Singaporeans have been abuzz over the extraordinary marathon exchange at the Select Committee hearings on deliberate online falsehoods involving Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Dr Thum Ping Tjin, an Oxford-based historian.
Netizens are wondering why a hearing on the fake news problem came across instead as a technical, and sometimes testy, academic debate on contending interpretations of Singapore’s post-war history.
First, Dr Thum lit the fuse to his own bonfire. In his formal submission to the Select Committee, he had made two key assertions: first, that “the politicians of Singapore’s People’s Action Party” had, over the decades, been regularly disseminating “falsehoods”.
Second, he alleged that, beginning with the February 1963 internal security dragnet Operation Coldstore, official governmental announcements that “people were being detained without trial” because of “involvement with radical communist conspiracies to subvert the state”, were in fact, a “lie”.
It was almost as if Dr Thum was baiting the Government, and Mr Shanmugam – known for his pugnacity in the courtroom – duly responded.
Dr Thum also added that “thus far, no historian has come out and contradicted the central thrust of my work”. This is inaccurate.
On April 1, 2015, I launched at the National Library my book Original Sin? Revising The Revisionist Critique Of The 1963 Operation Coldstore In Singapore.
The book essentially critiqued the notion by Dr Thum and similar “revisionist” historians that Coldstore was mounted for crass political reasons rather than legitimate security ones.
In other words, it is simply untrue that his scholarship has been unchallenged.
… Kumar Ramakrishna is Associate Professor, Head of Policy Studies and Coordinator of the National Security Studies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.
Last updated on 05/04/2018