'A little sad, a bit regretful': Shanmugam on activists' move to engage Mahathir

SINGAPORE: Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has hit out at the move by a group of activists – led by political dissident Tan Wah Piow and historian Thum Ping Tjin – to engage Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad

The duo – along with freelance journalist Kirsten Han, civil rights activist Jolovan Wham and graphic novelist Sonny Liew – met Dr Mahathir last Thursday (Aug 30), where they invited him to speak at a democracy conference next year.

On the sidelines of a grassroots event on Sunday (Sep 2), Mr Shanmugam said: “I think the whole conduct is a little sad, a bit regretful. We can have political differences within Singapore – it is the people’s right.

“We should never go out and invite someone foreign, a foreign politician to intervene in our domestic politics. I think that is an absolute no-no.”

READ: Historian Thum Ping Tjin ‘does not wish Singapore well’, says MP Seah Kian Peng

READ: Malaysia PM Mahathir invited to speak at democracy conference by political activists

A day after his meeting with Dr Mahathir, Dr Thum posted on Facebook saying he had asked the Malaysian leader to take a leading role in promoting democracy and freedom of expression in Southeast Asia.

Mr Shanmugam said: “I think it’s quite clear what that means.”

In March, Dr Thum and Mr Shanmugam had crossed swords for six hours at a public hearing held by the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods over the academic’s alternative interpretation of historical events such as Operation Coldstore.

Last Thursday’s meeting was organised with the help of Malaysian political activist, Hishammuddin Rais, who was present and is also part of Tan’s organisation – Forces for the Renewal of Southeast Asia.

Mr Shanmugam’s comments came a day after Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng hit out at Dr Thum over his Facebook posts that, in Mr Seah’s words, show that the historian “does not wish Singapore well”.

Mr Seah questioned Dr Thum’s invitation to the Malaysian prime minister to “bring democracy to Singapore”.

“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,” he wrote.


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