SINGAPORE — Raeesah Khan's lie about having accompanied an alleged rape victim who was mistreated by police did not cause the police to be adversely impacted, Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh testified before the Committee of Privileges (COP) on Friday (10 December).
According to the third special report released by the COP on Sunday, Singh was asked if it was “okay to have a lie in Parliament where the lie relates to the reaction of the Police, bad reaction... to a complaint by a sexual assault victim”.
In response, the Leader of the Opposition noted that police are not a "broken-back” organisation. He questioned the amount of work put in by the police to check on the allegation, and didn’t feel that a wrong had been done to the police by the former Sengkang Member of Parliament's (MP) allegations against them.
Echoing party vice-chair Faisal Manap's testimony on Thursday, the Leader of the Opposition also denied that he had told Raeesah – who resigned on 30 November – to take her lie "to the grave". When asked why Raeesah might have lied about this, Singh said that Raeesah had told the party's disciplinary panel that she might have disassociation, a psychological condition that affects one's sense of identity and perception of time.
Singh, who is also an MP for Aljunied, asked the COP to consider asking Raeesah to undergo a psychological assessment.
Sitting before the COP for a total of about nine hours, Singh responded to questioning led by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong. The exchange between the two quickly became testy, with Tong remarking at one point, "Let's put across some rules. First, I think we don't speak over each other. Don't interrupt me."
Singh said in response "I hope it works both ways, sir." And when Tong, who is also Second Minister for Law, commented that the 45-year-old appeared to know his positions very well, Singh replied, "Well, I am Leader of the Opposition."
At one point, when Singh asked how many sexual assault victims Tong had dealt with, the Minister bristled and told Singh to refrain from making personal references to him. Singh replied, “Mr Tong, I think you’re being hyper-sensitive. I am not making any personal reference against you.”
A second special report, incorporating Faisal's testimony, was released by the COP on Saturday. Faisal, party chair Sylvia Lim and Singh were all called to testify before the COP, with Faisal testifying for six hours on Thursday. Sengkang MP Jamus Lim has also been called to testify.
The Committee has been tasked to investigate a complaint by Leader of the House Indranee Rajah pertaining to Raeesah's conduct in Parliament.
Last Thursday, Raeesah told the COP that the trio of WP leaders had advised her to maintain the lie she told Parliament on 3 August about accompanying an alleged rape victim to a police station and her allegations over insensitive remarks by a police officer, said a COP special report released the day after the 27-year-old's testimony.
Following her meeting with Singh, Lim and Faisal, Raeesah had sent a WhatsApp message to her aides Loh Pei Ying and Yudhishthra Nathan, “Hey guys, I just met pritam, Sylvia and Faisal. And we spoke about the Muslim issue and the police accusation. I told them what I told you guys, and they’ve agreed that the best thing to do is to take the information to the grave. They also suggested that I write a statement to send out this evening.”
Following the release of the first COP report, the WP noted that it was released without having taken the evidence of WP leaders against whom serious allegations have been made. In response, the COP said that it had done so to keep Parliament informed of the probe's progress.
'Really angry and upset' by her confession
In the days following Raeesah's parliamentary speech on 3 August, Pritam pressed her for more details of the alleged victim, but she claimed that she was unable to contact the victim.
On 7 August, Raeesah called Singh. During the conversation, he asked her directly if the anecdote she related in the House had indeed happened. She then confessed that it was false, leaving Singh "really angry and upset", and he cut the call.
The following day, a meeting was held at Singh's house with Raeesah, Lim, Faisal and Singh. She then explained that she had lied because she was labouring under a traumatic episode after having been the victim of a serious sexual assault. "She was upset, and cried as she shared her experience," said the report.
However, there was no substantive discussion at the meeting on what to do about Raeesah's lie as everyone was shocked at the news, said Singh. They were sympathetic to her and were more concerned about her well-being. "Mr Singh did not direct or instruct Ms Khan to clarify the untruth. He also did not recall Ms Lim or Mr Faisal discussing what to do with the untruth and how to clarify it," said the report.
As Raeesah was leaving Singh’s house, Singh told her, “We’ll have to deal with this issue, but speak to your parents first.” In view of her sexual assault, Singh was prepared to give her time, and added that it was important for her to speak to her parents because that would be a condition prior to her coming clean in Parliament.
However, the LO agreed that "it would be fair to say that Ms Khan would have left the 8 Aug meeting not being very clear in her mind about the Party leaders’ instructions on how to deal with her lie", said the report.
No discussions for two months
After the 8 August meeting, Singh did not discuss the matter with Raeesah again until October. Between the meeting and end-September, no steps were taken by him, Lim or Faisal to ensure that Raeesah would come clean. He stressed that it was her responsibility to speak to him about the matter, after she had settled things with her parents.
On the evening of 3 October, a day before Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam confronted Raeesah on her allegations in Parliament, Singh visited Raeesah’s home with his wife. He then told her that it was entirely possible that someone might ask her about her August anecdote in Parliament the next day.
He said that “if the issue came up”, Raeesah had “to take responsibility and ownership of the issue”, and if she did so, he “will not judge” her. But he admitted that he did not specifically tell her to speak the truth, and none of the usual preparatory steps, such as discussing a draft statement, were taken vis-à-vis the clarification that she might have to deliver.
None of these steps were taken before the October sitting because he was unsure if the matter would come up, and if it did not come up, then Raeesah may not have clarified. He added that if the matter was not raised, then he had no plans to voluntarily get the issue clarified, because it was her responsibility.
Singh was then asked about Raeesah's testimony to the COP that he had said if she continued the narrative, he would not judge her for doing so. "That's not true," said Singh, who added that based on what he had told Raeesah, he had an expectation – as opposed to an understanding – that she would clarify the truth, if the matter was raised.
"Though not articulated to Ms Khan, what Mr Singh meant by this was that he will not judge Ms Khan if she took responsibility and ownership," said the report. However, he did not ask if she had informed her parents about the assault, though he had set that as a precondition before she clarified the truth in public.
'What should I do, Pritam?'
At the 4 October sitting, Shanmugam gave a short Ministerial Statement about Raeesah’s anecdote, and sought clarification from her. While he was doing so, she texted Pritam to ask, “What should I do, Pritam?”
"Mr Singh agreed that Ms Khan’s message was completely at odds with his evidence: that as of 3 Oct, he expected her to tell the truth if the matter came up...and yet she was asking him for instructions," said the report. But the WP chief did not respond as he did not see the message till after the exchange.
Singh then met with Raeesah in the LO office that same evening for a “very, very short” meeting. Singh recalled that Raeesah was in a daze and said, “Perhaps there is another way. That is, to tell the truth.”
Singh then said he was very upset and replied, “But look at the choice you made.”
Asked if her words reasonably suggested that Raeesah was under the impression, until that point, that she was not to tell the truth, Singh disagreed. The LO told the COP, “She jolly well should know what to do. She has to tell the truth, end of story.”
Request from police
On 7 October, Raeesah received an email from the police requesting assistance on her parliamentary anecdote. She forwarded it to Singh, Lim and Faisal, and asked for their advice on what to do. Singh confirmed that he did not advise her to respond to the police, though he agreed that the police request was reasonable.
When asked why he had not advised Raeesah to explain her position to the police, despite being invited to do so three times, Singh said that this was because it was clear to him that her untruth had to be corrected in Parliament, where it was originally made.
On 12 Oct, Singh initiated a meeting with Raeesah and Lim. While Raeesah had told the COP she wanted to discuss the advice that she received from her lawyers about the police request, Singh said he wanted to discuss how she should correct her untruth in Parliament. This was the first discussion they had had on this issue after 4 October.
At the meeting, Raeesah was initially still unwilling to correct the falsehood in Parliament, which made Lim very upset. Singh impressed upon Raeesah that there was no other way but to do so, and she eventually agreed.
Press statements left out key facts
Following Raeesah's confession of her lie on 1 November, Singh put up a Facebook post on the matter that day, and the WP put out a media statement announcing the formation of a Disciplinary Panel (DP) the next day. Neither statement disclosed the fact that Raeesah had confessed the lie to senior party leaders on 8 August.
Asked if it would have been open, transparent and honest for these facts to have been disclosed, Singh said that it was not important for Parliament, and not relevant for the public to know this.
But would the suppression of Raeesah's August confession, and that Singh had spoken with her on 3 October, give the impression that it was all her doing?
Singh responded that it was irrelevant to mention these facts in the two press statements. "According to Mr Singh, the involvement of himself, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal in the events that unfolded would only become relevant if they could be shown to have directed Ms Khan to lie."
Facts 'not relevant' to CEC, party members
Following Raeesah's resignation on 30 November, the WP held a press conference on 2 December where it admitted that it had known of Raeesah's lie since August. Singh was then asked why had chosen to disclose the party leaders’ knowledge and involvement from August, when he had previously held that it was irrelevant to the public.
It was pointed out to Singh that the press conference was held at around the same time that Raeesah gave her testimony. However, he denied that he had disclosed for the first time the extent of the party leaders’ involvement because he knew that these facts would also come out in the evidence given to the COP.
He added that the timing of the press conference was coincidental. The LO noted that by that time, there had already been questions and ‘chatter’ in the online space as to when and how much the WP leaders knew about Raeesah’s untruths. He therefore decided to address this issue, as he anticipated that journalists would ask questions about it.
Singh was asked why the DP had not disclosed to either the CEC or party members that he, Lim and Faisal had known of Raeesah's lies. He disagreed that it was relevant whether Raeesah had kept the untruth hidden for many months, or if she had confessed the lie to the senior leaders at an early stage.
He said that the level of Raeesah’s perceived culpability would not make a difference to members’ submissions, nor would the extent to which she had cooperated with the party. He added that the CEC could have asked the DP whether and when the DP knew about Raeesah’s 3 August untruth, if it wanted.
Conflict of evidence
Given that the DP comprised Singh, Lim and Faisal, it was pointed out to Singh that there was a conflict of evidence, as Raeesah claimed she had been told by the trio to continue with her lie. Would this not be seen as a cover up, if Raeesah was telling the truth?
Singh said that it never crossed his mind and that of Lim and Faisal that there was any problem.
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