Historian was grilled for caricaturing Lee Kuan Yew as a liar, Shanmugam explains


Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam, has taken to Facebook to explain why the grilling of the parliamentary select committee has to go into overtime when questioning a historian. The Minister had drawn from some quarters for his almost 6-hour grilling of Thum Pingtjin. Thum is a Research Associate at the Centre for Global History and coordinator of Project Southeast Asia, University of Oxford.

Law Minister Shanmugam and historian Thum Ping Tjin clash over Operation Coldstore, Hock Lee bus riots for 6 hours

The Minister said in his Facebook post that the historian had asserted “in his written submission to the Select Committee…that Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the biggest creator of fake news in Singapore, a liar, and Operation Coldstore was based on falsehoods.”

“These are serious allegations made in Parliament about our founding PM,” added Shanmugam in explaining why he had to question Thum on what he had said.

“PJ (Thum) refused to answer many of the questions directly – if a person believes in what he says, and has gone through the documents carefully, then what is the difficulty in answering questions?

“It took 5 hours plus to go through the documents and records carefully.

“In the end, PJ said that he had not read some of the material published by ex-Communists on what happened in Singapore; that he disregarded the statements made by Chin Peng, the CPM leader; that the way he set out the most important documents (of December 1962) was not accurate; the key meetings of Barisan Socialis showed that they were prepared to use armed struggle to overthrow a Government of Singapore, if necessary; and the British had a honest view, in December 1962, that security action (which was Operation Coldstore), was necessary.”

In his same Facebook post, Shanmugam acknowledged the talent of artist Sonny Liew. Sonny had earlier drawn a cartoon of the Minister standing with a dog between his legs. The artist’s post was in support of Thum who he knew personally.

I sometimes post illustrations and comics that touch on politics – caricatures of Trump and Steve Bannon, comics about…

Posted by Sonny Liew on Sunday, 1 April 2018

The Minister said: “I can see that Sonny Liew is not happy with what happened with PJ. It is quite understandable. Based on what he says, he and PJ are quite close; they work together in a venture. His award winning cartoon, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, is also based on PJ’s version of history.”

He added: “I have not met Sonny, but I have to say he is a good cartoonist. He is a talent.”

Sonny responded to Shanmugam’s post, thanking the Minister for his thoughts. He said his work was (among others) based on Thum’s interpretation of history. The artist questioned if the hearing at the select committee was held in a fair and open environment.