SINGAPORE – Further questions have been raised about the incident involving former Sengkang GRC MP Raeesah Khan lying in Parliament, after she and other Workers’ Party members gave evidence to a parliamentary committee on Thursday (Dec 2) and Friday.
Ms Khan told the Committee of Privileges chaired by Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin that senior WP leaders Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim and Faisal Manap had advised her to stick to the lie she had told in Parliament on Aug 3.
This was among a number of revelations contained in a special report that the committee presented to Parliament on Friday.
Here are three key areas where differences arose between what Ms Khan and the other WP members told the committee and what Mr Singh said during a press conference on Thursday.
1. On the WP disciplinary panel and Ms Khan’s resignation
Mr Singh told the media that the WP central executive committee (CEC) on Nov 2 had agreed to form a disciplinary panel to “look into the admissions made by Raeesah Khan” the day before.
The CEC later deliberated the panel’s recommendations and “voted overwhelmingly” that Ms Khan would have been expected to resign, or she would be expelled, he said.
Ms Khan, as well as WP members Ms Loh Pei Ying and Mr Yudhishthra Nathan, told the Committee of Privileges that they were surprised when the party formed the panel.
Ms Khan said that when she met Mr Singh and Ms Lim on Oct 12, she asked if the party would take any disciplinary action against her and was told it would not.
She further said she had not been told that she would be expelled if she did not resign.
When she met the panel on Nov 29, it was suggested that she resign for her own well-being, and because she had “lost the support” of her fellow Sengkang GRC MPs, she said. Ms Khan resigned the next day.
Ms Loh noted that the panel – comprising party chief Mr Singh; Ms Lim, the WP chairman; and Mr Faisal, the WP vice-chairman – had known since Aug 8 that Ms Khan had lied in Parliament on Aug 3.
The WP’s statements on Nov 1 and 2 omitted mention of the party leaders’ knowledge of and involvement in the matter, she said, adding that the panel should have disclosed this at an early stage.
Ms Loh also testified that Mr Singh and Ms Lim had both given Ms Khan comments on drafts of her Nov 1 statement, in which she admitted to lying.
2. On why WP leaders did not urge Ms Khan to come clean sooner
During the WP press conference, Mr Singh said Ms Khan had initially “stuck to her untruth” in her communication with him after the Aug 3 sitting.
She then disclosed a number of new facts and “disturbing personal revelations” after being repeatedly pressed, he added. These included her past sexual assault and “other related matters of a deeply personal nature”.
Mr Singh explained that his immediate concern, when he learnt that Ms Khan had lied, was the fact that she had not informed her family members about her past sexual assault.
He said he wanted to give her time to address the matter with her loved ones, and that it was made known to Ms Khan before the October sitting that it would be her responsibility to make any clarifications in Parliament.
Ms Khan said she met Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal on Aug 8, and that the trio reacted with “incredible disappointment” and anger, but also compassion, when she told them her Aug 3 statement was false.
“The reaction was that if I were not to be pressed, then the best thing to do would be to retain the narrative that I began in August,” she told the committee.
To this, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong – a committee member – asked Ms Khan if this meant that “if you can get away with it, we don’t have to clarify the lie”.
Ms Khan replied that this was correct.
Mr Tong then asked if the WP leaders’ initial reaction upon being told there was a lie “was to try and duck the issue if possible. And if it doesn’t come up, then the truth may not be told eventually”.
In response, Ms Khan said: “I have to say, though, that Pritam Singh’s initial response was that I should go to the Committee of Privileges. But after discussions and me explaining the circumstances that led me to the information in the first place, that changed.”
At a subsequent meeting at her house on Oct 3, she said Mr Singh told her there would be no judgment from him if she were to “continue” or “retain” the false narrative. She interpreted this as advice to continue to lie if the matter was raised the next day.
Ms Khan repeated the lie in Parliament on Oct 4. At the press conference, Mr Singh had said this was “wholly inconsistent with the revelations she had shared with the party leadership” in August.
But Ms Khan said she met Mr Singh and Ms Lim afterwards to discuss the next steps, and neither asked her why she had lied again, nor did they advise her to tell the truth.
She also disputed Mr Singh’s account that she and the party leaders had agreed that she had to set the record straight “almost immediately” after Parliament adjourned on Oct 5.
The decision to do so was reached only on Oct 12, during a meeting with Mr Singh and Ms Lim, when the WP leaders came to the view that the matter would not be dropped, she said.
3. On the vetting process for MPs’ speeches
Mr Singh said WP has a usual pre-parliamentary process, and Ms Khan was notified that she should be ready to substantiate her account that she had followed the sexual assault survivor to the police station.
He said the process “did not fail” and that the “alarm” had gone off, but Ms Khan failed to take heed of that instruction.
In her testimony, Ms Khan said the WP’s rule is that speeches should be submitted to an internal portal that all its current MPs can access, ahead of the sitting at which it is to be delivered. MPs can then leave comments on each other’s speeches.
But Ms Khan’s speech for the Aug 3 debate on empowering women was submitted late. She said she uploaded a draft two days before the sitting, instead of a week before, as she should have.
The initial draft did not contain the anecdote about her accompanying the survivor to the police station. She added this just a day before the sitting.
Ms Khan said Mr Singh commented on the draft by circling the anecdote and writing “substantiate?”, but she did not understand what he meant. She also did not reply to the comment.
She said Mr Singh later expressed disappointment with the fact that she had not understood his comment or placed importance on it.
Besides the anecdote, Ms Khan said she had discussed the contents of the speech, including portions that touched on religious issues such as female genital mutilation and Muslim marriages, with Mr Singh and Mr Faisal.