In an interview with ST which was published today (‘Facts, falsehoods, feedback – Janil has firm grasp of them all’, 7 May), the new Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary said that the average Singaporeans don’t care about the recent 6-hour grilling of Dr PJ Thum by the Select Committee.
In the weeks after Dr Thum Ping Tjin was questioned by Minister K Shanmugam at the Select Committee hearing on 29 March, netizens were questioning on social media if the government has gone too far. Concerned, Puthucheary revealed that he quickly went down to the ground to find out if Singaporeans really feel that way.
“We went to the grassroots, into the constituency, door to door – and nobody asked about it, nobody wanted to talk about it, nobody was the least bit concerned about it,” he said.
It is an example of how there is “a disconnect” between a “vocal segment of society” and the average Singaporeans, he told ST.
However, he did say it does not mean he dismisses what he reads online.
Necessary to grill Dr Thum
Speaking to ST, Puthucheary defended the government’s action in grilling Dr Thum at the Select Committee hearing. The intense questioning of Dr Thum was necessary, he said.
“When you have people who come forward not in good faith, trying to exploit the process for their own agenda, that is when a certain approach was taken,” he explained.
“We really had to defend the institution of Parliament and defend, in a way, the dignity of the process.”
He said that it was important to question Dr Thum for as long as it took so as to get Dr Thum to concede certain facts about how “his work was suboptimal”.
Puthcheary’s own father was one of those detained in Operation Coldstore and later exiled to Malaysia. His ban on entering Singapore was lifted in 1990.
When the ST reporter asked him about his father’s case, he appeared to be evasive.
He said, “I am quite comfortable talking about it but I don’t see that it is in any way relevant.”
Again, citing his own findings, he said, “The people that I meet on a daily basis, the hundreds, if not thousands, of my constituents are not in the least bit interested (about Coldstore and Dr Thum’s grilling).”
“Yes, there is online commentary, very little of which you can verify represents the average Singaporean or even if they are indeed Singaporean accounts.”
There may be some truth in what Puthucheary said since the typical “Ah Mahs” or “Ah Peks” that he meets in heartland at MPS may not be net savvy and would also not know about the grilling of Dr Thum. And neither would they care since they may be more interested in their own bread and butter issues or getting free vouchers from Puthucheary at MPS.
Coldstore detentions were for national security reasons
In any case, when pressed further by the reporter about his father’s case, Puthucheary said he believes there were national security reasons for the Coldstore arrests and detentions.
“I think that is a reasonable conclusion to come to, that there were indeed national security considerations,” he said.
In other words, Puthucheary seem to have agreed with the PAP government for interning his father without trial, since his father together with others were deemed to be “dangerous communists” ready to overthrow the government through violence.
It’s interesting to note that his father, a so-called “dangerous communist”, was nevertheless accepted by Malaysia and allowed to live in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, his father later even became an MP in the Malaysian Parliament.