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Parliament votes to refer Pritam Singh, Faisal Manap to Public Prosecutor, in face of objections from WP

SINGAPORE — Parliament voted to refer Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and Workers’ Party (WP) vice-chair Faisal Manap to the Public Prosecutor as recommended by the Committee of Privileges, even though there were objections from the opposition party.

Some Members of Parliament standing to show they voted against parliamentary motions filed on Feb 15, 2022, after a debate on a Committee of Privileges report.

Some Members of Parliament standing to show they voted against parliamentary motions filed on Feb 15, 2022, after a debate on a Committee of Privileges report.

  • Parliament voted to refer WP leaders Pritam Singh and Faisal Manap to the Public Prosecutor as recommended by the Committee of Privileges
  • It also approved a fine of S$25,000 and S$10,000 against former WP MP Raeesah Khan for lies told in Parliament
  • WP voted in favour of the S$25,000 fine, but not the $10,000 fine
  • The party argued that the smaller fine was based on findings that Ms Raeesah had received instructions from the WP leaders to repeat the lies

SINGAPORE — Parliament voted to refer Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and Workers’ Party (WP) vice-chair Faisal Manap to the Public Prosecutor as recommended by the Committee of Privileges, even though there were objections from the opposition party.

The House also voted on Tuesday (Feb 15) in favour of the committee’s recommendation to levy a fine totalling S$35,000 against former WP Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan for lies told in Parliament last year.

Last week, the committee had recommended imposing a fine of S$35,000 on Ms Raeesah for lying in Parliament about accompanying a sexual assault victim to a police station, and referring Mr Singh, WP’s secretary-general, and Mr Faisal to the Public Prosecutor, who is the Attorney-General.

On Tuesday, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah presented two parliamentary motions based on the recommendations.

The first motion comprised two parts, which were to issue Ms Raeesah a fine of S$25,000 for abusing her parliamentary privilege by lying in Parliament on Aug 3, and another fine of S$10,000 on her for repeating the lie on Oct 4. 

Members of WP voted for one part of the motion to impose a fine of S$25,000 against its former member, but objected to the remaining fine of S$10,000. They argued during the debate that the lighter fine was based on committee’s findings that Ms Raeesah had received instructions from the WP leaders to repeat the lies.

Parliament then passed the second motion to refer Mr Singh and Mr Faisal to the Public Prosecutor, on the back of the committee’s findings that they might have lied under oath during its investigations.

With his party voting against this as well, Mr Singh said: "While Mr Faisal and myself are prepared to be referred to the Public Prosecutor, we don't agree with this particular paragraph because the basis of the referral to the Public Prosecutor is from the findings of the Committee of Privileges and we reject the allegation that we told half-truths."

Parliament also voted for appropriate sanctions to be deferred until after the conclusion of the investigations and criminal proceedings, with only the WP MPs voting against this.

Mr Leong Mun Wai and Ms Hazel Poa, Non-Constituency MPs from the Progress Singapore Party, voted in support of all parts of both motions, except for the S$10,000 fine against Ms Raeesah.

When contacted by TODAY, Mr Leong declined to say why his party voted against part of the fine.

Both he and Ms Poa did not rise to speak in Parliament.

At the start of the debate, Ms Indranee — who had filed the original complaint against Ms Raeesah for breaching parliamentary privilege — introduced both parliamentary motions in an opening speech, where she reminded the House that this privilege to speak freely and candidly in Parliament "is one of the most powerful things about parliamentary democracy".

"This is so that MPs can raise matters of public importance, safe in the knowledge that they have immunity from civil or criminal proceedings outside this House. That is a great privilege... but because it is such an important privilege, it must also be used responsibly and must not be abused," she added.

If (Mr Singh) feels that something is relevant and was not taken into account, he will have the opportunity to refer to it if this matter goes to court
Ms Indranee Rajah, Leader of the House

SUPPORT FOR THE MOTIONS

Ten MPs, including two Nominated MPs and the three WP senior leaders, then rose to speak during the debate that lasted about four hours.

MPs who spoke in support of the motions generally pointed to the importance of political office-holders and parliamentarians upholding the value of integrity, and that acting otherwise would endanger Singapore’s democratic system.

In his speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged members of the House to vote in favour of both motions, stressing that Parliament cannot pretend nothing had happened, nor could it lower its standards "just a little” by noting that untruths were told yet argue that no harm was done.

“If we do either of these things, we, too, would become complicit in dishonouring and demeaning Parliament,” he said. “We must take the transgression seriously and act on it.”

PLANS TO CLEAR HIS NAME

Mr Singh stated his intention to clear his name and to cooperate fully with the Public Prosecutor, despite having objections to the Committee of Privileges’ report.

Mr Faisal similarly said that he would give his full cooperation to the Public Prosecutor.

He objected strongly to the committee’s findings that he, Mr Singh and WP chairman Sylvia Lim had advised Ms Raeesah to continue with her untruths.

Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal are MPs for Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC). Ms Raeesah has since resigned as MP for Sengkang GRC.

Ms Janet Ang, a Nominated MP, supported the committee’s findings and described the recommendation to refer the WP leaders to the Attorney-General as the “right and best option”, because it would allow them a chance to defend themselves and clear their names.

Fellow Nominated MP Raj Joshua Thomas said that it would not be a “foregone conclusion” that Mr Singh and Mr Faisal would lose their seats in Parliament if their matter was to be brought to the courts, as some online chatter have claimed.

“There have been instances in which the courts have decided against the Government, even in favour of an opposition political party,” Mr Thomas added.

Referring Mr Singh and Mr Manap to the Public Prosecutor is the fairest thing to do, because if they maintain their innocence, they will have a chance to vindicate themselves
Ms Indranee Rajah, Leader of the House

Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, Chua Chu Kang GRC MP with the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), said in the Malay portion of his speech that Mr Faisal, as a more senior Malay-Muslim MP in WP, was looked up to by Ms Raeesah for guidance and advice. 

Yet Mr Faisal had let her down by not cooperating with the committee at the hearings and refusing several times to answer a question put to him.

“Where is the compassion for a young person in need?” Mr Zhulkarnain questioned in Malay.

'BIG, UNCOMFORTABLE REPORT'

Wrapping up the debate, Ms Indranee said that although the three WP leaders raised numerous points during their speeches, they did not address the key findings by the committee.

“I can understand tactically and strategically why you do that, because you've got this big uncomfortable report that says these really strong statements.

"So it’s probably as a strategy, a good idea not to deal with those head-on but to pick small little things here and there, and to hope that other people will look at that,” she added.

On a point raised earlier by Mr Singh that the committee had cherry-picked evidence, Ms Indranee said that the committee had taken into account and considered all relevant documents.

“And if (Mr Singh) feels that something is relevant and was not taken into account, he will have the opportunity to refer to it if this matter goes to court,” she added.

Replying to Ms Lim’s comments on the committee’s composition, which comprised predominantly PAP members, and the lack of external legal representation for the witnesses, Ms Indranee said that the standing order for such a committee had been revised from time to time with no complaints before this.

She also pointed out that when Mr Singh had nominated WP’s Hougang MP Dennis Tan into the committee, Mr Singh did not register any complaint either.

“So it just rather does sound as though if you don't like the outcome of the Committee of Privileges, then you complain about how it is composed when it was never an issue before.”

Urging MPs to vote for both motions, Ms Indranee said that the Committee of Privileges had decided against recommending that a new committee be convened to hear these allegations, or to punish the WP leaders right away, since the WP leaders have continued to deny these allegations or prevaricate, and would likely cast aspersions on any new committee.

"Whatever it is, we cannot run away from the fact that we have before us a report. The report has highlighted things that we cannot ignore and we have to make a decision,” Ms Indranee added.

"Referring Mr Singh and Mr Manap to the Public Prosecutor is the fairest thing to do, because if they maintain their innocence, they will have a chance to vindicate themselves.

“They will be entitled to legal counsel, legal representation, and they will go before the court, which is independent, and they need not fear that there is any political interference." 

Related topics

Parliament Committee of Privileges Workers' Party WP Raeesah Khan

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