In full: Charles Chong says historian Thum had 'engineered' support for himself, points to 'coordinated attempt' with 'foreign actors' to subvert parliamentary process
Mr Charles Chong, chairman of the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, has released a new statement and an email exchange with regards to historian Dr Thum Pingtjin, and the academics who had written to support his recent comments before the committee. In his statement, Mr Chong said the support appeared to have been "primarily engineered" by Dr Thum himself, working in connection with Dr Philip Kreager, an academic who is a director of a company linked to George Soros.
Mr Chong added: "We must protect our independence and the institution of Parliament. The information now available suggests that there has been a coordinated attempt, with foreign actors involved, to try to influence and subvert our parliamentary processes. This is a serious matter."
This is Mr Chong's statement in full, including his latest exchanges on the matter.
Project Southeast Asia
On 16 April 2018, the trustees of Project Southeast Asia made an online statement in support of Dr Thum Ping Tjin. I responded to them on 20 April 2018. A copy of my response is enclosed (Annex A).
The trustees claimed that the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, which I chair, ignored Dr Thum's submission when we questioned him about Operation Coldstore.
This is untrue. Operation Coldstore was very much part of Dr Thum's submission, which was why he was questioned about it. I also took exception to their claim that historical research could not be challenged by parliamentarians.
I told them that they were being presumptuous in telling the Parliament of Singapore how to do its job.
The points made by Project Southeast Asia were similar to those in a separate and anonymously drafted Open Letter, which I had responded to earlier. The similarity suggests the same hands were involved in both documents. Project Southeast Asia urged the public to sign the Open Letter.
Dr Kreager's email
After Parliament Secretariat sent my response to the trustees, there was an exchange between two of the trustees, with the other trustees copied. The emails were copied to Parliament Secretariat, it would appear inadvertently.
One Professor Jeff Burley, a trustee of Project Southeast Asia, wrote to Dr Philip Kreager on 21 April 2018, asking:
"Has PJ seen all the correspondence? If so, what is his response to this official message from Singapore? There comes a point in any discussion like this where you can just draw a line and say we tried.
"Pursuing things to the bitter end is more likely to be bitter for us than for a government and the University is unlikely to want a pitched battle."
Dr Philip Kreager replied, on 22 April 2018, thus:
"I have kept continuous contact with PJ on all of this, he has amongst other things suggested a draft reply for me, which I will turn to on return...and which point I shall write to all the trustees on recent developments, which are several and positive.
"There is a lot of traction, but I need to think about next steps, which I can't just now, as the meeting is a small but intense historical workshop...but there will be a lot of historians from the meeting who will be signing the petition, and I am hopeful that several of them will be circulating our statement and the online letter for signature to their many colleagues here …"
I have asked for these emails to be released because they lift the curtain on what has been happening in secret. (Annex B)
What Dr Kreager's email reveals
Dr Kreager's email is revealing.
First, it strongly suggests that Dr Thum was involved in the statement by Project Southeast Asia ("I have kept continuous contact with PJ on all of this, he has amongst other things suggested a draft reply for me"). If so, it is likely Dr Thum was involved in the Open Letter as well, since the Open Letter is remarkably similar to the Statement by Project Southeast Asia, with similar misstatements.
Second, Dr Kreager is actively campaigning for Dr Thum – among other things, by circulating the statement by Project Southeast Asia and asking for signatures to the Open Letter ("the meeting is a small but intense historical workshop...but there will be a lot of historians from the meeting who will be signing the petition, and I am hopeful that several of them will be circulating our statement and the online letter for signature to their many colleagues here…").
Third, Dr Kreager and Dr Thum have apparently been working closely together throughout this process.
The Statement by Project Southeast Asia and the Open Letter do not disclose any of this information. They give an appearance of spontaneous academic support for Dr Thum in his battle against parliamentarians in an ex-colony.
Dr Kreager's email suggest this appearance is misleading. The "support" seems to have been primarily engineered by Dr Thum himself, working in close concert with Dr Kreager.
Who is Dr Kreager?
The public should also know about Dr Kreager's relationship with Dr Thum.
(1) Dr Kreager and Dr Thum are the only two directors of a company called Observatory Southeast Asia UK Ltd (OSEA UK). OSEA UK received money from entities linked to George Soros, and intended to set up a subsidiary to carry out political activities in Singapore. Dr Kreager and Dr Thum are thus not mere academic colleagues. They are also business partners and fellow activists engaged in a political project directed at Singaporeans.
(2) OSEA UK owns and manages the New Naratif website. The website carries political articles on Singapore. Dr Thum co-founded the website. Ms Kirsten Han is involved with the website as well.
(3) OSEA UK was to be the parent company of OSEA Pte Ltd. Dr Thum and Ms Han were to be the directors of OSEA Pte Ltd.
The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority had refused registration of OSEA Pte Ltd, as the purposes of the proposed company were clearly political in nature and the company was going to carry out political activities in Singapore with the use of foreign monies collected by OSEA UK.
(4) In addition to their business partnership, Dr Kreager appears to be Dr Thum's academic sponsor too. He is the chairman of Project Southeast Asia, where Dr Thum is the coordinator. Dr Kreager is also the Director of the Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group at Oxford's School of Anthropology, where Dr Thum is a visiting scholar.
It is not clear if those being asked to support the Project Southeast Asia Statement, and the Open Letter, know about the full extent of Dr Kreager's relationship with Dr Thum, or of Dr Thum's role in these documents. There is also no evidence that they have been informed of what actually happened at the Select Committee hearings; the misstatements in these documents suggest that they have not.
This is a serious matter.
We must protect our independence and the institution of Parliament. The information now available suggests that there has been a coordinated attempt, with foreign actors involved, to try to influence and subvert our parliamentary processes. This is a serious matter.
This matter has arisen on top of the as yet unresolved matter of Dr Thum's precise academic affiliation to Oxford University. As I had indicated in my statement of 17 April 2018, Dr Thum has given himself a bewildering variety of titles in his evidence to the Select
Committee — from "Research Fellow in History" to "visiting professorship in anthropology" — almost all of which turned out to be inaccurate, non-existent or misleading.