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WP’s ‘attempts to politicise’ COP report ‘regrettable’; findings ‘based on objective evidence’: Tan Chuan-Jin

WP’s ‘attempts to politicise’ COP report ‘regrettable’; findings ‘based on objective evidence’: Tan Chuan-Jin

Chairman of the Committee of Privileges, Parliament Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, speaks while the committee hears oral evidence from MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap on Dec 9, 2021. (Screengrab: YouTube/govsg)

SINGAPORE: Attempts to politicise the Committee of Privileges' (COP) findings on the complaint against Ms Raeesah Khan for lying in the House are "regrettable", said Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on Friday (Feb 11).

His comments come after the Workers' Party (WP) issued a statement earlier in the day, saying that it noted "with grave concern" the COP’s recommendation to refer two of its party leaders for possible public prosecution.

"The statement suggests that the COP’s recommendations are related to the political work of Mr Pritam Singh and Mr Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap, as opposition Members of Parliament (MPs). It further suggests that this would affect the building of a democratic society," said Mr Tan.

He added that the COP's findings are "based on objective evidence, which is available to all to see".

“The COP looked at the conduct of Mr Singh and Mr Faisal. Their conduct before the COP amounts to potential criminal offences," Mr Tan said.

A motion to debate the report in Parliament next week has been filed. The WP has said that party chief Mr Singh, WP chair Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Mr Faisal will be expressing their views on the report in Parliament.

"The motion on the COP’s findings and recommendations will be debated and decided on their merits, in full public view. Attempts to politicise the matter even before it has been debated are regrettable," the Speaker said. 

The COP had on Thursday released its final report on the complaint made against Ms Khan, a former WP MP, for lying in Parliament about accompanying a sexual assault victim to the police station. She also alleged the police had mishandled the case. 

The committee recommended that Ms Khan be fined S$35,000 for telling a false anecdote in Parliament on Aug 3 and repeating it on Oct 4.

It also proposed that Mr Singh and Mr Faisal be referred to the public prosecutor for possible criminal charges, saying it was “satisfied” that the WP leaders were untruthful while testifying under oath.

In its statement on Friday, the WP said: "The Workers’ Party notes these developments with grave concern. The last time criminal charges were brought against an elected opposition MP relating to their political work was in the 1980s."

Based on the COP's findings, Mr Tan said that Parliament has the power to take action against Mr Singh and Mr Faisal.

“Based on evidence given by the Workers’ Party leaders, including notes voluntarily produced by Ms Sylvia Lim, the COP was satisfied that Mr Singh had lied under oath. And that he had guided Ms Raeesah Khan to continue with her untruths,” he said.

“Mr Faisal had directly and repeatedly refused to answer the COP’s questions, despite being warned that this might amount to an offence and constitute contempt of Parliament.

“Based on these findings, Parliament has the power to proceed to impose sanctions on Mr Singh and Mr Faisal. However, rather than sanctions being imposed by Parliament, the COP recommended that Parliament consider referring the matter to the public prosecutor.”

In doing so, Mr Singh and Mr Faisal would have “the best chance to vindicate themselves, if they are indeed innocent”, Mr Tan added.

“The public prosecutor will have to consider the matter again; and if charges are brought, Mr Singh and Mr Faisal will have the full opportunity to defend themselves in a Court of Law,” he said.

The legal process regarding the matter is part of “how democracy should work”, said the Speaker.

“A strong democratic system requires that those who are elected respect the institutions of democracy, especially Parliament, and uphold our laws – including the laws against perjury and prevarication,” he said.

“It will be a perversion of democracy, for an MP to lie, on oath, and then say that such lies should not be dealt with, or that he is above the law because of who he is.”

The WP had said that Mr Singh and Mr Faisal will cooperate with the public prosecutor and defend themselves in court if charges are brought.

“In this matter of Mr Singh’s and Mr Faisal’s conduct before the COP, if there are any charges, the courts will decide,” Mr Tan said in conclusion.

“And regardless of what the COP has found, the Courts will have the final say. That is what the COP has recommended.”

Source: CNA/kg(gs)
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