Singapore— Thum Ping Tjin, a noted historian and the founder of the New Naratif website, said in an interview on Wednesday (Sept 23) that a two-car police escort with four officers saw him home after he was questioned at the police station at Clementi last Monday.
Mr Thum was interviewed over a report lodged against New Naratif by the Elections Department (ELD).
According to New Naratif on September 19, “On Sept 18, the ELD released a press statement stating that the Assistant Returning Officer had filed a police report against New Naratif and alleged that New Naratif published ‘paid advertisements that amounted to the illegal conduct of election activity under s83(2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA) during the recent 2020 General Election.’”
Mr Thum’s interrogation took over four hours, an incident that he called “very disquieting.”
“It wasn’t a good experience. It was four and a half hours of interrogation. They seized my phone. Then they escorted me back here to where I live, to take my laptop. It’s never a good feeling when the place that you live is invaded. It is definitely very disquieting. But fortunately, that’s all over now,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
A Singapore Police Force (SPF) statement said that the interrogation was a “scheduled police interview” conducted as part of police investigations.
“In response to media queries, the Police confirm that Mr Thum Ping Tjin attended a scheduled police interview at Clementi Police Division on Sept 21 2020. As part of police investigations into New Naratif for alleged breaches of the Parliamentary Elections Act, Mr Thum’s mobile phone and laptop were seized for forensic examination,” the SPF noted.
In an interview with Mr Sean Francis Han, the editor of Wake Up, Singapore, Mr Thum provided more details about the interrogation, saying that his phone was taken from him at the police station while his laptop had been seized from his home.
He told Mr Han, “And for some reason, they needed four police officers in two separate cars to come over with me to my home to then seize my laptop. Do I look very dangerous to you?”
“And also, they asked me to sign across some seals and then stick the seals over all the ports and the end of the laptop which opens. If they are going to go through all this trouble to seal the laptop to show that it has not been tampered with, it suggests that they are not going to open the laptop immediately,” Mr Thum added.
If he is found guilty, Dr Thum may face up to 12 months’ jail, or be fined up to S$2,000, or both.
New Naratif added in its statement that the police report against it is “a continuation of the PAP government’s attempts to intimidate independent media, and is an abuse of the PEA designed to strike fear into the hearts of the government’s critics and citizenry.” —/TISG