Pritam Singh denies asking Raeesah Khan to take lie 'to the grave', but says no steps taken to correct untruth from Aug to Oct
SINGAPORE: Workers' Party (WP) chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh testified that he did not tell Ms Raeesah Khan to take a lie she had made in Parliament "to the grave", according to a third report released by the Committee of Privileges on the hearings into the matter.
However, Mr Singh, who is also MP for Aljunied GRC, also did not specifically tell Ms Khan to admit the truth despite having communicated with her on multiple occasions, said the report on Sunday (Dec 12).
Mr Singh also agreed that from Aug 8 to Oct 4, he had not seen any steps taken which would be suggestive of "coming clean".
The report provided a summary of key points from the evidence provided by Mr Singh on Dec 10 to the Committee of Privileges, which is looking into the complaint against Ms Khan for lying in Parliament.
Ms Khan had told an anecdote in Parliament on Aug 3 about accompanying a sexual assault victim to a police station three years ago, and that the victim had come out crying because a police officer allegedly made comments about her dressing and that she had been drinking.
The former Sengkang Member of Parliament later admitted that she had heard the account in a support group, but had lied because she did not want to publicly admit that she was part of the group and had been sexually assaulted when she was 18 years old.
On questioning by the Committee, Mr Singh agreed that telling a lie in Parliament was a very serious matter, but denied that the police would be adversely impacted by the untruth told by Ms Khan, the report said.
He also said that he did not feel that a wrong had been done to the police by Ms Khan’s allegations.
These points and Mr Singh's account of events since Aug 3 were in the special report released by the Committee, along with four videos of Mr Singh's testimony.
The videos show that Mr Singh gave evidence for at least nine hours. In its press release, Parliament said that sensitive information had been redacted from the videos.
"SPEAK TO YOUR PARENTS FIRST"
Mr Singh's account of an Aug 8 meeting with Ms Khan, WP chair Sylvia Lim and vice chair Faisal Manap, contradicts Ms Khan's testimony to the Committee.
Ms Khan had said in her hearing that Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal had told her that the best thing for her to do would be to "continue with the narrative that she had already given in Parliament on Aug 3".
But Mr Singh said in his testimony that there was no substantive discussion at the Aug 8 meeting at his home on what to do about Ms Khan’s untruth.
As Ms Khan was leaving Mr Singh’s house, he told Ms Khan, “We’ll have to deal with this issue, but speak to your parents first”, the report said.
He had wanted to give her time to speak to her parents, who did not know about the sexual assault, before coming clean in Parliament, said the report.
The report also said that "Mr Singh agreed that it would be fair to say that Ms Khan would have left the 8 Aug meeting not being very clear in her mind about the Party leaders’ instructions on how to deal with her lie".
It was previously reported that Ms Khan had sent a WhatsApp message to two other party members - Ms Loh Pei Ying and Mr Yudhishthra Nathan - after the Aug 8 meeting, claiming that she had been told by WP leaders to take the message "to the grave".
Mr Singh denied in his testimony that he had asked Ms Khan to do this.
When asked why Ms Khan might have lied in her WhatsApp message, Mr Singh said that Ms Khan had told a WP disciplinary panel that she may have "disassociation".
Dissociative disorders involve a disconnection between a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings or sense of who he or she is, and can lead to feelings of detachment or amnesia. It can be triggered by trauma or abuse in childhood, according to the American Psychiatric Association's website.
Mr Singh asked the Committee to consider asking Ms Khan to go for a psychological assessment, the report said.
PRITAM SINGH DID NOT SPECIFICALLY TELL RAEESAH KHAN TO ADMIT TRUTH
Mr Singh said that after the Aug 8 meeting, he did not check with Ms Khan whether she had spoken with her parents about her sexual assault nor did he have any discussions with Ms Khan about coming clean on the matter.
Ms Khan had shingles and did not attend the next parliamentary sitting on Sep 13. The next conversation they had about this was on Oct 3, a day before Parliament was to sit again.
Mr Singh said that “if the issue came up”, Ms Khan had “to take responsibility and ownership of the issue”, and if she did so, he “will not judge” her.
The report said: "Mr Singh was asked if he had told Ms Khan directly, to tell the truth in Parliament. He said that he did not specifically tell her to speak the truth, in those terms.
"Mr Singh however said that was what he had meant, by the words that he had chosen to use."
He agreed with the Committee that none of the preparatory steps - which were taken in the lead up to a Nov 1 statement where she admitted her lie - were taken before the sitting on Oct 4.
Mr Singh said that this was because he was not sure whether the matter would have come up during that sitting, and if it did not come up, then Ms Khan may not have clarified, the report said.
The report said: "Mr Singh confirmed that he did not specifically tell Ms Khan to clarify the truth on 4 Oct, even if the issue was not raised."
"WHAT SHOULD I DO, PRITAM?"
At the Oct 4 sitting, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam gave a ministerial statement about Ms Khan’s anecdote, and sought clarification from Ms Khan.
As Mr Shanmugam was making his ministerial statement, Ms Khan sent Mr Singh a message, asking: “What should I do, Pritam?"
Mr Singh did not respond to Ms Khan before she stood up to answer Mr Shanmugam’s questions. Ms Khan then repeated the lie on Oct 4, in response to Mr Shanmugam’s questions.
Mr Singh said that he read Ms Khan’s WhatsApp message to him at 12.45pm, after the exchange between Ms Khan and Mr Shanmugam. Mr Singh told Ms Khan: "Will speak after sitting. Keep Chair and I posted."
Mr Singh met with Ms Khan that same day in his office. The report said Mr Singh remembered that he, Ms Lim and Ms Khan had met late that night, some time past 11pm, for a “very, very short” meeting.
Mr Singh recalled that Ms Khan was in a daze and said: "Perhaps there is another way. That is, to tell the truth." Mr Singh testified that he was very upset and replied: "But look at the choice you made."
Mr Singh said that his takeaway, based on what Ms Khan said at the meeting, was that she was now prepared to tell the truth, according to the report.
Mr Singh testified that he was relieved because that was the first time he had heard her say she wanted to own up to what she had said in Parliament. He said: “Good, we’ll talk about it.”
On Oct 7, Ms Khan received an email from the police requesting her assistance on her anecdote. She forwarded the email to Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal, and asked for their advice on what to do.
The Committee's report said that Mr Singh confirmed that he did not advise Ms Khan to respond to the police, nor did he advise her not to meet the police to answer their questions.
When asked why he had not advised Ms Khan to explain her position to the police, despite being invited by the police to do so three times, Mr Singh said that this was because it was clear to him that Ms Khan’s untruth had to be corrected in Parliament, where it was originally made.
He said that he had told Ms Khan to tell the police that she was going to answer in Parliament.
Mr Singh's account of another meeting on Oct 12 was also different from Ms Khan's.
Mr Singh said that at the meeting, Ms Khan was initially still unwilling to make a speech in Parliament to correct her untruth and Ms Lim was very upset about this. Mr Singh impressed upon Ms Khan that there was no other way but to do so, and Ms Khan eventually agreed.
In her testimony, Ms Khan had said that Mr Singh and Ms Lim had come to the view that the matter would not be dropped, and was not going to go away. The three of them discussed together, and decided that Ms Khan should come clean and tell the truth.
On Nov 1, Ms Khan delivered a statement in Parliament to apologise for lying, revealing that she had been sexually assaulted years ago.
This was followed by statements from the WP on Nov 1 on Ms Khan's statement and on Nov 2 announcing the formation of a disciplinary panel to look into the statements that Ms Khan had made in Parliament.
When asked if he should have disclosed that Ms Khan had confessed to WP leaders months before, Mr Singh said that he did not think that it was relevant.
On why he then revealed this at WP's press conference on Dec 2, he said that by that time, there had already been questions and "chatter" in the online space as to when and how much the WP leaders knew about Ms Khan’s untruths.
Mr Singh therefore decided to address this issue, as he anticipated that journalists would ask questions about it.
The Committee pointed out to Mr Singh that this "chatter" online had existed for some time and was not new, and Mr Singh agreed.
Mr Singh also denied that he had disclosed their knowledge of her lie because he knew that these facts would also come out in the evidence given to the Committee, which held its hearing with Ms Khan on the same day.
According to the report, Mr Singh said that it was "not relevant for Party members, the CEC and the public to know these facts".
The Committee proceedings will resume on Monday and at least two more witnesses - Ms Lim and Sengkang GRC MP Associate Professor Jamus Lim - are set to be called.