Photo of Charles Chong from Facebook

Oxford professor Dr Philip Kreager has just published a letter responding to PAP MP Charles Chong’s accusations that the Oxford University is “subverting” Singapore’s parliamentary process. Dismissing PAP MP Charles Chong as a conspiracy theorist imagining things in his head,  the professor repeated his call for the government to issue an apology for impugning the integrity of Oxford historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin:

In Response to Mr Charles Chong’s Allegations

On 17 April 2018, Project Southeast Asia, University of Oxford, released a statement defending Dr PJ Thum: http://projectsoutheastasia.com/in-defence-of-dr-pj-thum-and-academic-freedom-in-singapore

On 20 April 2018, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, Mr Charles Chong, responded to Project Southeast Asia’s statement in a private letter to the signatories of the statement.

In a private letter dated 26 April 2018, Dr Philip Kreager, Chair of Project Southeast Asia, replied to Mr Chong’s 20 April letter.

On 30 April 2018, Mr Chong released a new statement which made his 20 April letter public, alleged that Dr Thum is participating in “a coordinated attempt, with foreign actors involved, to try to influence and subvert our parliamentary processes”, and included private correspondence between Trustees of Project Southeast Asia that Mr Chong had inadvertently been copied into. https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/full-charles-chong-says-historian-thum-had-engineered-support-himself-points-coordinated

In light of this, Project Southeast Asia is releasing Dr Kreager’s response to Mr Chong’s letter of 20 April, as well as a response to Mr Chong’s statement of 30 April.

1. Letter from Dr Philip Kreager to Mr Charles Chong, 26 April 2018

Dear Mr Chong,

Thank you for your letter of 20 April. The Terms of Reference for the Select Committee, Dr Thum’s submission, and the video of the hearing are all publicly available online, and we of course reviewed them before publishing our statement. We can come to our own conclusions, and we stand by our statement.

There are a number of factual errors in your letter and attachment. I shall remark only two of them.

In the attachment, you state that Dr Thum is not an academic historian. To the contrary: he is a member of the University of Oxford whose historical research here and in Southeast Asia is a matter of public record. He is, moreover, a valued colleague. This sort of vilification of him must stop, and we reiterate our call for an apology from the Select Committee to Dr Thum for his treatment.

Second, we have not said, as your letter states, that ‘research cannot be questioned’. What we said was:

the Minister repeatedly expressed disdain for Dr Thum’s research, rephrasing its findings in general terms that misrepresented it, and attempting to get Dr Thum to agree to those rephrasings by attempting to force him to provide only yes/no answers.

We did then state, as you remark, that this interrogation procedure consisted of ‘impugning and restating empirical findings’. As you also remark, ‘the process was open and transparent’. Just so, and we are glad that the video is available for all to see.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Kreager D. Phil
Senior Lecturer in Human Sciences, Somerville College
Chair, Oxford Project Southeast Asia

This letter my be downloaded here.

2. A statement from Dr Philip Kreager in response to Mr Charles Chong’s press release of 30 April 2018

“Any notion of a conspiracy on the part of Oxford Project Southeast Asia to “subvert [Singapore’s] parliamentary processes” is clearly preposterous. Members of an organisation keep each other informed of events and exchange views. Historians, like other professionals, do likewise. The conspiracy that Mr Chong claims to have discovered in our private correspondence exists only in his own imagination.”

Philip Kreager D. Phil
Senior Lecturer in Human Sciences, Somerville College
Chair, Oxford Project Southeast Asia

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