Photo - Institute of Policy Studies

Former diplomat Bilahari Kausikan questions Dr Thum Ping Tjin’s loyalty to Singapore

Singapore’s former Ambassador-at-Large Mr Bilahari Kausikan has called into question Singaporean historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin’s loyalty to the country after the latter had “invited” Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to “interfere” in “Singapore’s internal politics”.

In his commentary on a SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh Facebook post which he had shared yesterday (4 Sep), Mr Kausikan raised the question of “which is his country and who are his people?” in response to Dr Thum’s declaration of “I love my country and my people”.

Dr Thum’s declaration was made in light of allegations of being “traitorous” hurled against him by certain factions in Singapore, most notably PAP MP Seah Kian Peng, as a result of the following Facebook post:

Mr Kausikan had also accused Dr Thum of having “a slippery character”, and went on to provide a chronological account of Dr Thum’s previous references to “Malaya”, which Mr Kausikan deems to be “a loaded reference, which, as a historian, he should recognise”, and thus “cannot be accidental”.

He added: “At least the [comic] artist Sonny Liew has publicly admitted he should have used better judgement about the meeting. That is at least halfway honest.

But PJ [Dr Thum] is still twisting and turning, trying to slip out of what he has said and done.”

He concluded: “Since he is so enamoured of ‘Malaya’, perhaps he is best described by a movie character of that era: Orang Minyak — Oily Man!”

Netizen’s reaction to Mr Kausikan’s post is a mixed bag, with many Singaporeans agreeing with his line of reasoning, while a few provided counter-arguments.

Shahana Sakura wrote:

Sir, I understand your position and where you are coming from. There is indeed a risk that foreign governments might try to influence Singapore politics. The threat is real. As an example, we have seen how China (proclaiming itself as a motherland for all ethnic Chinese) has tried to to influence the politics of bigger countries like Australian and New Zealand using its economic might and network of China-born Australian/New Zealand citizens. Given that Singapore is much smaller, and it has a significant number of China born new-citizens, and an ethnic Chinese majority, we must always be on our guard from China. It’s the same with Malaysia, where the Malaysian politicians have a history of playing up racial/religious issues, which could affect our internal harmony. (I am personally thankful that Mahathir has DAP as a partner, because it somewhat constrains his ability to play up racial/religious issues. However, he can still play up a Malaysian nationalist tune and use economic disputes such as the water dispute, to his advantage). We have a very good reason to be on our guard.

That said, I also believe in due process and I am a bit uncomfortable at the way this whole issue was handled. I personally thought that Mr. Seah’s initial post was not necessary and it only encouraged the online lynch mob. This mentality is dangerous because it can be easily used by our enemies to undermine our society. A society which can start baying for blood based on a single post, can also start riots at a single provocation. In the long run, we don’t want such a volatile society.

Dixon Ong said:

Obviously, Thum is challenging the sovereignty of Singapore.

PengYong Tan commented:

Thum Ping Tjin and Kirsten Han are traitors. If they are so enamored by Malaysia, they should renounce their Singapore citizenship and join Mahathir’s Malaysia.

Steven Tan said:

Xiao ah! No more Malaya, it is Malaysia. He [Dr Thum] is on weed 😂

Patrick King wrote:

Can someone who has never stopped wanting Singapore to be back in Malaysia be called patriotic???

SoonKin Chew commented:

Seeking foreigners support amounts to “treason”.

Abdur Raheem said:

Neither Singaporeans nor Malaysians want a union that Thum and Company seem to be enamored of. I need not elaborate on why Singaporeans don’t want it. As for Malaysians, at least of the dominant ethnic group, it is a “poisoned chalice” which will alter the demographic makeup of the country, and with it, will follow the loss of political power. Even if such power is not lost, it leads to a situation where there is a constant contest for primacy. Like what happened between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, or the multifaceted contest that still goes on between Maronites, Druze, Shiites, and Sunnis in Lebanon. Development will take a back seat and foreign powers will look to exploit the situation. A “New Malaysia” is a dead idea with few buyers.

David Wong commented:

Sonny’s “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” attempts to re-write Singapore history to their own beliefs. That is why I am taking his “excuse” with a huge pinch of salt. He is a political activist in his own right, and he even admitted to helping [Kirsten] Han and Thum set up that Soros-linked company. Not a completely naive person…

Tze Shiung Ng said:

His revisionist history seems to chime with that of the New Malaysians/Bersihadists: That true independence was idealised by socialists/communists/democrats to the exclusion of everybody else, thus casting doubt on the legitimacy of national Malaysia/Singapore. This has to be challenged, but as one influential Malaysian realist (Lim Sian See) has found, trying to win hearts & minds on social media is futile. I think the reason is because the realist cannot debate the idealist in his mode of language. The irony is, in Malaysia it took a master Machiavellian, but for his own ends, to bag all the idealists in one sweep without their realising it. Their aspirations & frustrations have now been directed to their utopia of New Malaysia, which they are finding is incapable of meeting their demands, including their fancy histories. TPJ does not seem to understand this historical development, and if he believes Mahathir is going to bolster his history for his sake, he will be surprised.

Mike Lui wrote:

Perhaps the gang of 4 need to drink Kopi with ISD…
Even Anwar is wary of Mr 10%.
Can a leopard change its spots?
History repeating itself?
So much for “opening Democratic space in South East Asian countries”. Turning into a Big Bull.