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SINGAPORE — Aljunied Member of Parliament Faisal Manap denied that the Workers' Party's (WP) senior leaders had instructed Raeesah Khan to take her lies before Parliament "to the grave", as he testified before the Committee of Privileges (COP) on Thursday (9 December).
However, he also acknowledged that the party's Central Executive Committee (CEC) voted in favour of the former Sengkang MP's expulsion despite not all CEC members having knowledge of the full facts – namely, that she had confessed her lie to WP chief Pritam Singh, party chair Sylvia Lim and Faisal days after she had uttered it in August.
In addition, the 46-year-old was held in contempt of Parliament as he repeatedly refused to answer the COP's queries on what documents had been brought along to his meetings with Singh and Lim on Wednesday and Thursday, prior to his testimony before the COP.
A second special report, incorporating Faisal's testimony, was released by the COP on Saturday. Following a meeting of the COP on Monday, Faisal, Lim and Singh were all called to testify before the COP, with Faisal testifying for six hours on Thursday.
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.
Overwhelmed' by Raeesah's confession
Faisal told the COP that he had been called to an hour-long meeting at Singh's house on the morning of 8 August, together with Lim and Raeesah. He had been under the impression that the discussion would primarily be about other issues which Raeesah had raised during her statement in Parliament on 3 August, namely female genital cutting and polygamy.
Instead, Raeesah said that she had suffered a sexual assault as a student in Australia when she was 18. She then broke down and cried. She also confessed to the trio that the anecdote she had told Parliament about accompanying an alleged rape victim to make a police report was untrue.
This was the first time that Faisal discovered Raeesah had lied to Parliament. He was also unaware that she had spoke to Singh before the meeting to inform him that she had lied. "Mr Faisal said that he, Mr Singh, and Ms Lim were overwhelmed by what Ms Khan shared about her sexual assault," said the COP report.
"There was no anger against Ms Khan, after she shared her experience. Nor did Mr Singh indicate that Ms Khan should go before the COP. Mr Faisal said that he, Mr Singh and Ms Lim had tried to console and comfort Ms Khan," said the report. Faisal was worried about Raeesah's well-being, especially as he was a former counsellor, and even suggested that he could partner an asatizah (Islamic religious teacher) to counsel her.
After Raeesah calmed down, Faisal raised the issues of female genital cutting and polygamy and asked her to put out a Facebook statement later that day to clear the air, as there was unhappiness among the Muslim community about what she had said. Raeesah agreed, and Singh and Lim did not object.
No discussion with Singh, Lim or Raeesah
None of the three leaders reacted to Raeesah’s confession to them, and they did not discuss what to do about it, even though Faisal was "quite alarmed". He said that this was because they had been "overwhelmed", and their main concern was for her well-being. "Mr Faisal said that he understood that it would be hard to understand why the three of them did not react to Ms Khan’s confession that she had told an untruth in Parliament," said the report.
After the meeting, Faisal did not discuss the issue with Raeesah, Singh or Lim. "In short, he told COP that he was not involved in anything relating to the untruth." From 8 August till 29 October, Faisal did not communicate further with them on Raeesah's untruth. He was neither involved in nor aware of any discussions that the others might have had amongst themselves on the issue during this time.
The MP agreed that it would have struck him almost immediately that Raeesah's lie was a "big problem". He also agreed that it would have been logical to have asked questions about her intention to clarify the lie, at various points in the events that transpired.
However, he left Singh to handle the matter because he trusted the WP chief and believed that Singh had the information to make the judgment call on the matter. He also trusted Raeesah to do the right thing.
Singh did not update Faisal at any point in time about how he was handling the matter. Faisal agreed that it would be reasonable for Raeesah to assume that her senior party leaders were not concerned with the untruth she had told in Parliament, because they said nothing, made no comment and did not tell her what she should do.
"However, he felt that if Ms Khan had wanted guidance from him, Ms Lim or Mr Singh, she should have proactively asked them for guidance, when they remained silent on the issue at the 8 Aug meeting. In Mr Faisal’s view, Ms Khan was an adult and the mother of two children, and was not young," said the report.
WhatsApp message untrue, says Faisal
On the WhatsApp message Raeesah had sent to her aides, Faisal maintained that everything in it was true, except for the claim that they had spoken with regards to the police accusation, and that the senior leaders had asked her to take the lie in Parliament “to the grave”.
"He said that Ms Khan was lying about this, but he could not explain why she would do so," said the report. Nevertheless, he agreed that everything that Raeesah had done after the 8 August meeting would be consistent with her account to Loh and Nathan of what happened during the meeting, if that account was true.
Faisal was not in Parliament during Raeesah’s exchange with Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on 4 October, where she repeated her lie, as he had arrived in the chamber later. He learnt about the exchange later that day.
'Shocked and worried'
Faisal was shocked and worried by the exchange and appreciated that this was a serious problem for Raeesah and that the WP was in trouble. This put him and the WP in a “more difficult position”, as she had now lied twice in Parliament.
At that point, the WP CEC was unaware that the trio of party leaders knew Raeesah had lied before Parliament twice on the same matter. However, Faisal did not do anything, nor did he speak with anyone about it. "To his mind, this was a matter for Mr Singh to deal with. The timing of when to have Ms Khan correct the record in Parliament would depend on Mr Singh’s judgment," said the report.
He added that he did not check with Singh on the matter because he trusted Singh and "that was also the type of person he was – he did not go by mere logic," said the report. He also did not raise the matter with Raeesah, because she neither raised the issue nor sought his guidance on it.
"Mr Faisal agreed that Ms Khan’s conduct in Parliament on 4 Oct would be consistent with her account of what Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal had told her to do at the 8 Aug meeting, if it was true, i.e., that she was to continue with her narrative, and lie."
WP Disciplinary Panel
Following Raeesah's confession of her untruth to Parliament on 1 November, Singh asked Faisal to be part of a Disciplinary Panel (DP) against her. The DP was formally established on 2 November. At this point, the rest of the CEC did not know that Raeesah had confessed her lie to the trio. This continued to be the case, when the CEC met on 30 November to deliberate on the DP’s recommendations.
However, Faisal did not feel it was necessary to inform the CEC of the full facts of the DP’s knowledge or involvement. He said that these matters were not relevant specifically to the DP’s work, because the DP’s recommendations were to be based only on what it had been told, or the information that it gathered, between the specific dates of 8 and 29 Nov 2021.
Whatever was not raised to the DP during these two dates would not be considered.
He agreed that the party members who came forward to share their views would not have been able to give an informed view, as they did not know all the facts. He also agreed that whether Raeesah was persistent in her lie, or whether she had sought the guidance of senior leadership and confessed to them about the lie, would be relevant to the level of sanction that the DP would recommend.
After the DP was formed, neither Lim nor Singh discussed with Faisal whether the 8 August meeting and what Raeesah told them should be part of the DP’s report to the CEC. And when the DP presented its recommendations to the CEC on 30 November, it also did not disclose this meeting when it recommended that Raeesah either resign or be expelled from the party.
It also did not disclose to the CEC that Loh and Nathan, senior cadre members who had worked closely with Raeesah, had made very strong statements to the DP for the DP members to disclose their own involvement and knowledge, and come clean with WP members and the public.
Consequently, the CEC voted in favour of Raeesah's expulsion without knowledge of the full facts.
Contempt of Parliament
Faisal noted that, prior to giving testimony before the COP, he had held discussions with Singh and Lim on Wednesday and Thursday, for about two to three hours on each of the two days.
However, when asked about these meetings and the documents which Singh and Lim had brought along, Faisal informed the COP four times that he would not answer the question. He refused to answer, despite being reminded that he had been called before the COP to assist with its investigations, which the documents may shed light on.
It was also explained to Faisal that a refusal to answer the COP’s questions would amount to an offence and constitute a contempt of Parliament. He was invited to reconsider his refusal to answer the question.
Nevertheless, Faisal confirmed that the COP should place on record that he was refusing to answer the question, and repeated four more times that he would not be answering.
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