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Dear Pritam, please see page 12

by Tan Wah Piow

I was not surprised when Dr Thum Ping Tjin was savagely mauled by the People's Action Party (PAP) establishment for his intervention as a concerned citizen and historian at the select committee hearing on the proposed legislation against fake news.

That the PAP dominated Select Committee would rubber stamp the proposal was a foregone conclusion.

What troubled me, and no doubt disappointed many, was the unfortunate fact that the Workers’ Party Secretary-General Pritam Singh voted together with the PAP members  approving the report, thereby endorsing the Report attack on the integrity of Dr Thum as a person, and a historian.

I have been pondering over the words of Pritam Singh:  “As much as I agree PJ (Thum PingTjin) was singled out, he also singled out the PAP for special treatment in his representation. There was no way they were going to let that stand on the parliament record, unrebutted. Singling out the PAP was PJ’s prerogative, consequences included.”

In layman term, Pritam Singh was almost saying “Hey PJ, you asked for it”.

What should be my appropriate choice of words to rebuke Pritam Singh without offending those who support the Workers’ Party? For a mild rebuke, I would say that Pritam’s failure to empathise with Dr Thum was because he lacks the requisite emotional intelligence required of a politician.

It is unfortunate that Pritam Singh chose to ignore Dr Thum’s submission. As Pritam Singh is not well schooled in history, as a constructive suggestion, I recommend him to consider a piece of evidence I recently discovered in the latest book of Professor Michael Leigh, an author of “some 60 books, chapters and articles on Sarawak and Greater Malaysia”.

In “Sarawak and Brunei in the Making of Malaysia” published in 2018, Michael Leigh wrote at page 12:

“The fact-finding Commission [Brunei Commission of Inquiry on Malaysia] reportedly record stiff and almost 100 per cent opposition to merging Brunei into Malaysia, from all sections of the population. That report was never released. In fact, the Secretary of State for the colonies cabled that Lee Kuan Yew had threatened to close the Reuters News Agency in Singapore, unless their reports on the Brunei fact-finding Commission was suppressed. Reuters obliged.”

The suppression of this important piece of news is important, because the Brunei revolt was later used as one of the justifications for the suppression, and detention without trial of many Barisan Socialist politicians and activists.

The evidence in Michael Leigh’s book corroborates with the central thrust of PJ Thum’s objection to the proposed anti-fake news law. How can a party skilled in the suppression of truth, and the manufacture of fake news, be trusted to legislate a law against fake news.

Note: Solidarity with Pritam Singh and his colleagues.