Select Committee owes Dr Thum Ping Tjin, a public apology

In 1986, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said to senior lawyer Mr Lim Chor Pee at the Select Committee hearing on the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill: “Mr Lim, you are not like Miss Teo. You were trained in a very reputable school of law.…” (he was referring to University of Cambridge).

I was seated in the room, listening to the insults and getting pretty angry. He not only insulted me, a graduate of the University of Singapore but also his panelist, Professor S Jayakumar, a former Dean of the Law School. But true to his character, Lee Kuan Yew didn’t care about the reputation of others when he wanted to make his point. He didn’t care about damaging the reputation of the only university his government inherited from the British. And the university authority accepted the insult without a murmur.

Mr Lim must have felt the warm, collegiate Cambridge feeling and fawned towards the prime minister. He was completely swept off the ground when the prime minister said to him:

“…Let’s be honest as one graduate of the Cambridge Law School to another. Would you like really to stand up before the Privy Council and advance this argument? [The argument was that a Judicial Service Commission has been provided for in the Singapore Constitution but not implemented.]

Mr Lim’s naivete was incredible! He telephoned me on Monday morning and suggested that we work on the prime minister’s proposal!

The point I wish to make here is that unlike Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Shanmugam is a graduate of the National University of Singapore, the successor of the University of Singapore where I received my law degree. Dr Thum Ping Tjin on the other hand, is a Rhodes Scholar from the University of Oxford where he earned his second Bachelor’s degree in Modern History and Politics and a graduate of Harvard University where he received his first Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies.

In World Ranking of Universities, the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and Harvard University have consistently ranked way ahead of the National University of Singapore. Perhaps the scorn of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had stunted its growth.

The Intent of the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods

Dr Thum Ping Tjin

What struck me most when I was watching the six hour grilling of Dr Thum was Minister Shanmugam’s determination to undermine and destroy Dr Thum’s scholarship. Using unnecessary hurtful words rather than evidence, he repeatedly prevented Dr Thum from elaborating his answers and demanded a “Yes or No” response. He was extremely unreasonable.

The minister began by attempting to undermine Dr Thum’s academic qualifications and status. I am sure he had checked that Dr Thum’s qualifications are not fakes.

What has a full time, part time, visiting or tenured academic position got to do with the fact that Dr Thum is a historian who has earned his degrees and doctorate from two of the world’s best universities? Harvard University and the University of Oxford have consistently ranked within the first 10 positions in the world while NUS has never been in the league.

Interpreting Memoirs

I was disappointed with Minister Shanmugam when he repeatedly emphasised the importance of a few Chinese language memoirs published in Hong Kong which Dr Thum admitted he had not paid much attention to or had not read them. I doubt if Minister Shanmugam read the Chinese memoirs. He may have read the translations which again poses a problem as to accuracy.

I am not a historian, but it is common sense that personal memoirs cannot be considered fully reliable.

Chin Peng’s memoir must necessarily be read with lots of scepticism especially when it was written by others half a century after the active days of communists albeit with his full cooperation. Likewise, Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs must be read with a pinch of salt. Even my memoir “Beyond the Blue Gate” should be read by historians against the records of the Internal Security Department and other publications to check if there was really a national security threat in the 1980s.

In investigating Operation Coldstore, memoirs must be read together with declassified official documents of the British Archives. Even better would be the availability of documents from the Special Branch in Singapore. Memoirs no matter how relevant or important or honest, must be read with care because its authors are capable of embellishments, escapism and even genuine forgetfulness especially when these are written decades later – when they have retired and able to spend time reminiscing the past. The author’s perception of an event may also be inaccurate. Even published archived documents must be scrutinised with care for the officers recording incidents and minutes may have the tendency to make themselves look good and important.

Dr Thum had spent years browsing and scrutinising documents of the British Archives. I am sure he had spent much more time on these documents than the Minister simply because it was his business as a historian to do so. The minister may be assisted by historians like Professor Kumar Ramakrishna and given a crash course on Singapore’s pre-independence history. Second hand knowledge however, can never be the same as first hand knowledge.

Security Statements by Detainees

I have read Professor Kumar Ramachandra’s book “Original Sin? Revising the Revisionist Critique of Operation Coldstore” some time ago. I recall that he did not have full access to ISD files. He relied on the methodology of fellow historian, Lee Ting Hui for documents from the ISD. He wrote at page 15:

“… a very important – if potentially tricky – third category of government records are the “unpublished security statements” made by the detainees themselves. Lee (Ting Hui) admits that such sources had to be handled with “great circumspection” and cross-checked with other sources, including the views of officials familiar with the character and circumstances of the respective detainees. Lee concludes however, that once the veracity of such detainee statements have been cross checked for “internal consistency”, consistency with statements of other persons, or consistency with yet other sources” they represent “a good guide to understanding Communist activities”. The current study employs declassified and still – classified materials along the lines suggested by Lee”.

In my view, any reliance on “unpublished security statements” made by detainees is a serious error. Professor Ramakrishna should know that imprisonment under the Internal Security Act (ISA) is indefinite and Operation Coldstore prisoners suffered incredibly long imprisonment. He should also know that prisoners were tortured either physically or mentally or both. If he and Lee Ting Hui are serious in their research, they should disregard these “unpublished security statements.”

Having been an ISA prisoner myself, I know that prisoners sign such security statements in order to get out of indefinite detention without trial. Such statements are often dictated or assisted by Internal Security Department officers who may have good intentions when they advise the prisoners that making such statements were for their own good – that it was pointless to sacrifice their entire lives in prison. And that the key out of prison is in their own hands! I believe very few prisoners have the courage to refuse to make such security statements.

Conclusion

Dr P J Thum was invited to assist the Select Committee to find a solution to their misguided belief that new laws must be enacted to prevent the spread of “deliberate online falsehoods”. Like the other young activists, he made a written submission and offered himself as a witness in good faith. He should have been treated with respect and courtesy, even if the minister disagrees with his thesis or opinion. He was a witness and not an accused person in a court of law.

Sadly, what I saw was a deliberate though unsuccessful attempt to destroy Dr P J Thum’s scholarship. Minister Shanmugam has no right to tell Dr P J Thum at the end of his six-hour long cross-examination:

“What we have seen is not scholarship but sophistry. You can agree or disagree.”

Dr P J Thum was quick to respond: “Not only do I disagree. I object to this allegation of my professional ability.”

Minister Shanmugam and the entire Select Committee owe Dr P J Thum a public apology.

 

Teo Soh Lung

 

 

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21 Responses to “Select Committee owes Dr Thum Ping Tjin, a public apology”

  • LIONS:

    it was a FAKE CONmittee.

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  • LIONS:

    just asking: HOW MANY MIW-SCHOLARS FROM PRESIDENT SCHOLARS TO ‘SAF’ SCHOLARS,NO LESS,HAVE TRIED SWIMMING ACROSS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL?

    THIS SON OF SINGApore IS A REAL LION.

    how can the gahmen attempt to destroy such rare and brave sg talent?

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  • Titiana Ann Xavier:

    The more unscrupulous politicians tries to cover up the evil deeds of LKY, the more historians like Dr Thum will put in the effort to dig out the truth. So far JP and OYK have not admitted that their fathers deserved to be incarcerated by LKY for attempting to overthrow the PAP government. Shanmugam should force the 2 unfilial sons to concur with him that Operation Coldstore was justified. The fact that he has not speaks volumes.

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  • Biw plp:

    sIN is stenched with the hugh harlem of plps. The lure of rewards of position hence power, wealth and protection of evil destroyed fibres of SIN young professionals fibres and succumbed to be plp rookies. the erosion of human vaues and professional skill and ethic followed rapidly asthe rookie accended the political ladders. Quite rapidly the hierachy of plps takes shape with the top ranking plps depending on the subordinates who turned into second level depending on the rookie below for their inputs and those greeds upon rew ards succumb to be the next level and so the plp infrastruture form. The fear of exxposure of loss of skill thru concentrating on how to be the best plp of his/her level thus gaining better chance to move upwards. Each plp would use the rookie below him/her but if the rookie does not succumb to the greed, he is stagnated for to allowed him to move up will pose a risk if exposure and thence the domino effect. apthe Plps are just like termite. The ultimate results is a hollow structure waiting for the collapse to occur. Fakes, cons, plagiarism and suppression follows. Is SIN near the terminal stage. Evidences suggest it is with Biws like the current Cabinet. The multiplicity of ministers for increasing number of ministries suggest the termite effect is near its peaks. it is not overstating that the Biws are seriak rapers of the nation.

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  • patriot of Temesak:

    Soh Lung, I Remembered VERY VIVIDLY that episode you related between LKY and LCP…it was on SBC or RTC then…LKY’s arrogance was DISGUSTING and today you have an NUS 1stClassHonour Grad in Sham…I wonder is it worth the paper it was awarded on??? and that is all he HAD!!!

    Dr.Thum??? no contest lah!!! it is like comparing a Pedigree and a mongrel that bark & attack on command

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  • pakuqaz:

    its shows pap is above the laws.

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  • Thum won !:

    Minister Shanmugam and the entire Select Committee owe Dr P J Thum a public apology.
    ………….

    PAPs are big time bullies! Confirmed n double confirmed.

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  • N.Jungne:

    I felt that out Gabramen are more or less “bo chup””, And ShanMao is extremely RUDE. On the whole yes an apology is appropriate

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  • PAPs r braindead:

    PAPs are afraid of super intellectuals like Dr Thum.
    Always fix them one way or another.
    No wonder they all run away -migrate to places who can appreciate their talents.
    sg is n has been suffering a brain drain for decades.

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  • Great Asia:

    Ask the feudal lord what he was doing during the 3 years and 8 months occupation by Japanese Imperial Soldiers? There are so many books about the feudal lord in the bookstores, which one of them covers this missing 3 years and 8 months?

    You think the feudal lord was an angel?

    Ha ha ha!

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  • Boycott:

    If I were Dr Thum, I’d have walked out of the hearing which one idiot turned into a court of law.

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  • True Fact:

    Great Asia:
    Ask the feudal lord what he was doing during the 3 years and 8 months occupation by Japanese Imperial Soldiers? There are so many books about the feudal lord in the bookstores, which one of them covers this missing 3 years and 8 months?

    You think the feudal lord was an angel?

    Ha ha ha!

    He was helping the Japs for sure, and many local Chinese males were killed by his co- operation with the enemy.

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  • Bapak:

    As long as whoever dont agree with them, in another words not a Yesman, they are not talent. This is the stupid & selfish system designed by the narrow minded politicians to stay in power.

    But dont blame them. It is the 70% whose stupidty beyond believe to accept their behavour is the root cos of the problem.

    For this sinkland to change, start at the root 70% not on those PAP idiots. You allow them to manupulate you, you are to be blamed. NOT THEM, IS YOU!

    LIONS:
    just asking: HOW MANY MIW-SCHOLARS FROM PRESIDENT SCHOLARS TO ‘SAF’ SCHOLARS,NO LESS,HAVE TRIED SWIMMING ACROSS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL?

    THIS SON OF SINGApore IS A REAL LION.

    how can the gahmen attempt to destroy such rare and brave sg talent?

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  • oxygen:

    I THOUGHT PAST TENSE HAVE CONFESSED TO A FOREIGN JOURNALIST THE “MARXIST CONSPIRACY” was a fictional account – it was in reality of what he called that event his “noble deed”.

    He did not elaborate on what that “noble deed” means and what it entails of his true historical outcome.

    On this account of confession, Dr Thum must be ABSOLUTELY CORRECT of his history interpretation.

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  • MarBowling:

    Great Asia:
    April 14, 2018 at 12:23 am (Quote)
    Ask the feudal lord what he was doing during the 3 years and 8 months occupation by Japanese Imperial Soldiers? There are so many books about the feudal lord in the bookstores, which one of them covers this missing 3 years and 8 months?
    You think the feudal lord was an angel?
    Ha ha ha!

    Response: mother of all Great Qs by Great Asia!

    Let’s guess:
    First great reciprocal action by the feudal lord to that Mother of all STUPID Japanese soldiers, who allowed ONLY him amongst those Young folks who were destined to be sent to the beach for a swim, to go home to collect his shoes/clothes, a HoLee Act by that Japanese soldier that would later shaped the history of SinKapore!
    1. Slept with that Japanese, including you know what!
    2. Serve green tea to his Japanese master and Gang all day LOONG.
    3. Last but not least, act as a translator for the Japanese!

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  • Past Glory Over:

    Well in chinese culture or chinese politics,

    暂草不出根, 春风吹有生 。。。

    Its true.

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  • PAP's Roland Freisler:

    Shitmugam “practiced” for the Select Committee watching this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOLdLdSwe2A

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  • Sophisticated preacher:

    Nasrudin is scheduled to preach in the mosque. He stands up in front of the congregation, and asks “So, do you know what I’m going to say?”

    No one knows.

    “Well,” says Nasrudin, “If you don’t believe you already know, you won’t understand it. I’d just be wasting my time.” And he sits down.

    The next week, he stands up and asks them the same question. This time, the congregation all claim they do know what he’s going to say.

    “If you already know,” says Nasrudin, “there’s no point in me telling you again.” And he sits down.

    The third week, he’s still sticking to his script, but this time people have been thinking about it. When he asks the question, they tell him that some people know what he’s going to say, and others don’t.

    “Ah,” says Nasrudin. “In that case, the people who know should tell the people who don’t!”

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  • NotMyProblem:

    PAPs r braindead:
    PAPs are afraid of super intellectuals like Dr Thum.
    Always fix them one way or another.
    No wonder they all run away -migrate to places who can appreciate their talents.
    sg is n has been suffering a brain drain for decades.

    You are right. PAP is afraid of intellectuals, they are a threat to the PAP, especially to the PM.

    The funny thing is once any intellectual joined the PAP, he/she become like an idiot. He/she must be less intelligent than the PM. Maybe that’s the pre-requisition of joining the PAP.

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  • patriot of Temesak:

    Great Asia:
    Ask the feudal lord what he was doing during the 3 years and 8 months occupation by Japanese Imperial Soldiers? There are so many books about the feudal lord in the bookstores, which one of them covers this missing 3 years and 8 months?

    You think the feudal lord was an angel?

    Ha ha ha!

    During that period that Evil Feudal Lord was a Coward-Traitor and worse of all a Dog trained very well by the Japs

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  • SHAN SHUNS APOLOGY:

    In Parliament last month Grace Fool and Attack Dog Shan demanded an apology from WP Sylvia Lim for “dishonorable conduct” in expressing suspension of PAP floating balloons on planned GST increase.

    Subsequently, an NTUC whistle blower revealed that PAP-controlled NTUC DID float balloons, having conducted a survey on the proposed GST increase in 2018 Budget. Grace Fool and Attack Dog Shan have remained strangely silent since then. They, however, did not even have the DECENCY to apologize to Sylvia Lim.

    Hence, to expect Attack Dog Shan and the Shan-dominated Select Committee to apology would be a piped dream.

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