Pritam Singh's words 'your call' under scrutiny as WP leader recalled by COP to give further evidence on Raeesah Khan case
SINGAPORE: Workers' Party (WP) secretary-general Pritam Singh was recalled on Wednesday (Dec 15) by the Committee of Privileges (COP) to clarify his version of events at an Oct 3 meeting with Ms Raeesah Khan.
This was after WP chair Sylvia Lim on Monday produced a document recording his exchange with Ms Khan at a disciplinary panel meeting on Nov 29.
The COP said in its fifth special report issued on Wednesday evening that Mr Singh was given the opportunity to clarify his evidence following that.
Wednesday's session was a much shorter affair, clocking in at just under 40 minutes, compared to the nine hours of questioning that the Leader of the Opposition faced last week.
The document Ms Lim had submitted to the COP were notes that she had taken during WP's disciplinary panel interview with Ms Khan on Nov 29. It set out an exchange between Mr Singh (PS) and Ms Khan (RK):
PS: Before Oct session, I met you + I told you it was your call. Did need to tell the truth in Parl occur to you?
RK: Yes but consumed with guilt + own experience. Thought it wouldn’t come up.
PS: Can’t lie right?
Mr Singh testified that Ms Lim’s notes accurately reflected what he had said to Ms Khan during the disciplinary hearing on Nov 29.
He agreed that the phrase "your call" might be understood that he had, on Oct 3, told Ms Khan that she had to make a choice as to whether to tell the truth or continue to lie, if she was asked on Oct 4 in Parliament.
But Mr Singh said that what he had meant when he said “your call” was that Ms Khan should take responsibility for her work in Parliament. And it had to be "looked at in context".
On Oct 4, Ms Khan went on to repeat in Parliament an untruth she had told on Aug 3 - that she had accompanied a sexual assault victim to the police station, who then came out crying as a police officer had made comments about her dressing and the fact that she had been drinking.
On Nov 1, Ms Khan made a statement in Parliament to apologise and clarify that she had heard the anecdote at a support group, but lied that she was with the victim as she did not want to reveal that she had been sexually assaulted at 18 while overseas.
The whole episode led to a complaint to the COP being made against Ms Khan, who has since resigned as MP for Sengkang GRC and from the Workers' Party.
Mr Singh, who had known since Aug 8 that Ms Khan's account was untrue, has also been summoned before the COP to give evidence.
While Ms Khan said that she had been told by WP leaders to "retain the narrative", Mr Singh has testified that he told her to "take ownership and responsibility" for her untruth in Parliament - by which he meant for her to tell the truth.
On Dec 15, Mr Singh told the COP that "It is your call to make" were not the words he had used to Ms Khan on Oct 3, and the words he used did not offer Ms Khan a choice.
He added that Ms Lim’s notes also reflected that he had told Ms Khan at the Nov 29 meeting that she could not tell a lie.
However, he agreed that it was reasonable to construe the words “your call” to mean that it was a choice for Ms Khan to make.
When asked why he used those words to Ms Khan on Nov 29, he said: "I think it was in the context of how she was responding to us.
"I mean, that whole meeting on the 29th was a meeting where she was just continually crying and crying and crying. And in that context, I put a question which I felt could elicit a response, which would be helpful to the DP (disciplinary panel). So that's how I put the question."
PRITAM SINGH ON WHY HE WASN'T MORE DIRECT WITH RAEESAH KHAN
Mr Singh was also asked why he had not told Ms Khan on Oct 3 to own up and tell the truth in Parliament, and why he had not made things absolutely clear, in direct terms to Ms Khan.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong, who conducted most of the questioning in Wednesday's session - which was also released on video - said: "In context, on the third of October, Ms Khan was a fresh new MP, a rookie MP one year in Parliament or barely one year."
Mr Tong continued: "And she had admitted two months prior to that she told a lie in Parliament, coming to see her senior leaders of the Workers Party. Would you not accept that in that context, really, the only thing that you ought to have said to her at that point in time should be: 'Look, Ms Khan, there's a lie on the record, you must go and own up, tell the truth in Parliament if it comes up.' Make it very clear, in clear, simple direct terms. Would you agree?"
Mr Singh said that he believed he had communicated this message to Ms Khan in his own way, when he suggested to her on Oct 3 to take ownership and responsibility, said the report.
Mr Singh was also asked about evidence given by one of Ms Khan's assistants, Ms Loh Pei Ying. Ms Loh had said she was "disappointed" that Mr Singh had left the choice to Ms Khan as to whether she should tell the truth if she was asked about the anecdote in Parliament on Oct 4.
Mr Singh was asked why Ms Loh had this impression from a conversation she had Mr Singh with Oct 12 - that a choice was given to Ms Khan.
Mr Singh said that the words "I will not judge you" seem "seared" in Ms Loh's mind and she seemed to put a lot of weight on it, while not placing enough emphasis on the "context" in which the phrase was used, on taking "ownership and responsibility".
When asked if he agreed that based on the evidence that Ms Loh had given on her takeaway with Mr Singh on Oct 12, her impression was that a choice had been given to Ms Khan on whether to tell the truth, Mr Singh said: "I think it's ... more far more nuanced than that ... when she prefaces her statement by saying 'I suppose he was implying'...
"So I think there's quite a lot of grey there. And I would suggest that it was quite clear that Miss Khan, whether she's a rookie MP or not, I don't think these things even need to be explained that if you tell a lie, you have to, it's just not on, it's something you can't do."
SUMMONS ISSUED TO SINGH, LIM, FAISAL
In a press release, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament said that the COP has issued a summons to Mr Singh, Ms Lim and WP vice chair Faisal Manap to produce documents, including internal correspondence between senior leadership, concerning issues raised in the Committee by Monday.
The COP had made requests for these documents from Dec 10 to 14 but the WP leaders have failed or refused to produce them, said the release.
Parliament said that the committee’s proceedings have "largely concluded", but it may hear further evidence "if it sees fit". Proceedings have been adjourned to Monday.
"It will present its findings and recommendations to Parliament in due course."