‘Proper and correct’ for COP to refer Workers' Party leaders to public prosecutor: Ong Ye Kung
SINGAPORE: It was “proper and correct” for the Committee of Privileges (COP) to refer Workers’ Party (WP) leaders Pritam Singh and Faisal Manap to the public prosecutor, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Saturday (Feb 12).
The COP had on Thursday released its final report on the complaint made against former WP MP Raeesah Khan for lying in Parliament about a sexual assault case. It recommended that she be fined S$35,000 for telling a false anecdote in Parliament on Aug 3 and repeating it on Oct 4.
The committee also proposed that WP chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, as well as party vice-chair Faisal Manap be referred to the public prosecutor for possible criminal charges, saying it was “satisfied” that they were untruthful while testifying under oath.
"I feel it is proper and correct for the Committee of Privileges to refer the case to the public prosecutor because, should the issue really go to trial, Mr Pritam Singh and Mr Faisal Manap can then furnish all the evidence before the judge, argue their case, defend themselves and clear their name,” Mr Ong said on the sidelines of an event at the site of the new Woodlands Health Campus.
“The issue of being outnumbered by PAP members doesn't arise in the court of law. The judge is independent, and the judge is objective. Further, if no wrong is done, there is no fear of the Leader of Opposition losing his seat.”
Parliament is expected to debate and vote on the COP's report next week. The WP has said that Mr Singh, Mr Faisal and WP chair Sylvia Lim will be expressing their views on the report in Parliament.
Addressing the WP’s statement on the COP’s recommendation, Mr Ong also said that building democracy has to be premised on integrity and honesty.
“Having different voices, having different ideas about our country rigorously debated, having checks and balance to ensure that there is no abuse of power – these are all good things, and the PAP agrees with that, and as our institution matures we will move towards that. But I think building up democracy has to be premised on integrity and honesty as its foundation,” Mr Ong told reporters.
“What's the use of having a democratic system where there are so many political parties constantly at odds with each other, constantly in rigorous or fierce arguments and debates but it contains lies, it contains falsehoods, repeated falsehoods, party leaders not correcting the falsehoods, or empty promises? That I don't feel serves our people well. It's not the kind of democracy we want to have.”
Mr Ong said that every lie – and failure to correct a lie – weakens the foundation of democracy.
“Every member of the House, every party that is represented in the chamber, has a duty, has a responsibility to protect that foundation,” he said.
“Sure, we are all humans, and we all make mistakes, but when we make a mistake, how a political leader comes out to confront and then correct the mistake is also a mark of the standard of integrity for the leader, for the party he represents, for Parliament and for our democratic institution.”
Additional reporting by Yasmin Begum.