SINGAPORE: Historian Thum Ping Tjin had “clearly lied” about his academic credentials in the evidence he gave to the Select Committee tasked to look into the problem of combating deliberate online falsehoods, the committee said in its report released on Thursday (Sep 20).
It did not find Dr Thum to be a credible representor, based on his conduct in relation to the committee. It had also given no weight to Dr Thum’s views.
Asked why Dr Thum was mentioned specifically in the report, Law Minister and committee member K Shanmugam said that the academic was a representor during the public hearings and gave evidence.
"Since his perspective was unique, we thought that we will set out what we thought of the representation because the committee concluded that he lied about his academic positions and that on the representations, he was not credible," Mr Shanmugam explained.
He added that it was "not appropriate" to comment at this stage, when asked if further action will be taken against Dr Thum for lying while giving his representation under oath.
The 10-member committee made 22 recommendations on how to tackle the problem of deliberate online falsehoods in its report. First set up in January, it had received 170 written representations and heard oral evidence from 65 individuals and organisations over an eight-day period in March.
Dr Thum had submitted a written representation and was invited to give oral evidence to the committee at a public hearing in March. During the hearing, the historian was grilled for almost six hours by Mr Shanmugam over the historian’s interpretation of events such as Operation Coldstore.
Dr Thum had challenged the existence of a communist conspiracy that led to the 1963 arrests, drawing a sharp response from Mr Shanmugam, who also took him to task on specifics written in Dr Thum's Asia Research Institute paper.
Following the hearing, the Parliament Secretariat wrote to Dr Thum, asking him to clarify his academic credentials. In a press release in April, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament said that Dr Thum’s written representation to the committee had “stated that he was, amongst other things, a research fellow in history at Oxford University”.
But during the hearing, Dr Thum had informed the committee that he held a “visiting professorship in anthropology”, and subsequently explained online that he was a “visiting research fellow in history within the department of anthropology”.
DR THUM’S ACADEMIC CREDENTIALS “UNTRUE”: SELECT COMMITTEE
Giving more details about the issue in an addendum to its report, the committee explained that Dr Thum had responded to the Parliament Secretariat which sought a clarification, saying that his position as a “research fellow in history” was accurate as of November 2016, and has been corrected on the oral record. He added that he was a research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Global History.
“This was a typographical oversight that I corrected in my oral statement,” Dr Thum was quoted as saying.
READ: Claims of conspiracy to subvert parliamentary processes ‘clearly preposterous’, says Oxford academic
However, the committee stressed that Dr Thum’s statements were untrue, and that he had never held the position of research fellow in history at Oxford University. It added that the university also confirmed that Dr Thum was not, and never was, an employee of the institution.
He was a visiting fellow with the Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group in the School of Anthropology. Prior to that, he was a visiting scholar, not a research fellow, at the Oxford Centre for Global History, which was an unpaid position.
“He misrepresented his academic credentials in his evidence, to suggest that he held more distinguished roles at Oxford University than the unpaid positions he held, and visiting scholar arrangements he obtained in return for paying a fee,” it said.
“His claim that his repeated misrepresentations were unintentional is not believable.”
The committee also pointed out that Dr Thum had admitted that he had not read or had chosen not to give any weight to accounts by senior cadres of the Communist Party of Malaya that he acknowledged contradicted his allegation.
Furthermore, despite submitting an additional follow-up representation, Dr Thum also failed to follow up with documents to substantiate his claim that he had indirectly dealt with contradictory evidence in his publications, the committee added.