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Singapore

Committee of Privileges 'satisfied' Workers' Party leaders lied while testifying under oath

SINGAPORE: The Committee of Privileges (COP) is “satisfied” that Workers’ Party leaders were untruthful while testifying under oath, conduct that "may amount to perjury”. 

In its final report on Thursday (Feb 10), the committee said that it had found Ms Raeesah Khan guilty of abuse of privilege for lying in Parliament on Aug 3, and then repeating the lie on Oct 4, and recommended a fine of S$35,000

The report also ​​proposed that WP secretary-general Pritam Singh and vice-chair Faisal Manap, both Aljunied GRC MPs, be referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigations.

If the three senior WP leaders - Mr Singh, Mr Faisal and Ms Sylvia Lim, had guided Ms Khan to repeat her untruth on Oct 4, then such conduct is “dishonourable” and a contempt of Parliament, the report read. 

However, the committee added that this was not a matter within its “present remit” and that it should be Parliament that decides whether to consider the issue "at an appropriate stage".

“In reaching our findings above, we are satisfied that Mr Singh (and to a lesser extent Mr Faisal and Ms Lim), have been untruthful in their evidence under oath to this committee,” the report read. 

“This may amount to perjury, a serious criminal offence, in respect of which, various consequences could follow.” 

The committee also recommended that a distinction be drawn between Mr Singh, and Ms Lim and Mr Faisal if Parliament should consider taking any action or steps against them. 

“The reason for drawing the distinction is based on the respective (different) roles they played and their different conduct.”

Based on the evidence before the committee, Mr Singh “appears to have played the key and leading role in guiding Ms Khan in respect of the untruth”, the report read. 

Naming him the “key orchestrator” of the circumstances that led to Ms Khan repeating her lie in Parliament on Oct 4, the report said that Ms Lim and Mr Faisal appear to have played a “relatively subsidiary role” in the matter. 

Mr Singh “appears to have been the operating brain” for why the lie was not clarified immediately after Aug 8, and why Ms Khan repeated her lie on Oct 4, the report read. 

In a statement on Facebook after the release of the report, Mr Singh said he will speak more extensively on the matter when the report is tabled for debate, which is expected to be sometime next week. 

“Assuming Parliament adopts the Committee’s recommendations, there remain a number of unknowns,” he wrote in his post. 

“These include the eventual decision of the Public Prosecutor to prosecute, the intervening time before the matter goes to trial, the eventual verdict and any sentence meted out, and the prospect of both Faisal and I losing our parliamentary seats and stepping down as Members of Parliament if either of us is fined $2000 or more.” 

PRITAM SINGH'S ROLE

The report stated that evidence that Mr Singh “strongly pointed” Ms Khan towards continuing with her lie on Oct 3 was “quite clear”, and he had acted in a manner consistent with what WP leadership had instructed her to do on Aug 8. 

On Aug 8, Ms Khan met with Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal to discuss the adverse reactions that arose after her speech in Parliament. 

In her testimony to the committee, Ms Khan said that at the meeting, Mr Singh had told her to suppress the truth and to “take the information to the grave”. 

She also texted her former assistant Loh Pei Ying and WP volunteer Yudhishthra Nathan to update them on what Mr Singh had said. 

However, according to evidence from the three senior WP leaders, nothing further was “discussed substantively” about Ms Khan’s lie at this meeting, beyond listening to her admission. 

“There was no discussion on what remedial steps to take, nor was there any discussion by any of them on any timeline by which Ms Khan would take those remedial steps,” the report read. 

The “contemporaneous” message is a “clear indicator” that Ms Khan is telling the truth, the committee said in the report. 

“When asked about the contemporaneous message, Mr Singh said that Ms Khan had mental health issues and may therefore not have told the truth to Ms Loh and Mr Nathan. The committee finds this suggestion from Mr Singh to be both untrue and regrettable.” 

After Aug 8, the next time the matter was discussed was on Oct 3, in a meeting between Mr Singh and Ms Khan. 

According to the report, Mr Singh went to see Ms Khan to specifically advise her on what to say at the Oct 4 sitting. 

Mr Singh acted with “considerable surreptitiousness”, and did not tell Mr Faisal or Ms Lim that he was going to meet her, the report read. 

“At the meeting, Mr Singh did not tell Ms Khan to proactively raise the matter and also did not tell Ms Khan that she should tell the truth. This is not disputed,” the report read. 

Mr Singh also “changed his evidence on key aspects” of the Oct 3 conversation and whether the matter would come up or not, when he “realised that his earlier evidence was untenable”, said the Committee in the report. 

“There was no preparation whatsoever prior to Oct 4, and there were no steps (either by Ms Khan or anyone in the WP), to prepare for the truth to be told. Mr Singh did not tell Ms Khan, directly, to tell the truth.” 

In his testimony, Mr Singh offered some reasons as to why he felt Ms Khan “ought to know” that she should tell the truth. For example, he had asked Ms Khan to substantiate the anecdote before she spoke about it in Parliament in August, and sent a general email to all WP MPs on Oct 1. 

“None of these reasons provide a credible basis for Mr Singh to reasonably believe that he had made clear to Ms Khan that on Oct 4, she should come clean.” 

By Aug 7 or 8, Mr Singh was “clearly and directly aware” that Ms Khan had lied in Parliament, and he did not tell her directly that she had to tell the truth to clarify the untruths, said the Committee. 

He also admitted that he did not do so on Oct 3, and when he specifically advised her on what to say on Oct 4, the report read.

The report continued: “Mr Singh told Ms Khan that he will not ‘judge her’. If Mr Singh had told Ms Khan to tell the truth, and she had then done so, there would have been nothing to judge. Judging Ms Khan would only be relevant, if she were to continue with the untruth.” 

Noting that Mr Singh is a lawyer and the Leader of the Opposition, the report read: “If he had wanted to tell Ms Khan to tell the truth - it is very simple. He could have, and would have, just told her to tell the truth. That is what anyone would have done. That is common sense.” 

This was “even more stark” because his purpose of speaking with Ms Khan on Oct 3, based on his own evidence, was to advise her on what to say if the matter was raised in Parliament the next day, said the Committee in the report. 

“And it cannot be in dispute that he had to tell her to tell the truth. But he did not do so.” 

Instead, Mr Singh testified that he told Ms Khan to “take responsibility and ownership of the issue”, and “I will not judge you”. “This is a rather convoluted and indirect way of asking a person to tell the truth,” the report read.

EMAIL FROM KHAN TO PARTY LEADERS

An email from Ms Khan to the three senior members on Oct 7 also contradicts Mr Singh’s account of the Oct 3 discussion, said the report. 

In forwarding the police’s request for an interview, Ms Khan wrote to them: “Thank you for listening to me, for caring for me and for guiding me through this without judgement.” 

“If Mr Singh had told Ms Khan on Oct 3 to tell the truth, and if she had flagrantly disobeyed him, then she would not be thanking the three senior WP leaders, for guiding her without judgement. Implicit in her email, is that she had followed their advice until then. She had followed her leaders' 'guidance', for her to continue with the untruth,” the report read.

Parliament can impose sanctions on Mr Singh based on the Committee’s findings, and the COP is satisfied with the evidence that Mr Singh “lied on affirmation”, it said in the report. 

“However, given the seriousness of the matter, it appears to us best, in this case, that it be dealt with through a trial process, rather than by Parliament alone.” 

This way, the Public Prosecutor will have the opportunity to consider all the evidence “afresh” and consider any evidence that the Committee may not have considered before deciding whether criminal charges should be brought against Mr Singh, the report read. 

“Mr Singh will have the opportunity to defend and vindicate himself, with legal counsel, if criminal charges are brought, and a court can look at the matter afresh, and consider any further evidence that may emerge, and decide whether any charge(s) have been proven, or not proven, beyond reasonable doubt.” 

ROLES PLAYED BY LIM AND FAISAL

The report also detailed the roles played by Ms Lim and Mr Faisal. 

Both of them attended the meeting on Aug 8 and agreed to Mr Singh’s advice that the untruth should be "buried", and that Ms Khan would not have to tell the truth, the report read.

They did not tell the truth to the Committee about that meeting, but appear to have played a “subsidiary role” compared to Mr Singh. The COP said Ms Lim and Mr Faisal had each been “somewhat helpful” to the Committee, albeit in a “limited way”.

There were aspects of Ms Lim’s testimony that were useful, and the Committee took this into account, although it found that she did not tell the truth on some other aspects, said the COP in its report. 

The Committee found that Mr Singh had guided Ms Khan towards continuing with her lie on Oct 3 through Ms Lim’s notes from WP’s disciplinary panel interviews with Ms Khan on Nov 29, the report said.

“She referred the Committee specifically to the part of the DP (disciplinary panel) notes, which showed Mr Singh saying, on Nov 29 to Ms Khan, that on Oct 3 he gave her a choice whether to tell the truth,” the COP said. 

Ms Lim produced the notes - which the Committee had not previously been aware of - voluntarily, the report read. 

As a lawyer and chair of the WP, she “would have appreciated the effect of such evidence”, the COP said.

“It would be, and was, extremely damaging to the testimony given by Mr Singh - it directly contradicted Mr Singh’s evidence that he did not give Ms Khan a choice,” said the Committee.

Ms Lim said she had been on a news “block-out” for a few days preceding the day she gave evidence to the Committee on Dec 13 and was not aware of Mr Singh’s evidence given three days before, the COP said.

But the Committee noted that Ms Lim was present when Mr Singh had made public statements suggesting that he did not give Ms Khan a choice on Oct 3 as to whether she should clarify the truth in Parliament the next day.

“The fact that Ms Lim was prepared to voluntarily tender this evidence, damaging to the leader of her party, would be relevant and should be taken into account (in the Committee’s respectful view), by Parliament, in assessing Ms Lim’s position,” the COP said. 

Mr Faisal was “honest enough” to agree that the three senior WP leaders’ conduct made “no sense” if they had wanted the truth to be told, the COP said. He also agreed that he had no logical explanations for his conduct. 

“He was struggling between having to lie to the Committee, and the actual truth,” the COP said in its report. 

He chose to keep to some of the lie, while also admitting that he made no logical sense, the COP added.

It noted that Mr Faisal had refused to answer when asked about the meetings he had with Mr Singh and Ms Lim two days before giving evidence to the Committee. 

The three leaders met for two to three hours each day, but Mr Faisal informed the Committee four times that he would not answer the question when asked about these meetings, and the material which Mr Singh and Ms Lim brought along to the meetings.

This was despite the Committee explaining to him that a refusal to answer the Committee’s questions would amount to an offence and constitute contempt of Parliament, the COP said. 

“We find this surprising,” the COP said.

“Mr Faisal’s refusal was flagrant and inexcusable.”

The Committee said that Mr Faisal’s refusal to answer suggests that he wanted to hide the truth and did not want the Committee to know what the documents were or what Mr Singh, Ms Lim and he were discussing just the day before the start of the COP proceedings. 

“He must know that his answer would be deeply embarrassing or incriminating,” the COP said.

The Committee is of the view that Mr Faisal’s refusal to answer relevant questions put by them may amount to a contempt of Parliament, it said in its report. It also recommended that Mr Faisal be referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigation into this matter. 

“We suggest that consideration of what, if anything should be done (in respect of their conduct) be deferred until Mr Singh’s position is clarified: after consideration by the Public Prosecutor; and the completion of criminal proceedings if any,” the COP said. 

Read the full COP report here.

02:17 Min

The Committee of Privileges said in its final report on Thursday (Feb 10) that it was clear from evidence that Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh was the mastermind behind how the party managed the situation after Raeesah Khan lied in Parliament. Lee Li Ying with more.

 

Source: CNA/ja(ac)
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