Historian and former national swimmer Thum Ping Tjin, also known as PJ Thum, took to social media to refute comments made by Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung.
In his speech explaining why the Yale-NUS course on dissent and resistance was cancelled, Mr Ong made the following remarks about PJ Thum: “It (the course) also included talks by Ms Kirsten Han and Dr P.J. Thum.
Dr Thum has publicly suggested that “Singaporeans should celebrate Malaysia’s independence day”, and that Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) should “take the lead in lobbying for the promotion of democracy and freedom of expression and inquiry in South-east Asia”, because Malaysia was “a beacon for many who are struggling for democracy. Not just in Singapore but in other parts of South-east Asia”.
Both Ms Kirsten Han and Dr P.J Thum have since announced that while the “Dissent and Resistance” project was withdrawn, they will continue their work through New Naratif, an outfit they had set up which receives significant foreign funding”.
In response to Mr Ong’s comments, PJ Thum wrote a Facebook post saying “In Parliament on Monday, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung sharply criticised me and insinuated that I am a traitor for celebrating Malaysia Day”.
In an attempt to clear the air, and his name, Dr Thum wrote, “16 September 1963 is the day of our independence from the British Empire, when Singapore came together with the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, and Sarawak, to form the independent and sovereign state of Malaysia. It is a day that should be celebrated as a milestone of our nation’s progress, as we emerged from the oppression of British colonialism”.
He also added that, “It is ludicrous that we have a government which commemorates the bicentennial of our colonisation by the British, but then not only refuses to celebrate the day of our independence from the colonisers but also accuses those who do celebrate it of treason”.
Last year, a group led by Dr Thum and dissident Tan Wah Piow met with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad on August 30. The group invited Dr. Mahathir as a guest speaker at a conference on democracy. The group that met with the Malaysian Prime Minister included author Sonny Liew, journalist Kirsten Han, and civil rights activist and current Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) member Jolovon Wham.
The following day, Dr. PJ Thum put up a photo of himself with Dr. Mahathir on Facebook, writing, “I met with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir today. I urged him to take leadership in Southeast Asia for the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of information. I also expressed hopes for closer relations between the people of Malaysia and Singapore, and presented him with a copy of ‘Living with Myths in Singapore’.
Dr. Thum has been criticized specifically by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who characterized Dr. Thum’s doings as “a little sad, a bit regretful.” Mr. Shanmugam also said that a foreign politician should never be invited to intervene in our domestic politics, calling this “an absolute no-no.”
Dr Thum also faced many allegations of him being traitorous to the nation, which he has denied. /TISG