Angry that Oxford historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin disagreed with him, Law Minister K Shanmugam launched a personal attack accusing the historian of behaving like a Holocaust denier:
“Now let’s look at the standards of an objective historian since you said you are trained in this way. You are aware of David Irvin, the Holocaust denier, correct? Yes you can see where this is going. He sued Penguin books (UK publisher) and others for defamation on the ground they impugn his standing as a historian.”
The response by Dr Thum Ping Tjin was a comical roll eyes as K Shanmugam paused to pour himself a cup of water.
The Law Minister continued his attack and started reciting the “reasonable behaviours” of an objective historian, and claimed that the historian disagreeing with his “facts” means the latter is not objective.
Following the end of the public hearing, Dr Thum Ping Tjin posted on his Facebook page saying that the Law Minister has overstepped his authority in asking irrelevant questions and even insulted his professional credentials:
“What a surreal day. My work on Coldstore, and my central argument that the detainees of Coldstore were not involved in any communist conspiracy, easily withstood six hours of assault by the Minister for Law and Home Affairs, but I wonder what his motivation was in grilling me about my academic work at a panel that is supposed to be about Deliberate Online Falsehoods. The crux of my submission was not addressed. He also avoided any discussion of Operation Spectrum (1987), which is an even clearer case of a deliberate falsehood by the Singapore government. Instead, significant resources appear to have been marshalled with the singular purpose of demolishing scholarly work. This is a clear example of how state resources are being used to suppress academic freedom and inquiry in Singapore. What happened today will intimidate and instil fear into anyone who contradicts the official government narrative. I had made my submission with the best intentions and in a constructive spirit, and I am disappointed with how Mr Shanmugam chose to insult me and my professional competence instead of engaging in an honest debate on equal footing.”