Historian should be upfront about his affiliations

Recently, it was reported that historian Thum Ping Tjin as well as freelance journalist Kirsten Han had sought to register a private company which had links to foreign funding and clear political objectives (Acra rejects bid to register firm with foreign ties; April 12).

This development is unsettling.

Dr Thum is free to be an academic, political activist or both. But when he engages in public debate, he should be upfront about his affiliations because they are important to understanding his arguments.

In an unusual session of the Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods last month, Dr Thum made a submission that the greatest purveyor of fake news in Singapore have been the People's Action Party and Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and that Operation Coldstore was conducted for narrow political gain (Operation Coldstore and the perils of academic misinformation; April 4).

Are the arguments he put forth that of a scholar seeking the truth about Singapore's history, or that of a political activist seeking change in Singapore's political system?

And in doing so, was he right to have accepted foreign funding to participate in our domestic politics?

Ng Kah Hong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2018, with the headline 'Historian should be upfront about his affiliations'. Print Edition | Subscribe