SINGAPORE - Leaders of the Workers' Party (WP) were told by their MP Raeesah Khan that she had lied in Parliament, about a week after she made false statements about a sexual assault case in a speech on Aug 3.
But the party leaders decided to give her time to deal with the matter, because she had also told them she had been a sexual assault victim herself, and had not told her family about it, WP chief Pritam Singh said on Thursday (Dec 2).
At the next session of Parliament that she was able to attend, in October, Ms Khan was supposed to clarify the matter. But she did not, and in fact repeated untruths that were wholly inconsistent with the revelations she had shared with WP leaders.
Speaking at a press conference two days after the WP announced Ms Khan's resignation from the party and as an MP, Mr Singh said he was immediately concerned about the fact that Ms Khan's own family was not aware of her sexual assault, which had traumatised her.
It was important for the family to be told about this before Ms Khan could fully address the reasons behind her own untruthful conduct in Parliament, he added.
"In view of her sexual assault and my assessment of the scale of her state of mind, I was prepared to give her the space necessary to address the matter with her loved ones," he said at a the press conference at the WP headquarters in Geylang.
Mr Singh, who is Leader of the Opposition, added that after her admission to WP leaders, Ms Khan came down with a case of shingles and could not attend the Parliament sitting in September.
But it was nonetheless made known to her before the sitting in October that any parliamentary clarification of this matter was supposed to be in her capacity as an elected MP, said Mr Singh.
Ms Khan had, in her August speech, said she had accompanied a 25-year-old rape victim to a police station to make a police report, and the officer who interviewed the victim had made inappropriate comments about her dressing and the fact that she was drinking. But she never accompanied the victim to a police station.
Ms Khan later admitted that the victim had shared the account in a support group for women, which Ms Khan herself was in, and said she did not have the victim's consent to share the story.
However, when questioned in Parliament on Oct 4 by Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam - who said the police had checked their records and found no cases that fit Ms Khan's description - Ms Khan declined to provide details, saying she did not want to re-traumatise the victim.
She also said she had not been successful in contacting the victim.
Mr Singh said Ms Khan had repeated untruths which were wholly inconsistent with the revelations she had shared with the party leadership.
Mr Singh added that almost immediately after the Oct 4 sitting, Ms Khan agreed with the party leadership that she had to set the record right. The next opportunity to do so was on Nov 1, when she revealed that she had lied.
With Mr Singh at the press conference on Thursday were WP chair Sylvia Lim and Sengkang GRC team leader He Ting Ru. Later, the other Sengkang GRC MPs, together with WP vice-chair Faisal Manap, joined. Ms Khan was not present.
Her resignation comes a month after her Nov 1 admission in Parliament that she had lied in her August speech about a purported incident where she claimed the police mishandled a rape victim's complaint.
Ms Khan was referred to Parliament's Committee of Privileges for a breach of parliamentary privilege following the admission, which will continue its work into Ms Khan's case.
On Nov 2, the WP announced that it had also formed a disciplinary panel to look into the admissions made by Ms Khan. The panel comprised Mr Singh, Ms Lim and WP vice-chairman Faisal Manap.
On Thursday, Mr Singh said WP leaders had "voted overwhelmingly" to ask Ms Khan to resign even before she decided to do so.
He added that she would have been expelled from the party if she had failed to step down.
As it turned out, Ms Khan informed him of her intention to resign on Tuesday afternoon, shortly before the party central executive committee met to discuss the matter.
Ms Khan was voted into Parliament in the July 2020 General Election as part of the four-member WP team contesting Sengkang GRC.
Her resignation means that Sengkang GRC will now have three MPs: Ms He, Associate Professor Jamus Lim and Mr Louis Chua.
WP chair Sylvia Lim said there will not be a by-election in Sengkang GRC as the constituency's three remaining MPs will continue to serve for the remainder of the term.
Under the law, there is no stipulation to hold a by-election for a GRC if a team member resigns. A by-election is needed only if all the MPs for the GRC vacate their seats.
Apologising to the residents of Sengkang and all victims of sexual assault, Mr Singh said that public trust and confidence in its sitting MPs are fundamental to the ethos of the WP.
"Singaporeans have the right to expect the best efforts from Workers' Party MPs and we should never take their faith, trust and confidence in us for granted," he said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.