Activist Jolovan Wham: Pretty clear Government would not be happy with Mahathir meeting

Mr Jolovan Wham said that lobbying an overseas politician on political and civil rights in your country is nothing new, and that international political pressure is part of activism.
Mr Jolovan Wham said that lobbying an overseas politician on political and civil rights in your country is nothing new, and that international political pressure is part of activism.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Political activist Jolovan Wham said that from the start, it was "pretty clear" to him that the Singapore Government and political establishment would not be happy with the meeting he had with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently.

"But what I do on my seditious vacation is really none of their business," he added in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Sept 4).

Mr Wham, with historian Thum Ping Tjin, journalist Kirsten Han and graphic novelist Sonny Liew, met Tun Mahathir last Thursday in Putrajaya to talk about democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of information in the region.

They were joined by political exile Tan Wah Piow and Malaysian social activist Hishamuddin Rais.

The group has come under fire from some netizens, after Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng wrote in a Facebook post last Saturday that Dr Thum had invited Dr Mahathir to "bring democracy to Singapore", and that "it appears quite clear to me that PJ Thum does not wish Singapore well".

On Sunday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told reporters it is an absolute no-no to invite a foreign politician to intervene in Singapore's domestic politics.

Mr Wham, responding to the criticisms, said in his Facebook post that "lobbying an overseas politician on political and civil rights in your country is nothing new".

"Activists all over the world do it. The most recent example that comes to mind is Hong Kong Occupy activists lobbying politicians in the United Kingdom and United States. International political pressure IS part of activism," he said, referring to the territory's Occupy Central pro-democracy movement in 2014.

 
 

He added: "Even if PJ had asked Mahathir to 'bring democracy to Singapore'... what's wrong with that?"

One may question Dr Thum's choice of person to lobby, but that is a purely strategic question, and has nothing to do with "foreign interference" or subversion, he said.

"Real interference is when a foreign government tries to rig election results, or breaks into your systems and tries to manipulate information and data," he added.

Mr Wham ended his post by saying: "If there's anyone who is being divisive, it is Shanmugam and Seah for their irresponsible comments, and for unleashing a mob on PJ Thum and Kirsten Han."

Ms Han has said that she and Dr Thum have received accusations of treason and death threats since Mr Seah's Facebook post last Saturday.

Mr Seah, in a new post on Monday, called on netizens to maintain a certain decorum in their comments and "not get personal or abusive".