Historian Thum Ping Tjin has refuted a parliamentary committee’s claim that he lied about his academic credentials and gave “misleading evidence” during hearings on the issue of fake news, saying that the “allegation” is untrue.
Thum said in a Facebook post on Saturday (22 September), “I completely disagree with the Report of the Select Committee’s allegation that I “clearly lied” and misrepresented my academic credentials. I will respond more fully in due course. In the meantime, I repost here statements from Oxford, along with both my submissions to the Select Committee.”
The 38-year-old accompanied his post with web links to his full submissions to the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, and news reports of statements made by academics from Oxford University who attested that Thum was a qualified historian.
On Thursday (20 September) at a press conference on the release of its report and recommendations, the Select Committee said that Thum had sought to paint a picture of holding “an academic position of some seniority with Oxford University”, when this was not the case.
“He was given certain privileges in return for him paying a fee to the university,” said the 10-member panel in a 13-page addendum to its report that was dedicated to the committee’s exchanges with three parties critical of its work: Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and Thum.
In March during a Select Committee hearing, Thum was grilled by Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on his assertions for six hours over statements in his submission. Thum had accused PAP politicians in the 1960s of themselves being guilty of “fake news” by allegedly fabricating charges to detain people without trial under Operation Coldstore in 1963, on the grounds that the detainees were linked to radical communists.
Shanmugam said of Thum at the committee’s press conference on Thursday: “Since his perspective was unique, we thought that we will set out what we thought of his representation because the committee concluded that he lied about his academic credentials (or) academic positions, and that on the representations, he was not credible.”
Asked if any action would be taken against Thum for lying under oath to the Select Committee, Shanmugam would only say that it would be “inappropriate for us to comment at this stage on that”.
Under the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act, it is an offence to wilfully make a false answer to any question material to the subject of inquiry put during examination before Parliament or a committee. The penalty for the offence is a fine of up to $7,000 and/or up to 3 years’ jail.
The government has accepted in-principle the Select Committee’s recommendation for a multi-pronged approach to combat DOFs.
In a joint statement issued by the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Ministry of Law, the government said it “will study the Committee’s report closely and work with stakeholders to roll out the non-legislative and legislative measures recommended by the Committee over the next few months.”