It is concerning that the Select Committee (SC) on Deliberate Online Falsehoods would come down so heavily and personally on an individual with no political power.
In its report, it specifically mentioned historian, Dr Thum Ping Tjin in regards to his claims regarding falsehoods in Singapore. Dr Thum had noted that more than often, the government is the perpetrator of falsehoods in Singapore, such as the Operation Coldstore where political opponents of the People’s Action Party were accused of being communist and arrested under the Internal Security Act. His research revealed documents from the British colonial administration contradicted the claims by the PAP which won the General Election in 1963 due to the arrests of key candidates of Barisan Sosialis.
They wrote, “Based on his conduct in relation to the Committee, the Committee does not find Dr Thum to be a credible representor.” As many would recall, Minister of Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam grilled Dr Thum over his research and papers on Singapore’s history for 6 hours long.
The 10 members of the SC are all people who either wield political power or are in positions of power within institutions. It seems rather bullying therefore for them to come down so strongly and heavily on Dr. Thum.
In their harsh assessment of him, the SC has seen it fit to criticise the way in which he portrayed his credentials and his role in Oxford University in a way that is as petty as it is minute. Dr. Thum may have used the term “research fellow” loosely but ultimately, is this nugget of information even relevant? To the public not in academia (which is most of us), I couldn’t care less nor do I understand the difference between “Visiting Scholar” or “Research Fellow”.
Is anyone questioning the time and effort the Select Committee took to contact Oxford to ask for its confirmation? As a citizen of Singapore, do I want public funds and resources utilised for this inconsequential task? It just seems like a “scrapping the bottom of the barrel” way of taking someone down.
Just because he is only a “visiting scholar” and not a “research fellow” does not mean that his research and views on history are totally wrong?
I understand that members of the Select Committee have a different opinion on how history should be portrayed but I don’t believe that they have a monopoly on how it should be portrayed. To what standards of proof did they expect Dr. Thum prove his opinions?
History may be based on facts but the portrayal of it is subject to interpretation. In other words, two parties may have a completely divergent interpretation of the same sets of facts. That doesn’t make one party utterly wrong and the other party completely correct. It just means that we are all different and entitled to be so. Why is the Select Committee making it seem like there are completely no grey areas and that there is an absolute right and wrong?
All parties have a right to present their arguments and people are entitled to believe what they want to as long as no violence is stirred. The PAP government and the Select Committee is perfectly entitled to challenge Dr. Thum’s views and present its versions the same way Dr. Thum should be entitled to maintain his views. To try and smear Dr. Thum’s views by tarnishing his credentials as a historian seems petty and unnecessary.
It begs the question of what the motivation in discrediting Thum is? Is it to protect the ruling party? It seems to me that the only party that could be hurt by Thum’s views is the PAP.