Larger point made in submission still stands: Thum

Historian Thum Ping Tjin maintains that a 1963 round-up of leftists in a swoop code-named Operation Coldstore was motivated by political, not security, reasons and that this larger point in his submission to the Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods still stands.

His views were set out in a follow-up submission to the Select Committee on Thursday, which was also published online - the latest development in the continuing controversy over Dr Thum's appearance in front of the committee in March.

At the hearing, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, a committee member, questioned Dr Thum for six hours, arguing that Dr Thum's interpretation of documents from the Special Branch - the agency that preceded the Internal Security Department - was flawed.

While Dr Thum contends that there is no evidence to show that the detainees were involved in any violent communist conspiracy to overthrow the Singapore Government, Mr Shanmugam argues that there was a communist conspiracy in the 1950s and early 1960s to mount an armed struggle against the state.

Later, in an article submitted to The Straits Times, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee and Senior Minister of State for Transport and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, both members of the committee, said Dr Thum had conceded that his writings were misleading in parts.

However, Dr Thum has challenged the committee's conclusions in his latest submission, saying that the crux of his original submission had not been addressed in the discussion. The committee had focused instead on an article on Operation Coldstore that had been cited in his submission, he added.

At the same time, he wrote, "at no point did I accept that any part of my article was inaccurate or misleading".

During the hearing, he had said that a statement in his paper concerning a September 1962 telegram from Lord Selkirk, the British Commissioner to Singapore during Operation Coldstore, could have been worded better. While there was a unanimous call by Barisan Sosialis members to continue following peaceful constitutional action in order to achieve power in Singapore in late 1962, Dr Thum acknowledged that they had not explicitly ruled out armed struggle.

In his follow-up submission, though, Dr Thum said his argument that there was unanimous agreement on the part of Barisan Sosialis to continue following peaceful constitutional action remains accurate.

Dr Thum also added that there is an error in the transcript of the hearing. While Mr Shanmugam had corrected himself and referred to a Dec 11, 1962 telegram, numbered 573, from Lord Selkirk, it appears that he continues to be referring to a Dec 14, 1962 telegram in the transcript, said Dr Thum.

In response to queries, Select Committee chairman Charles Chong said that the committee will look at Dr Thum's submission after Parliament reconvenes next week.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2018, with the headline 'Larger point made in submission still stands: Thum'. Print Edition | Subscribe