough showcase of the late Mr Lee's personal artefacts since he died on March 23, was guided by two principles: Honour not just one man but also our founding generation of leaders, and aim to be faithful to the ideals and values that our leaders lived by and fought for.
In his speech at the launch, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said the donations from his father's estate have been "a sacrifice for my sister Wei Ling, who continues to live at 38 Oxley Road".
He said the late Mr Lee was never devoted to material things.
"Papa's values have always been anchored in pragmatism rather than any devotion to physical things. That he lived the way he did was a function of his life's driven focus on what he could do for Singapore and not because he wanted to impress anyone with his frugality or austere lifestyle," he said.
And in keeping with the wishes of the estate, an extract from the late Mr Lee's last will and testament was reproduced. It said that it was Mr Lee's and his late wife's wish that "our house at 38 Oxley Road, be demolished after my death or if my daughter, Wei Ling, ...moves out of the House".
A scale model of the late Mr Lee's 100-year-old bungalow is also on display - the only way for the public to get a glimpse into the historic space and its furnishings.
Later at a doorstop interview, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said of his father: "He did not ask many things of Singaporeans and this is the one thing that mattered to him. Surely we can find it in our hearts to honour his wish."
I can still picture him in my mind's eyes, regularly working into the wee hours of the morning at this desk - reading, writing, thinking.
- Mr Lee Hsien Yang on his father's wooden writing table
WHAT: We Built A Nation
WHERE: National Museum of Singapore, Stamford Gallery & Concourse Gallery, Level 1
WHEN: Daily from 10am — 7pm
Free admission for Singaporeans, permanent residents and visitors aged 6 years and below.