SINGAPORE, Dec 3 — Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh revealed on Thursday (Dec 2) that party leaders knew that former Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan had lied in a parliamentary speech a week after she delivered it and nearly three months before she set the record straight in Parliament.
The party did not act on it any earlier because he had 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.
Speaking at a press conference at the party’s headquarters on Geylang Road, Singh said that when he asked her about it, Raeesah had stuck to her initial account at first — that she had accompanied a resident to a police station to report a sexual assault and that the victim was treated insensitively by police officers.
Then after she was pressed repeatedly, she eventually confessed that she had been untruthful and that she herself had been a victim of a sexual assault, which up until then was unknown to the party.
She also revealed other related matters “of a deeply personal nature”, Singh said.
“Her personal trauma and sexual assault explained why she was not truthful about accompanying the victim to police as she had asserted in her speech on Aug 3. She admitted this to party leadership about a week after she delivered her speech,” he added.
“Of immediate concern to me was the fact that Raeesah had not previously informed her family members of her sexual assault, which had traumatised her greatly.
“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.”
Two other party leaders, Sylvia Lim and Faisal Manap, were also made aware of her untruths at the same time, Singh said.
Raeesah was not at the WP press conference on Thursday. When asked why, Singh replied: “She’s resigned from the party. This is a party matter that we have to carry forward.”
Raeesah, who was formerly an MP for Sengkang Group Representation Constituency (GRC), eventually admitted in Parliament on Nov 1 that she had lied in her August speech.
She then resigned from the party on Tuesday, the same day a meeting was held by the party’s disciplinary panel, which had been tasked to look into her conduct.
In her confession in Parliament, she said that she had fabricated the account about accompanying a sexual assault victim to the police station, and that she had heard about the incident from someone at a women’s support group that she had attended.
She revealed that she did not want to disclose that she was attending the group session at first because she was a survivor of a sexual assault herself and “did not have the courage to publicly admit that I was part of it”.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Singh laid out the timeline of events:
- Before Aug 3, in preparing her speech on a parliamentary motion on empowering women, Raeesah was put on notice through the WP’s usual pre-parliamentary processes to be ready to substantiate the account that she had followed the victim to the police station, in the event that she was queried in the course of the debate
- On Aug 3, Raeesah delivered her speech in Parliament. She was questioned by Desmond Tan, Minister of State for Home Affairs, on the allegations she made about the police
- In the course of the days that followed, Singh asked Raeesah to make her best efforts to contact the victim or to contact the individuals who brought the victim’s case to her attention and to extend the necessary information to Tan. Initially, Raeesah stuck to her untruth
- About a week after speech, after being repeatedly pressed, a number of “new facts and disturbing personal revelations were disclosed”, including her sexual assault and other related matters of “a deeply personal nature”. Raeesah said that she was not truthful about accompanying the victim to the police station due to her personal trauma and sexual assault
- Out of concern that she had not revealed her sexual assault to her family and her trauma, Singh said that he was “prepared to give her the space necessary to address the matter with her loved ones”
- In September, Raeesah came down with shingles and did not attend Parliament. It was made known to her before a parliamentary sitting in October that any parliamentary clarification on this matter was hers to make, in her capacity as an elected MP
- On Oct 4, Raeesah repeated the untruths when questioned by K Shanmugam, Minister for Home and Law Affairs
- After Parliament adjourned in October, Raeesah agreed with party leadership that she had to set the record straight. Singh said that he told her “it was the correct thing to do”
- On Nov 1, Raeesah made a personal explanation in Parliament to set the matter straight
- The next day, WP sets up a disciplinary panel to look into her admissions in Parliament
- On Nov 30, Raeesah sent a letter of resignation to Singh
- Singh replied to the resignation letter the next day
Set record straight in parliament first
A day after Raeesah’s confession in Parliament, WP set up a disciplinary panel to look into her conduct.
Asked why the panel was set up only after Raeesah’s admission in Parliament, Singh said that it was important for Raeesah to first set the record straight in the House.
“Once that was done and the truth of the matter was established on the record, disciplinary action from a party perspective would follow and that’s what happened.
“The sequence was important, as it was important to establish what and why Raeesah did what she did, and Parliament was the correct platform for her to make that correction,” he said.
Singh said that WP’s central executive committee had proceeded to deliberate the disciplinary panel’s recommendations on Nov 30 because it had not received Raeesah’s resignation in writing by then.
“The committee voted overwhelmingly that she would have been expected to have resigned on her own accord, following which, she would have been expelled from the party.”
After Raeesah’s admission, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah referred Raeesah’s conduct to Parliament’s privileges committee, which looks into complaints alleging breaches of parliamentary privilege.
On Wednesday, the clerk’s office for Parliament said that the privileges committee would present its report to Parliament “in due course”.
Singh said that he would share evidence or provide details if the committee contacts him.
While Raeesah has not reached out to the party for support on the committee’s investigation, Singh said that the party would assess the nature of the query if she does so.
Singh was also asked whether Raeesah’s resignation would be the end of the matter for the party.
He replied to say that it would be “remiss” of WP not to stop and look back on how it can prevent similar episodes from happening.
Going forward, such a review would take place, but it would be an internal party matter, he added.
WP’s leadership will also reflect on and review its vetting process for future election candidates.
He added that for the party to reach out to a wide segment of the Singaporean population, it would need MPs of “different abilities, characteristics, traits and persuasive powers”. — TODAY