Thum Ping Tjin owes Singaporeans an apology

Dr Thum Ping Tjin recently suggested Aug 31 was the independence day of the "former Federation of Malaya" as well as Singapore's "unofficial independence day".

When challenged, his associate, freelance journalist Kirsten Han, protested that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had indeed declared Singapore independent on Aug 31, 1963, because the formation of Malaysia had been postponed to Sept 16, 1963.

I find this explanation dubious on two grounds:

One, as Mr Toh Cheng Seong (Keep calm and know your history, Sept 4) pointed out: "proclaiming Malaysia's Merdeka Day on Aug 31 as Singapore's unofficial independence day is absurd because Singapore did not exist as a sovereign entity on that day in 1963, but as part of Malaysia".

Second, it appears Dr Thum has on several occasions equated Singapore with "Malaya".

For example, on our National Day in 2016, he posted: "Happy 51st National Day to all Singaporeans. On this day in 1965, we separated from Malaysia. It is my fervent wish that we will overcome narrow politics and one day return to our rightful place alongside our brothers and sisters in Malaya."

I want to ask Dr Thum: If our "rightful place" is in "Malaya", is your loyalty to Malaysia or Singapore?

Two years earlier, on July 22, 2014, on the occasion of the birthday of Zubir Said who composed Singapore's National Anthem, Dr Thum said: "Happy 107th Birthday to Zubir Said, composer of Majulah Singapura, whose music reflects the soul of Malaya."

As for Aug 31 being our "unofficial independence day", I note Dr Thum has on several occasions referred dismissively to Mr Lee's 1963 declaration.

For example, on Aug 31, 2013, he posted: "50 years ago today: Lee Kuan Yew, frustrated with the delay in the creation of Malaysia, unilaterally announced the independence of Singapore. In a rare show of unity, the international community rolled their eyes and ignored him. Happy 50th Illegal Independence Day, Singapore!"

Dr Thum has claimed that "any notion that I am a traitor to my country is ridiculous and unfounded".

Does Dr Thum not realise that many Singaporeans find his characterisation of our National Anthem and the National Day insulting?

Does he not know there are hardly any Singaporeans, except possibly surviving remnants of the Communist Party of Malaya, who wish to be reunited with Malaysia, let alone "Malaya".

I think Dr Thum owes us an explanation and an apology.

Ngan Swee Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2018, with the headline 'Thum owes Singaporeans an apology'. Print Edition | Subscribe