PJ Thum And Dr M’s Meeting Has Raised Eyebrows In Some Quarters
Dr Mahathir has raised eyebrows once again after meeting Singaporean civil activists and political dissidents in Putrajaya on Thursday (Aug 30). Dr M met:
- Historian PJ Thum
- Journalist Kirsten Han
- Civil rights activist Jolovan Wham
- Award-winning graphic novelist Sonny Liew
- Former political dissident Tan Wah Piow
Critics of the activists – like diplomatic heavyweight Bilahari Kausikan – have had a field day theorising what the 6 could have talked about during their 80-minute meeting. They have also brushed off the meetings as “treacherous”.
But not everyone was butthurt about the meeting, with one fan even calling PJ Thum the greatest Singaporean:
With a blogger like Kirsten Han around, there’s no need to actually guess what went on behind closed doors. She recounted her experience on her blog, sharing that Dr M was open to questions on anything. Ms Han wrote,
We’d been told that it would be “free for all” — the prime minister was prepared to field our questions.
Ms Han also shared the unique circumstances in which the meeting had been held. It was the brainchild of former jailed activist Hishamuddin Rais – and the fact that it was accepted by Dr Mahathir was a “mind-bending twist” to Ms Han.
Armed with this attitude, Dr M and the activists spoke about:
- Malaysia-Singapore relations
- Immigration processing times at the Causeway
- Political reform
- Human rights
- LGBT rights
The matter of LGBT rights was especially timely, given Malaysian DPM Wan Azizah’s recent comments on the matter, in which she said it was haram to accept LGBT values. Dr Mahathir agreed with that, adding
A man kissing a man looks so odd! … Muslims would be offended if we accept these [LGBT] values.
PJ Thum and those Hock Lee bus riots
What has interested many netizens is the inclusion of PJ Thum in the talks. His war of words with Law Minister K Shanmugam earlier this year is still fresh in people’s minds and many are curious about what he had to say to Dr M.
In May, Dr Thum broke the Internet when he suggested that the British had blamed PAP for the Hock Lee bus riots. In a 2,700-word report, he detailed how the British alleged that PAP leaders had directed students and workers to instigate the riots.
Dr Thum’s report was largely ignored by the mainstream media, which chose to focus on his argument with Mr Shanmugam instead. The ruling party maintains that the riots were the work of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP).
Perhaps Dr Thum wanted to share his theory with Dr M, who notably made peace with MCP in the 1980s. But Dr M has staunchly refused to acknowledge them as patriots, nationalists or freedom fighters, instead criticising the group for its militant tactics. Might have made for an interesting discussion.
Or maybe PJ Thum just wanted to give Dr M a copy of Living with Myths in Singapore, a book he contributed to. In case you’re interested, Living with Myths in Singapore available is at the National Library Board. We were just as surprised when we found out.
A meeting to think about
The activists also invited Dr M to speak at a regional conference on democracy. It’s a funny thing for Dr M to do, given his high-profile disses of the media and democratic institutions.
Still, he has accepted the invitation “in-principle”, according to TODAY. Mr Tan said the conference will take place in Kuala Lumpur next year.