SINGAPORE - Workers' Party (WP) chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on Friday (Dec 10) told the Committee of Privileges that he had not directed former MP Raeesah Khan to lie, but took no steps from August to October to get her to correct her false statement.
According to a special report released on Sunday (Dec 12), the second this weekend and the third so far, Mr Singh told her to take ownership of the issue if it came up, and left it to her as it was her responsibility to do so.
"Mr Singh also said that if the matter did not get raised, then he… had no plans to voluntarily get the issue clarified, because it was Ms Khan's responsibility," the report said.
The WP chief also told the Committee that he chose not to disclose her confession to party leaders or the public as he felt it was not important to do so. He also did not think much harm had been done to the police by the lie.
The report also disclosed that Ms Khan had sent Mr Singh a text message on Oct 4 asking what she should do, whilst Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam questioned her account in Parliament. Ms Khan repeated the lie in her response to the minister, and the committee raised questions about whether she was clear that he had wanted her to tell the truth, as he had said.
During a hearing over nine hours long, Mr Singh said "the truth of the matter" was that Ms Khan had been told to take responsibility and ownership of an untruth that ultimately led to her resigning from both party and Parliament.
The report said Mr Singh agreed that the issue the committee was investigating — Ms Khan's lie in Parliament about the details of a sexual assault case — was a very serious case.
Ms Khan, a first-term MP who resigned from the WP and as MP for Sengkang GRC on Nov 30, had admitted to fabricating details that implicated the police's handling of a sexual assault case, during a parliamentary speech on female empowerment on Aug 3.
But the report said Mr Singh did not specifically tell Ms Khan to clarify the truth at the next available Parliament sitting she attended, on Oct 4, even if the issue was not raised.
Based on Mr Singh's advice to Ms Khan to take ownership and responsibility, he had an expectation — as opposed to an understanding — that Ms Khan would clarify the truth, if the matter was raised, the report said.
And as Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam made a ministerial statement on Oct 4 on Ms Khan's anecdote, she sent Mr Singh a message, asking: "What should I do, Pritam?"
Mr Singh agreed that Ms Khan's message was completely at odds with his expectation to tell the truth if the matter came up, said the report.
He believed that telling her to take personal responsibility — and that he would not judge her if she did — meant that she knew that she had to tell the truth, if the matter came up.
"It is at odds with his understanding, because the matter did come up on Oct 4 and yet she was asking him for instructions on what she should do," the report said.
The report also noted that when told by the committee that Ms Khan's false allegation "painted a picture of the Police", Mr Singh denied that the Police would be adversely impacted by such a lie.
Asked if it was "okay to have a lie in Parliament where the lie relates to the reaction of the Police, bad reaction… to a complaint by a sexual assault victim", Mr Singh replied that the police were not a "broken-back" organisation, the report added.
"He questioned the amount of work put in by the Police to check on the allegation," said the report. "Mr Singh also said that he didn't feel that a wrong had been done to the Police by Ms Khan's untruthful allegations against the Police."
In his testimony, Mr Singh also denied asking Ms Khan to take her untruth "to the grave", echoing WP vice-chairman's Faisal Manap's statement which was released the day before on Saturday (Dec 11).
Mr Faisal had also acknowledged it was hard to explain rationally why he, Mr Singh and chairman Sylvia Lim had not reacted sooner to set the record right, and that the trio had chosen not to disclose Ms Khan's act to other party leaders, even during disciplinary hearings into the matter.
Earlier, on Dec 3, the committee had issued a first report presenting Ms Khan's side of the story, where she alleged that WP leaders had advised her to keep up a lie that ultimately brought about her resignation from both party and parliament.
Her account to the committee was at odds with the version of events laid out by WP leaders at a press conference on Dec 2. Then, Mr Singh said he had directed Ms Khan to take responsibility and own up to her lie in Parliament.
Mr Singh reiterated this in his testimony to the committee, according to the special report. It said that in August, after learning of the lie and giving Ms Khan time to deal with the matter and speak to her parents, he did not take any steps to speak with her to get the issue clarified during the next Parliament sitting in September.
"Mr Singh said it was Ms Khan's responsibility to speak to him about the matter, after she had settled things with her parents. He said that he was in no position to know when that would happen," the report said, adding that he had not checked with her if she had done so.
It noted that in October, Mr Singh told Ms Khan that if the issue were to come up in Parliament, she had "to take responsibility and ownership of the issue", and if she did so, he "will not judge" her.
Mr Singh also said that Ms Khan had to clarify the truth, even if the matter was not raised; though the report noted Mr Singh saying that if the matter did not come up, then Ms Khan would not need to.
The WP, Singapore's largest opposition party, has refrained from officially responding to the committee's reports, saying it would be only prudent to do so at an appropriate forum and juncture as the investigation is still ongoing.
See the full report released by the Committee of Privileges.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.