By DARYL CHOO
DECEMBER 04, 2021
- A special report by Parliament’s privileges committee on Dec 3 revealed what transpired in the run-up to former Workers’ Party MP Raeesah Khan’s resignation
- This was over a lie she made in Parliament on Aug 3
- In several areas, however, Ms Khan's account to the commitee differed from assertions made by WP chief Pritam Singh at a press conference on Dec 2
The report, presented to Parliament on the same day, set out Ms Raeesah’s testimony that WP’s leaders had told her to stick to the lie she made during a sitting of Parliament on Aug 3.
Testifying under oath before the committee on Thursday and Friday, Ms Raeesah said that she was told by WP chief Pritam Singh, chairman Sylvia Lim and vice-chairman Faisal Manap that if she and the party could get away with it, there was no need to clarify the lie.
Here is a comparison of their accounts, based on what Mr Singh said at the press conference and what Ms Raeesah told the committee:
WHY SHE DIDN’T CONFESS SOONER
What Mr Singh said: He told a press conference at WP’s headquarters on Thursday that when he first asked Ms Raeesah about the incident, she stuck to her initial account — that she had gone with a survivor of a sexual assault to a police station to report the incident and that the victim was treated insensitively by police officers.
He said that it was only after she was pressed repeatedly that she confessed that she had been untruthful. This was about a week after her Aug 3 parliamentary speech.
Ms Raeesah revealed that she had been a victim of sexual assault and other related matters “of a deeply personal nature”, Mr Singh said, adding that these were unknown to the party leadership up until that point.
He said that WP did not act on the matter earlier because he wanted to give her time to talk to her family about the matter, and because she had to be the one to correct the untruth in Parliament.
Mr Singh, who is also Leader of the Opposition, said: "In my judgement, it was important that she did so before she could fully address the reasons behind her untruthful conduct in Parliament and to correct the record.”
Ms Lim and Mr Faisal were also made aware of her untruths at the same time.
Mr Singh said that Ms Raeesah repeated the untruth on the parliamentary record at a sitting on Oct 4 that was “wholly inconsistent with the revelations she had shared with the party leadership after Aug 3”.
Nevertheless, Mr Singh said that before that parliamentary session, it had been made known to Ms Raeesah that “any parliamentary clarification on this matter was hers to make in her capacity as an elected Member of Parliament”.
“Almost immediately after Parliament adjourned in October, Raeesah agreed with the party leadership that she had to set the record right forthwith. I shared with her that it was the correct thing to do.”
What Ms Raeesah said: In her testimony to the Committee of Privileges, Ms Raeesah said that she called Mr Singh on Aug 7 to come clean on the matter after he pushed her to substantiate the anecdote she recounted in Parliament.
She said that she met Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal the next day to discuss the matter.
The three party leaders reacted with “incredible disappointment”, “a lot of anger” but also compassion, she told the committee.
“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 said.
In response, Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and a member of the parliamentary privileges committee, asked Ms Raeesah if this meant that “if you can get away with it, we don’t have to clarify the lie”.
Ms Raeesah replied that this was correct.
Mr Tong then asked if the WP leaders’ initial reaction to being told that 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”.
Ms Raeesah replied: “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."
The next time she spoke to Mr Singh about the matter was nearly two months later, on Oct 3, when Mr Singh visited Ms Raeesah alone at her home, she said.
He was expecting that she would be pressed on the matter in Parliament the next day, when members of the House would sit.
“The conversation was that if I were to retain the narrative, or if I were to continue the narrative, there would be no judgement,” she told the committee.
“My interpretation was that there would be no consequences for me to continue the narrative that I had begun in August.”
She told the committee that Mr Singh did not ask her to clarify the matter in Parliament.
On Oct 4, she repeated the lie in the House when questioned by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.
Ms Raeesah also told the committee that no senior party leader or activist had told her to correct her lie before the Oct 4 sitting.
She said that at a meeting with Mr Singh and Ms Lim in Mr Singh’s Parliament House office after the sitting that day, there were no discussions on why she did not comply with any apparent instruction or order to clarify the truth.
Had there been such an order, Mr Tong asked: Would Ms Raeesah have expected to see Mr Singh confront her to ask why she did not follow the order to clarify the truth?
She replied: “I cannot assume what he would have done, but that was not what was done.”
On Oct 7, Ms Raeesah received an email from the police inviting her to assist them in investigating the matters that she raised in Parliament, and Mr Singh and Ms Lim advised her to ignore it.
It was only on Oct 12, after Mr Singh and Ms Lim had come to the view that the matter would not be dropped, that the three of them decided in a meeting that she would come clean about the matter.
WP'S SPEECH-VETTING PROCESS
What Mr Singh said: At Thursday’s press conference, Mr Singh said that there had been a vetting process for Ms Raeesah’s speech and that it was made known to her that she had to be ready to substantiate her anecdote about accompanying the victim to the police station.
The process did not fail in that regard, he said.
“Why did she not take heed of the instruction, why did she ignore it? That’s not a question I can answer.”
What Ms Raeesah said: She told the committee that WP MPs have to submit the speeches that they would be delivering to an internal portal a week before each sitting. All MPs had access to the portal and could leave comments on one another’s speeches.
She submitted her Aug 3 speech late, only two days before the sitting. She included the anecdote about the sexual assault survivor one day before the sitting.
Ms Raeesah said that after she did so, Mr Singh circled the portion of the speech and commented: “Substantiate?”
She said that she did not understand what the comment meant at that point and did not reply to it.
After she delivered the speech, Mr Singh raised this issue to her and expressed his disappointment that she did not place importance on his comment.
WAS SHE TOLD THAT SHE WOULD BE EXPELLED IF SHE DIDN'T RESIGN?
What Mr Singh said: On Nov 2, WP said that it had formed a disciplinary panel to look into Ms Raeesah’s admissions in Parliament the previous day.
On Nov 30, before party leaders announced the actions they would take against her, Ms Raeesah handed her resignation to Mr Singh.
He replied to it the next day.
At Thursday’s press conference, Mr Singh revealed that because WP’s central executive committee (CEC) had not received her resignation in writing by then, it proceeded to deliberate the recommendations of the disciplinary panel.
The CEC voted “overwhelmingly” that she would have been expected to resign of her own accord, failing which she would be expelled from the party.
What Ms Raeesah said: At the hearings before the committee, Ms Raeesah, as well as her secretarial assistant Loh Pei Ying and WP volunteer Yudhisthra Nathan, said that they were surprised to learn that the party had formed a disciplinary panel on Nov 2.
Ms Raeesah said that at the Oct 12 meeting, where she decided with Mr Singh and Ms Lim to correct her lie in Parliament, she had asked them if any disciplinary action would be taken.
“The answer was no,” she said.
She said that when she met the disciplinary panel on Nov 29, Mr Singh and Ms Lim suggested to her that she should resign for her well-being and because she had lost the support of her fellow MPs in the Sengkang Group Representation Constituency.
She said that she was not told she would be expelled if she did not resign of her own accord.