‘Thum must expect to be questioned about the claims he put forth’

Head of select committee on fake news, Mr Charles Chong, says historian's claims can be questioned

Historian Thum Ping Tjin's written submission to the select committee on deliberate online falsehoods "is not an academic dissertation but a political piece", and he must expect to be questioned about the claims he put forth in it, said Mr Charles Chong.

Responding to an open letter signed by over 200 academics here and overseas defending Dr Thum, Mr Chong said yesterday that it was Dr Thum who had chosen to use the committee to make a political point about Operation Coldstore in 1963.

"Having done so, he cannot then plead that his claims should not be questioned, or that he should not be judged on his answers," said Mr Chong, an MP for Punggol East who chairs the parliamentary panel.

He noted that Dr Thum had in his submission referred to his position as founder of website New Naratif, which Mr Chong describes as a group involved in political activism.

"There is nothing wrong with political activism in itself. But it is odd to make political points - as Dr Thum did - and then hide behind the shield of academia when questioned,"said Mr Chong.

In a two-page statement, Mr Chong, who is also the deputy speaker of Parliament, set out his response to the letter which had expressed concern over how Dr Thum was questioned by committee member, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, for six hours last month.

Circulated online over the last two weeks, the open letter had also called for Mr Chong to apologise for the committee's treatment of Dr Thum.

In his written submission to the panel, Dr Thum charged that Operation Coldstore - during which over 100 leftist unionists and politicians were arrested - was carried out for political gain.

The People's Action Party Government had been the main source of falsehoods in Singapore, he asserted, as there was no evidence that the detainees were involved in a communist conspiracy to overthrow it.

Mr Chong added that the open letter had argued that Dr Thum's claims should only have been questioned by other historians and not by a parliamentary committee.

"This is  surprising. Legislators all over the world regularly have robust exchanges with witnesses, including academics."

Singapore Politics