Singapore

WP chief responds to criticism, says Dr Thum also ‘singled out’ PAP

Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh responded to criticisms that a parliamentary committee tasked to study the issue of fake news singled out historian Thum Ping Tjin, saying Dr Thum, too, had done the same with the People's Action Party (PAP) in his representation.

"As much as I agree PJ (Dr Thum) was singled out, he also singled out the PAP for special treatment in his representation," he wrote on Facebookfollowing a comment by freelance journalist Kirsten Han.

"There was no way they were going to let that stand on the parliamentary record, unrebutted. Singling out the PAP was PJ's prerogative, consequences included."

Dr Thum had written in his submission to the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods earlier this year that "'fake news' has not, historically, had much of an impact in Singapore - with one major exception: The (PAP) Government has, historically, spread 'fake news' for narrow party-political gain".

He saidthat in the 1963 Operation Coldstore, the PAP Government had lied about radical communist conspiracies to detain its political opponents.

In public hearings in March, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who was on the select committee, questioned Dr Thum for almost six hours.

Last week, the committee, of which Mr Singh is a member, issued a report outlining the threat of fake news and recommending ways in which Singapore could deal with it.

There was an addendum that, among other things, accused Dr Thum of lying about his academic credentials.

Mr Singh wrote about the report on Facebook, highlighting his view that Singapore should target only falsehoods distributed to undermine society, and any measures should not reasonably be expected to stifle a frank and healthy exchange of opinion required for a functioning democracy.

Ms Han said in a comment that she had "expected the WP to show more backbone in taking a stance against bullying".

Mr Singh replied: "I can't get into the Select Committee's processes etc, so I can't say anything more about the PJ imbroglio...

"But I will say this episode may not be the best one to use as a barometer for the WP's stance against bullying, but I can respect that you have a different view about it and why you feel so strongly about it."

To a Facebook user who questioned the need for new laws in a comment, Mr Singh said: "The Select Committee's recommendations still have to be debated in Parliament. There is no law proposed as yet."

- THE STRAITS TIMES

Singapore Politics