Where does the truth lie? Comparing the accounts of Raeesah Khan and WP chief Pritam Singh

Former Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan (left) testifying before Parliament’s Committee of Privileges on December 2, 2021. WP chief Pritam Singh (right) speaking at a press conference on the same day. — ETX Studio pic
Former Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan (left) testifying before Parliament’s Committee of Privileges on December 2, 2021. WP chief Pritam Singh (right) speaking at a press conference on the same day. — ETX Studio pic

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SINGAPORE, Dec 4  — New revelations emerged late yesterday (December 3) in a special report by Parliament’s Committee of Privileges that shone a light on what transpired in the run-up to former Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan’s resignation over a lie she made in the House.

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 August 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.

In several areas, her account differed from assertions made by Mr Singh at a press conference on Thursday — raising fresh questions over what led Ms Raeesah to persist with the lie before she made her confession to Parliament on November 1. 

Here is a comparison of their accounts, based on what Mr Singh said at the press conference and what Ms Raeesah told the committee:

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 August 3.

Testifying under oath before the committee on Thursday and yesterday, 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.

In several areas, her account differed from assertions made by Mr Singh at a press conference on Thursday — raising fresh questions over what led Ms Raeesah to persist with the lie before she made her confession to Parliament on November 1. 

Here is a comparison of their accounts, based on what Mr Singh said at the press conference and what Ms Raeesah told the committee:

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.” 

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 August 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.” 

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 October 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 October 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 October 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 October 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 October 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 August 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 November 2, WP said that it had formed a disciplinary panel to look into Ms Raeesah’s admissions in Parliament the previous day.

On November 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 November 2.

Ms Raeesah said that at the October 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 November 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. — TODAY

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