Exile Tan Wah Piow invited Mahathir to democracy conference, not Thum Ping Tjin: Kirsten Han

Political exile Tan Wah Piow (centre) with Thum Ping Tin (left) in Malaysia in August 2018. (Photo Razak Ghazali via The Malay Mail)

It was political exile Tan Wah Piow, and not historian Thum Ping Tjin, who invited Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to address a conference about democracy in Southeast Asia, said activist Kirsten Han in the latest development in the controversy over a meeting between Mahathir and a group of Singaporeans.

Han was responding to a statement by Sunny Lee, press secretary to Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, on the meeting which took place last Thursday (30 August). Lee had said, “Dr Thum also invited Dr Mahathir to address a conference about promoting democracy in Southeast Asia.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Han stressed, “This isn’t fact. It’s inaccurate. It was not Pingtjin Thum who invited Dr Mahathir. It was Tan Wah Piow. The conference is the project of Wah Piow and Malaysian activist Hishamuddin Rais; the rest of us are not involved in it.” Malaysian activist Hishamuddin, foreign worker advocate Jolovan Wham and graphic novelist Sonny Liew were also present at the meeting.

Tan also commented on the post, “Hi Kirsten, You are right. The invite was from me, on behalf of FORSEA, that was accurately reported in the press. PJ is not part of the organisation.”

Lee’s statement was in response to complaint letters by Han, Thum and Wham, addressed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, to look into the “highly irresponsible” and “unbecoming” allegations made by MP Seah Kian Peng of the meeting.

Han also added that the accusations have been “amplified” by the People’s Action Party Facebook page, the mainstream media and other members of the PAP and Select Committee, such as  Shanmugam.

But Lee said that Shanmugam stood by his comments on the meeting, noting, “We can have vigorous debates within Singapore about our own affairs. But you cross a red line when you invite foreign powers or foreign leaders into Singapore politics.”

In her latest post, Han noted that she had attended the East Asia Democracy Forum in Taipei this year, while former ambassador Kishore Mahbubani is also speaking at the Athens Democracy Forum this month. Other speakers include the Chief of the Cabinet Ministers for Argentina and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, said Han.

“Do all these forums equate to interfering in Singapore’s politics? Or is Singapore interfering in other people’s politics?”

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