Photo of Shanmugam and Dr Thum

Law Minister K Shanmugam was furious at historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin at the Select Committee interrogation yesterday (Mar 29), after the Oxford graduate historian succinctly pointed out that Singapore has only one fake news generator demonising critics and opposition, and that is the PAP government:

“There are no examples of fake news which have had a major impact on Singapore offline, with one exception. There is clear source of ‘fake news’ which has spread falsehoods, with major impact, and hitherto escaped sanction. That is the politicians of Singapore’s People’s Action Party. Detentions made under the Internal Security Act between 1963 and 1987, including for Operation Coldstore, were examples of this. Declassified documents have shown that the detentions were made for political purposes rather than security ones.”

In a 6-hour long debate, Law Minister K Shanmugam was so angry that he started attacking the character of the historian, accusing him of being not objective:

“You have fallen short of the standards of an objective historian, when you accused the People’s Action Party of using fake news to detain political opponents….Your views on communism, Operation Coldstore – which you have been repeating at multiple fora – are contradicted by the most reliable evidence. It ignores evidence which you don’t like, you ignore and suppress what is inconvenient and in your writings, you present quite an untrue picture.”

Like Facebook, historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin also expressed objection of subjecting to yes or no answers to Minister K Shanmugam’s questions. Dr Thum opposed a censorship regulation and said that Singaporeans should instead be educated to be sceptical to all information, including from the government. The academic also advised to remove the existing draconian laws that are often abused by the PAP government:

“We should be educating Singaporeans to be more thoughtful, critical, and sceptical towards information, regardless of source.  Expand media literacy programmes to focus on teaching how the information industry works, to be politically aware and to interrogate information regardless of source. There is also a need to reform or repeal existing laws, including Section 298 of the Penal Code which criminalises the deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any other person. Repeal the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act to allow more publications to be set up.”