In an op-ed yesterday (“Operation Coldstore and the perils of academic misinformation”, ST, 4 April 2018), Kumar Ramakrishna notes that his book “Original Sin? Revising the Revisionist Critique of the 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore” “critiqued the notion” by me and other historians “that Coldstore was mounted for crass political reasons rather than legitimate security ones” and says that “it is simply untrue that [Thum’s] scholarship has been unchallenged.”
While Prof Kumar’s book challenged my work, it did not contradict my central thesis. In pages 84-95, Prof Kumar accepts that there is no evidence that the detainees of Operation Coldstore were involved in a communist conspiracy to subvert the government of Singapore, and quotes Dr Goh Keng Swee, Lord Selkirk, DPM Toh Chin Chye, and Malaysian CPM expert CC Too as accepting there was no evidence. Instead, Prof Kumar’s argument, starting in page 89, is to redefine security in a “maximalist” way (page 91) that explicitly includes potential political outcomes unfavourable to Lee Kuan Yew as a threat to security, and approvingly quotes Dr Goh saying, “The real nature of the threat was that they could be in a position to take over the state in a future general election.”
In other words, Prof Kumar not only accepts the fact there there was no evidence that the detainees of Operation Coldstore were involved in any communist conspiracy to overthrow the government, but his argument supports my point that political considerations were the primary reason for Operation Coldstore. I reproduce the relevant pages here, with his citations. I note that Prof Kumar was given privileged access to the Singapore Internal Security Department Archives for this book.
I urge him to make his sources public so that the people of Singapore can decide the truth for ourselves. Prof Kumar has previously not accepted invitations to debate me, but I still welcome the opportunity to have an honest academic debate with him.