MP Seah Kian Peng yesterday called on netizens to maintain a certain decorum in their comments and "not get personal or abusive", in a new Facebook post about historian Thum Ping Tjin.
Mr Seah was following up on an earlier post about Dr Thum and freelance journalist Kirsten Han, who were part of a group that met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya last Thursday. In his initial post last Saturday, Mr Seah questioned Dr Thum for inviting Tun Dr Mahathir to bring democracy to Singapore. He also said "it appears quite clear to me that PJ Thum does not wish Singapore well".
Several activists called on Mr Seah to retract his post, including Ms Han, who said his statements were "baseless" and had triggered "a torrent of accusations of treason" and death threats against the group that met the Malaysian Prime Minister in Putrajaya last week.
Dr Thum, himself, said that the notion that he is a traitor to Singapore is "ridiculous and unfounded".
Mr Seah yesterday noted his initial post had generated a number of comments, and thanked those who agreed with and backed his views.
"Whilst we have different points of view... we can all agree to disagree and be civil about it," he wrote. "It is regretful that I see all kinds of abusive remarks that are made by many different individuals (and trolls) against each other. I do not support such types of comments, regardless of what views or positions they take."
The MP did, however, apologise for wrongly assuming that former political detainee Teo Soh Lung was still a member of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).
He had flagged a comment Ms Teo made on a video of an Aug 18 forum posted on The Online Citizen's Facebook page.
She wrote that "Singapore is part of Malaya la", to which Mr Seah said: "Really? This is what PJ Thum and Teo Soh Lung and the SDP believe in their heart of hearts?"
Mr Seah yesterday noted the SDP has stated that Dr Thum and Ms Teo are not its members. He said he assumed Ms Teo was still a party member as she had stood as an SDP candidate in the 2011 General Election.
"I apologise for this wrong assumption and thank SDP for the clarification," he said.
Dr Thum and Ms Han met Dr Mahathir last Thursday, along with political exile Tan Wah Piow, comic artist Sonny Liew, activist Jolovan Wham and Malaysian social activist Hishamuddin Rais.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Sunday described the conduct of the Singaporeans involved in the meeting as "sad" and "regretful".
AGREE TO DISAGREE, BUT BE CIVIL
Whilst we have different points of view... we can all agree to disagree and be civil about it. It is regretful that I see all kinds of abusive remarks that are made by many different individuals (and trolls) against each other. I do not support such types of comments, regardless of what views or positions they take.
MP SEAH KIAN PENG
DISPUTING TRAITOR'S LABEL
I love my country and my people. I believe democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of information will make Singapore and our world better.
HISTORIAN THUM PING TJIN
He said it is an absolute no-no to invite a foreign politician to intervene in Singapore's domestic politics.
The minister also said "it is quite clear what that means" when Dr Thum wrote in a Facebook post that he had urged Dr Mahathir to "take leadership in South-east Asia for the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of information".
Defending himself yesterday, Dr Thum said: "I love my country and my people.
"I believe democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of information will make Singapore and our world better."
Referring to a talk he gave at a forum in Johor Baru on Aug 18, Dr Thum said he does not want Singapore to "do a Malaysia", but for "Singapore to do a Singapore".
The solution to many of Singapore's problems, he said, lies with Singaporeans. "But that does not preclude us from learning from others' experiences to make our country better," he said, adding that "we can always aspire to improve the quality of our democracy".
Local non-governmental group Community Action Network has put up an online letter saying Mr Seah is "propagating misinformation". It called on Mr Seah to apologise, retract his post and resign from the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, of which the MP is a member.