Faisal Manap testifies that WP's top leaders knew about Raeesah Khan's lie but kept it from others in party: Privileges committee
SINGAPORE — Workers’ Party (WP) vice-chair Faisal Manap has testified to Parliament's Committee of Privileges that the opposition party’s top three leaders had known for months that former WP MP Raeesah Khan had lied to the House on Aug 3 and repeated the untruth on Oct 4, but they did not reveal this to the rest of the leadership or its cadres.
- The committee, which is investigating the conduct of former WP MP Raeesah Khan who admitted to lying in Parliament, released its second report on the hearings into the matter
- This report comprised a summary of the evidence provided by WP vice-chairman Faisal Manap
- Among other things, Mr Faisal testified that WP’s top three leaders had known for months about Ms Raeesah’s lie but they did not reveal this to the rest of the leadership or its cadres
- The committee’s report also stated that Mr Faisal had two meetings with the two other top leaders – WP chief Pritam Singh and WP chairman Sylvia Lim – before giving evidence. But he refused to give details of what they discussed
- Mr Singh has also given evidence, while Ms Lim and Sengkang GRC MP Jamus Lim would be asked to testify, according to minutes of the committee’s meetings
SINGAPORE — Workers’ Party (WP) vice-chair Faisal Manap has testified to Parliament's Committee of Privileges that the opposition party’s top three leaders had known for months that former WP Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan had lied to the House on Aug 3 and repeated the untruth on Oct 4, but they did not reveal this to the rest of the leadership or its cadres.
On Saturday (Dec 11), the committee released its second report on the hearings into the matter. According to minutes of the committee's meetings, it would call on the three WP top leaders — Mr Faisal, WP chief Pritam Singh and chairman Sylvia Lim — to give evidence. Ms Raeesah's erstwhile fellow Sengkang GRC MP, Associate Professor Jamus Lim, would also be asked to testify.
Mr Singh had given evidence on Friday. The report released on Saturday comprised a summary of the evidence provided by Mr Faisal, who testified on Thursday.
According to the report, Mr Faisal said he had two meetings with Mr Singh and Ms Lim before his hearing with the Committee of Privileges. However, the Aljunied GRC MP repeatedly refused to give details of what they discussed, as well as the materials which Mr Singh and Ms Lim had brought to the meetings. This was despite being told that refusing to answer the committee would constitute contempt of Parliament.
The committee pointed out in its report that Mr Faisal "brought a note with him to the hearing". "He said that he had prepared it, to remind himself of the sequence of what had happened," the committee's report stated.
The committee is investigating Ms Raeesah’s conduct after she admitted on Nov 1 that she had lied in Parliament over a claim she made to the House on Aug 3 that she had accompanied a sexual assault victim to a police station where the victim was treated insensitively.
Ms Raeesah resigned from WP and as an MP on Nov 30.
The committee had released an earlier report on Dec 3 that contained testimony from Ms Raeesah saying she had been told by WP's top three leaders to stick to the lie she had made in Parliament.
She had also testified under oath that she was told by the leaders that if she and the party could get away with it, there was no need to clarify the lie.
According to the report issued by the committee on Saturday, Mr Faisal testified that Ms Raeesah had a meeting on Aug 8 with Mr Singh, Ms Lim and himself where she confessed that she lied during her parliamentary speech on Aug 3.
But the three leaders did not react to her confession because they had been overwhelmed after she told them that she had been sexually assaulted as a student in Australia when she was 18 years old.
Since that meeting, he did not ask any questions or had any discussions about the lie, the report said.
It added: “In short, he told the (Committee of Privileges) that he was not involved in anything relating to the untruth.”
The committee's report noted that Mr Faisal accepted that it was bad to lie to Parliament.
“He agreed that it was equally wrong to allow a lie to carry on in Parliament. He also agreed that if one knew of a true fact which would correct a deception on Parliament, keeping quiet would also be a problem, and could possibly amount to an offence,” said the report.
It added: “Mr Faisal agreed that after he became aware of (Ms Raeesah’s) lie, it would have been logical for him to have asked questions about (Ms Raeesah's) intention to clarify the lie, at various points in the events that transpired.”
WHAT HAPPENED AT AUG 8 MEETING
According to the Committee of Privileges' report, the meeting on Aug 8 was the first time that Mr Faisal learnt that the anecdote Ms Raeesah told Parliament on Aug 3 about her was untrue. He said that he was not aware that Ms Raeesah had, before the meeting, already told Mr Singh that she had lied.
Mr Faisal said he had attended the meeting under the impression that the discussion would primarily be about issues of female genital cutting and polygamy which related to the Muslim community.
Contrasting what Ms Raeesah had earlier told the committee, he said that Mr Singh did not indicate then that she should admit her lie to the Committee of Privileges.
Mr Faisal said that they did not discuss what actions to take about Ms Raeesah's lie, although the report added that he said he understood that "it would be hard to understand why the three of them did not react" to her confession.
After Ms Raeesah calmed down, he then asked Ms Raeesah to put out a Facebook statement later that day about her speech on female genital cutting and polygamy, which had caused unhappiness among the Muslim community.
The report said: "Mr Faisal believed that this was an issue that had caused distress to (Ms Raeesah), to a point where she had contemplated resigning as a Member of Parliament."
He told the committee that he was quite alarmed to learn that Ms Raeesah had lied and agreed that lying to Parliament about the police is "a very serious matter".
The report said: "As such, Mr Faisal agreed that it would have struck him almost immediately that the lie that (Ms Raeesah) told on Aug 3 was a big problem."
Mr Faisal said that he had left the matter to Mr Singh, whom he trusted after having worked with him for more than a decade in the WP and believed had the information to make the judgement call.
He also trusted Ms Raeesah to do the right thing.
Mr Faisal agreed that it would have been "fair and reasonable" for Ms Raeesah to expect that she would be guided by the three leaders on what to do about the lie since she had been an MP for barely a year.
He also agreed that it would be reasonable for Ms Raeesah to assume from the meeting that her senior party leaders were not concerned with the lie because they said nothing about what she should do.
But he felt that if Ms Raeesah had wanted guidance, she should have said so when they remained silent on the issue.
The report said: "In Mr Faisal's view, (Ms Raeesah) was an adult and the mother of two children, and was not young."
DID WP LEADERS ASK RAEESAH TO 'TAKE INFORMATION TO THE GRAVE'?
During Ms Raeesah's testimony earlier this month, she produced evidence of a message she had sent to her secretarial assistant Loh Pei Ying and fellow party member Yudhishthra Nathan after the Aug 8 meeting.
The message read: "Hey guys, I just met pritam, Sylvia and Faisal. And we spoke about the Muslim issue and the police accusation. I told them what I told you guys, and they've agreed that the best thing to do is to take the information to the grave. They also suggested that I write a statement to send out this evening."
Asked about this, Mr Faisal denied that the three WP leaders had told her to take the lie "to the grave", but could not explain why Ms Raeesah would say so.
From the Aug 8 meeting until Oct 29, three days before Ms Raeesah admitted to her lie in Parliament, Mr Faisal did not discuss the issue with her, Mr Singh or Ms Lim, he said.
He added that as far as he was aware, no preparatory work was done to clarify Ms Raesaah's falsehood between the Aug 8 meeting and the next parliamentary sitting on Sept 13.
On Oct 4 in Parliament, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam questioned Ms Raeesah about the accusation against the police and Ms Raeesah repeated her lie for the second time.
Mr Faisal was not in Parliament during that sitting and was "shocked and worried" to learn that Ms Raesaah had lied again after reading the news the next day.
At that point, nobody in the WP leadership except for Mr Singh, Mr Lim and himself knew that the anecdote was not true.
He trusted Mr Singh to resolve the issue and did not bring up the matter with other WP leaders. He had also texted Ms Raeesah to comfort her after her exchange with Mr Shanmugam but did not ask her why she repeated the lie.
However, Mr Faisal agreed that if Ms Raesaah's testimony to the committee that the leaders had told her to stick with her false narrative were true, then her conduct on Oct 4 was consistent with her account.
He also agreed that the absence of further discussions with Ms Khan about the lie “was consistent with Ms Khan’s account of the Aug 8 meeting, and her belief that Mr Singh, Ms Lim and himself had told her to ‘take it to the grave’,” the report added.
Mr Faisal said he first learnt that Ms Raeesah would be admitting to her lie in Parliament when she shared a draft of her speech with the WP's central executive committee (CEC) on Oct 29.
WP'S DISCIPLINARY PANEL
The day after Ms Raeesah made her admission to Parliament on Nov 1, Mr Singh texted Mr Faisal asking him to be part of a disciplinary panel against her, he said.
The panel was formally formed on Nov 2 comprising of Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal. At that point, the rest of the CEC did not know about the meeting they had on Aug 8 when Ms Raeesah had confessed to her lie, Mr Faisal said.
The rest of the WP leadership continued to be in the dark even when the CEC met on Nov 30 to deliberate the panel's recommended actions against Ms Raeesah.
That Ms Raeesah had sought guidance from senior leaders and confessed to them about the lie, however, would be relevant to the level of punishment the panel would recommend, Mr Faisal agreed with the committee.
On Nov 1, WP released a public statement by Mr Singh saying that Ms Raeesah should not have shared an account that contained a lie to Parliament. The statement did not say that the leaders had known about it for almost three months.
WP members were then asked to share their views.
Mr Faisal said he did not feel it was necessary to inform the CEC or WP members who came forward with their views that the three top leaders had known about the lie.
He said these matters were not relevant to the disciplinary panel's work. This was because the panel's recommendations were based only on information it received between Nov 8, when it first sat to receive evidence, and Nov 29.
Whatever was not raised to the panel during these two dates would not be considered, he said.
Neither Mr Singh nor Ms Lim discussed with him whether the Aug 8 meeting should be considered in the panel's report, Mr Faisal said. There were also no discussions as to whether they should reveal that they were the only three MPs besides Ms Raeesah who knew that she had lied.
However, Mr Faisal said that he did not believe that his position on the disciplinary panel was a conflict of interest.
When the three leaders presented their recommendations to the CEC, they did not tell the rest of the CEC members that the three of them had known about the lie.
They also did not disclose that Ms Loh and Mr Nathan had made strong statements to the panel for them to disclose their own involvement and knowledge about Ms Raeesah's lie.
The report said: "He also agreed that it would only be fair to (Ms Raeesah) and the integrity of the whole disciplinary process, for these members to know that (Ms Raeesah) had gone to the Party leadership on 8 Aug and explained the matter fully, openly and transparently."
The CEC eventually voted in favour of Ms Raeesah's expulsion without knowledge of the full facts, the report said.
The report and video recording of Mr Faisal's testimony, "with sensitive information redacted" according to the committee, have been made available to Parliament as well as to the public on the Parliament website.