Who’s Afraid Of PJ Thum?
I don’t think Dr. Thum Ping Tjin is a traitor.

If there’s any real evidence that he’s a ‘foreign agent’ as MP Seah Kian Peng insinuates, he would have been arrested by now.

If there was proof of treason, the punishment would – and should – be much more severe.

Asking Dr. Mahathir to ‘take leadership’ on democracy and human rights is stupid and pointless.

However, it is not the same as inviting him  to ‘intervene’ in Singapore’s directly. As it stands, there is no evidence that Dr. Mahathir and PJ Thum made solid plans to undermine our elected government. There’s no evidence that Dr Mahathir even acknowledged his statement —beyond smiling for the cameras as any politician would.

As to whether PJ Thum ‘means Singapore well’, that’s a completely pointless debate. Everyone has a different idea of what’s good for Singapore.

What’s really interesting is the establishment’s singular obsession with PJ Thum.

Four activists went to Malaysia but only one returned, as far as our government is concerned.

Kirsten Han has been more active on social media and Jolovan Wham has taken a much more radical stance (one which I disagree with), but everyone seems only interested in PJ Thum.

The original FB post by Seah Kian Peng singled him out (PJ Thum and friends), and since then, we’ve heard nothing but Thum-der all week. Various media outlets have painstakingly dug through his social media history for ‘evidence’ of ill intent, and our ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan has cast aspersions upon his character.

Even his old nemesis Minister Shanmugam has found time to weigh in, with a legally waterproof/suitably vague statement of “I think it’s quite clear what that means.”

Why was this ‘courtesy’ not extended to the other members of the group?

If I were Kirsten Han, I would feel relieved but also slightly insulted by the government’s focus on PJ Thum. Why pick him in particular when all parties have taken a more or less similar position on Dr. Mahathir – seeing him as beacon of democracy in an increasingly despotic Southeast Asia?

A simple explanation would be the Select Committee On Deliberate Online Falsehoods, whose members must surely hate him for digging up Operation Coldstore.

However, I don’t think parliamentary animosity explains everything. PJ Thum is not just any garden-variety opposition. He is a rare and unique archetype found only in Singaporean politics: The PAP Minister Gone Rogue.

Think about it. PJ Thum has the perfect pedigree to be a PAP Minister. He is an elite school graduate (ACS), a scholarship holder (Rhodes), Ivy-League plus Oxbridge-educated (Harvard/Oxford) and an Olympian to boot (Splash).

Importantly, he is also Chinese and male.

Where have we seen those attributes before, I wonder? Oh right, in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister-elect Chan Swee Kung. All PJ Thum needs is a quick stint as SAF general and he will fit in nicely with our current leadership.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that he has far more political appeal than our charmless 4G roster. Superficially, at least. His speeches are more eloquent than Chan Chun Sing for sure, and his demeanor more youthful than Heng Swee Keat.

In terms of looks, there’s little competition. If you look past the ‘symbolism’ of what that Mahathir handshake could mean, you will see someone who knows how to carry himself with a grace and confidence that suggests immense privilege.

For a younger generation who has grown disillusioned with politics, he just might be a credible anti-establishment figure

This, I believe, is the reason why they have focused their attention on PJ Thum. He is a threat because he contains precisely all the qualities the PAP seeks in its political candidates, and imaginably, what they want us to seek in a political representative.

In short, he triggers our government because he is an opposition-owned PAP minister.

Past models include: Chee Soon Juan (Doctorate, ACS, Beta version) and also WP’s Chen Show Mao, who caused a similar stir when he first appeared. Like PJ Thum, he was an old ACS boy, Ivy-league educated and a top student. Like PJ Thum, he was also subject to snide comments about ‘loyalty’ because of his long career abroad.

It follows a well-trod path. If you can’t demolish a man’s impeccably elite credentials, question his allegiance to Singapore.

Where he once stood, PJ Thum now stands.

Are you offended? Are we also traitors? Write to the ISD and tell them at community@ricemedia.co.
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