S'porean Historian Criticised For Wishing Singapore An “Unofficial” Selamat Hari Merdeka

The incident comes a day after PJ Thum's meeting with Tun Mahathir in Putrajaya.

Cover image via Pingtjin Thum/Facebook

Singaporean historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin has drawn fire from the city-state's politicians for appearing to suggest that Singapore celebrate Hari Merdeka

In a Facebook post from his personal account made on 31 August, Thum said: "Selamat Hari Merdeka to the people of the former Federation of Malaya! (and happy unofficial independence day to the people of Singapore!)"

Thum, who often goes by 'PJ Thum', was the first Singaporean to swim the English Channel. He is also the founding director of Project Southeast Asia, University of Oxford and managing director of New Naratif.

The post came a day after Thum sat in an 80-minute meeting with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

According to New Straits Times, Thum had met with Tun Mahathir at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya.

Thum was joined by political dissident Tan Wah Piow, freelance journalist Kirsten Han, civil rights activist Jolovan Wham, award-winning graphic novelist Sonny Liew, and social activist Hishamuddin Rais.

Following the meeting, Thum posted about the encounter on his personal account, saying he urged Tun Mahathir to "take leadership in Southeast Asia for the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of information".

The post was accompanied with a photo of Thum and Tun Mahathir, holding a copy of “Living with Myths in Singapore” which was co-edited by Thum.

The greeting prompted a response from Singaporean MP Seah Kian Peng, who claimed Thum had asked Tun Mahathir to "bring democracy to Singapore" during the meeting

"I wonder what deep historical insight prompted him to make this plea, to Dr M, whose views on the Water Agreement with Singapore, and Singapore knowing its place in relation to Malaysia are well known," Seah wrote in the Facebook post.

Seah continued, "I’m amazed that Dr Thum and his supporters should proclaim that Singapore is part of Malaysia (or Malaya). Perhaps that is why he thinks it is permissible to ask its current prime minister to interfere in our affairs."

"It appears quite clear to me that PJ Thum does not wish Singapore well."

Singapore Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam also joined the rebuke, calling the group's actions "sad and regretful"

Singapore Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam

Image via The Straits Times

Shanmugam told The Straits Times that it is the people's right to "have political differences within Singapore".

However, he said, "I think we should never go out and invite someone foreign, a foreign politician, to intervene in our domestic politics. I think that's an absolute no-no."

However, freelance journalist Kirsten Han has come to Thum's defence, claiming Seah has "misunderstood the nature of the meet" with Tun Mahathir

In a statement posted on her blog, Han says, "His (Seah's) post makes a number of allegations and claims that might lead people to have a very mistaken idea of what happened on Thursday (30 August), and our views."

"PJ's 'happy unofficial independence day' wish to the people of Singapore isn't about declaring Singapore a part of Malaysia, but merely a reference to our own history," Han wrote. 

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