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Raeesah Khan case: 5 key points from the Committee of Privileges report

SINGAPORE: The Committee of Privileges (COP) presented its final report on its investigation into Ms Raeesah Khan to Parliament on Thursday (Feb 10).

It will be debated in Parliament, which will have its next sitting on Monday.

The main report details the summary of the COP's findings and deliberations, as well as its recommendations. Here are the highlights:

The divergence in the evidence

The COP concluded that there was no dispute that Ms Khan had lied in Parliament and the divergence in the evidence was primarily on two points.

One was what Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh, chair Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Faisal Manap told Ms Khan on Aug 8 about how to handle the untruth.

This was a meeting at which she had first told the three WP leaders that her anecdote in Parliament was untrue.

The second was what Mr Singh told Ms Khan on Oct 3 about what to say in Parliament if the matter was raised. He had visited Ms Khan a day before she repeated the lie in Parliament.

Her account was that Mr Singh had told her "there would be no judgement" from him, which she took to mean that she would not be judged if she stuck to her lie. But Mr Singh testified that he had told Ms Khan “to take responsibility and ownership of the issue”, and if she did so, he “will not judge” her.

This was important in determining the extent of Ms Khan's responsibility and thus her penalty, said the report. The COP concluded that Ms Khan was truthful in her testimony to the Committee.

Raeesah Khan fined S$35,000

The COP came to the conclusion that Ms Khan was guilty of abuse of privilege but from Aug 8 onwards, she was "acting under the guidance" of Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal.

While still liable for repeating the lie, she was not "solely responsible", the report said.

Ms Khan's recommended fine of S$35,000 is composed of two parts. The COP proposed a S$25,000 fine for speaking the untruth twice on Aug 3.

For repeating the lie on Oct 4, it recommended a fine of S$10,000. A lower amount was proposed due to mitigating factors, as Ms Khan was, from Aug 8, following the advice of her party leaders, said the report.

The Committee said it had also considered that Ms Khan had resigned from Parliament, that her conduct and evidence showed that if she would have come clean if told to do so, and that her mental health had been unfairly and publicly attacked.

Possible perjury

The COP report concluded that Mr Singh had been the person who was untruthful to the Committee on key points of what had happened, while also falsely accusing Ms Khan of lying.

"He used the mental health issues as a smear against Ms Khan, to explain away his own conduct and lies to this Committee," the report said.

He was the "key orchestrator" of the circumstances that led to Ms Khan repeating the lie in Parliament on Oct 4, it said. 

The Committee also found that Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal's evidence under oath was untruthful, which may amount to perjury.

It recommended that Mr Singh and Mr Faisal be referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigations with a view to possible criminal proceedings.

While both Ms LIm and Mr Faisal played a "subsidiary role", Mr Faisal refused four times to provide the COP with materials that it asked for, which may amount to a contempt of Parliament.

"Mr Faisal’s refusal to answer suggests that he wanted to hide the truth – he 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/incriminating," the report read.

Why the COP found Ms Khan's version of events "more credible"

The Committee said that while Ms Khan's narrative had evidence in the form of WhatsApp messages to back it up, the WP leaders' version of events was unsupported by evidence.

The COP highlighted one particular text message that Ms Khan sent to her assistants, saying Mr Singh had told her to "take the information to the grave”.

"In the Committee’s view, the contemporaneous message is a clear indicator that Ms Khan is telling the truth," said the report.

On the WP leaders' refusal to provide certain documents, the Committee said: "If they had intended that the truth be told, it would be reasonable to expect that there would be some emails, or documentation. But there was not a shred of objectively verifiable, contemporaneous evidence which supports the position taken by the 3 Senior WP leaders."

The COP also said in the report that If there was a genuine desire to clarify the lie, there should have been some discussion taking place between the three senior WP leaders on what to make of the confession, what next steps to take and at least some indication of a rough timeline.

"By their own admission, none of this was done."

It concluded that Mr Singh had used words on Oct 3 which indicated to Ms Khan that she should continue lying. The words “there would be no judgement” left her with the view that if she were to "retain the narrative", that is, to continue lying, she would not be judged, said the report.

Dennis Tan's objections

Mr Dennis Tan, a Workers' Party MP and a member of the Committee, disagreed with substantial parts of the report on the findings and recommendations.

His objections were captured in minutes of a meeting on Feb 7, which were appended to the main report.

One of his objections was that it was "not relevant" whether or not Ms Khan was instructed by her party leaders to lie. 

"He felt that it was a 'dangerous line' which would encourage young MPs to 'run to a leader' to get advice in future in order to absolve them of their own responsibility because every MP should be responsible for his or her own action," according to the minutes.

Mr Tan also said that he preferred the evidence of Mr Singh because “he cannot believe that Pritam would come up with a plan to bring the statement to the grave”.

He pointed out that Ms Khan had lied on several occasions in Parliament and to Mr Singh on Aug 7.

"Mr Tan said that Mr Singh might not have followed the textbook in covering his actions with clearer communications but that does not mean he has lied," the minutes recorded.

The Committee met again on Feb 8, when the draft report was read a second time. The report was passed with Mr Tan the only one of eight committee members casting a "no" vote.

THE COMPLAINT AGAINST RAEESAH KHAN

Former Sengkang Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan, a first-time MP from the Workers' Party, had given a speech on Aug 3 last year during the party's motion on gender equality.

In her speech, she mentioned that she had accompanied a sexual assault victim to the police station and said: "She came out crying - the police officer had allegedly made comments about her dressing and the fact that she had been drinking."

When asked to substantiate this by ministers and the police, Ms Khan could not give any details.

On Oct 4, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam called on Ms Khan to provide further details but she declined, citing the need for confidentiality. 

On Nov 1, she gave a statement in Parliament admitting that she had lied. She had heard the anecdote in a support group and wanted to share the account, but did not want to reveal that she was a survivor of sexual assault, Ms Khan said.

Leader of the House Indranee Rajah filed a complaint against Ms Khan and she was referred to the Committee of Privileges.

Ms Khan resigned from the party and as an MP on Nov 30.

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Source: CNA/hm(ac)

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