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Pressed on the word ‘weaponised’: Was Pritam Singh told of what went on at ‘secret’ privileges committee meetings?

SINGAPORE — During a parliamentary debate on Tuesday (Feb 15), National Development Minister Desmond Lee repeatedly quizzed the Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh over a choice of words used in documents that he was not meant to have seen.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee (left) and Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh (right) in Parliament on Feb 15, 2022.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee (left) and Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh (right) in Parliament on Feb 15, 2022.

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  • Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh used the word "weaponised" during a parliamentary debate
  • He was saying the Committee of Privileges concluded that he "weaponised" Ms Raeesah Khan's mental condition at the hearings
  • That word choice led to repeated questions by National Development Minister Desmond Lee
  • Mr Lee said that the term never appears in the committee's report
  • He added that word was used only in a draft document and quizzed Mr Singh over how he had learnt about the term 

SINGAPORE — During a parliamentary debate on Tuesday (Feb 15), National Development Minister Desmond Lee repeatedly quizzed the Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh over a choice of words used in documents that he was not meant to have seen.

Mr Singh, head of the Workers’ Party (WP), was criticising the Committee of Privileges for concluding that he had tried to smear former WP Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan by talking about her mental health issues during the committee’s hearings.

“Most egregious in my mind is the conclusion that in seeking a psychiatric evaluation for Ms Khan, I had somehow weaponised her condition,” the WP chief said.

Following Mr Singh’s speech, Mr Lee rose to ask Mr Singh to clarify where in the committee’s report did he see the term “weaponised”. 

Although the word does not appear in the final report, Mr Lee said that it was used in a draft of the report but later removed when the committee discussed this “in secrecy”. 

"I'd like to ask the Leader of the Opposition, who told him about the use of the term ‘weaponised’ with respect to Ms Khan’s mental health condition?"

Mr Lee was a member of the committee. Among the eight members, all but one — WP MP Dennis Tan — belong to the ruling People’s Action Party.

Mr Lee and Mr Singh were speaking during a debate on the committees’ findings into the lies told in Parliament by Ms Raeesah.

The committee had recommended levying a fine of S$35,000 on Ms Raeesah for lying repeatedly in Parliament about accompanying a sexual assault victim to a police station, and referring Mr Singh and WP vice-chair Faisal Manap to the Public Prosecutor.

The following is an edited transcript of their exchange.

Mr Desmond Lee: Mr Speaker, a clarification for the Leader of the Opposition. As a member of the Committee of Privileges, I heard Mr Singh say earlier, very specifically, that “I had somehow weaponised her condition”, referring, I presume, to the Committee of Privileges’ findings on what he had said about Ms Khan's purported mental health conditions. “Weaponised her condition” — perhaps I can ask the Leader of the Opposition where in the report he sees us use that term.

Mr Pritam Singh: Mr Speaker, let me have a look at the report, it’s in my — I’ll reply to that.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin: Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stands, then sits after Mr Desmond Lee asks the prime minister to allow Mr Singh to respond first.

Mr Pritam Singh: Mr Speaker, I think Prime Minister can go ahead with his speech. I’ll try and get the necessary information as soon as possible.

But, I think, generally speaking… my decision to bring up Ms Khan's condition was expressed in my speech for three reasons. I brought up those three reasons, and I think it's incontrovertible that the Committee of Privileges used very uncharitable, I would even say unparliamentary, words to describe what I did. So my speech sought to explain why I felt I was legitimate in raising the matter of Ms Khan’s condition.

Mr Desmond Lee: Mr Speaker, just to clarify, Mr Singh is saying that he saw the word “weaponised” in the report and he referenced it in this speech earlier?

Mr Pritam Singh: Mr Speaker, I just said that I'll have to check that. Let me have a look at it. I think it's a fair question, if indeed that word was not used and it was not right for me to use it, I'm happy to withdraw it. But let me just at least look at the report.

Mr Desmond Lee: Mr Speaker, I asked because “weaponise her condition” was a very specific term, which was used in a draft of the report's findings, but which was subsequently taken out when the committee discussed this in secrecy. And so it does not appear anywhere in the report. So I'd like to ask the Leader of the Opposition, who told him about the use of the term “weaponised” with respect to Ms Khan’s mental health condition?

Mr Pritam Singh: Mr Speaker, I looked at how the Committee of Privileges’ report had put together that particular paragraph of Ms Khan’s mental health condition, and this was the word that occurred to me as to what the committee was trying to do. 

PM Lee gives a speech. Mr Singh addresses points raised by PM Lee, but does not respond to Mr Desmond Lee’s earlier question on the term “weaponised”.

Mr Desmond Lee: Mr Speaker, I’d like to return to the earlier clarification that I'd sought and the Leader of the Opposition mentioned that after the Prime Minister’s speech, he would let us know where he saw in the report the reference to that specific term, “weaponised”.

I asked, because it is a very specific word. It's a very specific way of characterisation and this is important for the integrity of the Committee of Privileges’ process. 

The initial draft read as follows: “Mr Singh essentially weaponised unsubstantiated allegations that Ms Khan was unstable and unreliable, and that she was prone to lying because of her mental health, and this was connected to her being a sexual assault victim.” 

But in the report before this House, which is the only public report put out, at page 58 paragraph 176, sub-para 4, it says, and I quote: “Mr Singh then alleged that Ms Khan had mental health problems, and suggested that she was predisposed to lying and so on and so forth.” 

So that phrase was debated in committee and we decided to remove it. And this is what you see.

So Mr Singh would not have reference to this specific term unless somehow earlier drafts were shared with him. So can he confirm or deny that people told him about the drafts? 

So that's my first clarification. I have a clarification to make after this.

Mr Pritam Singh: Mr Speaker, I beg your pardon. Indeed, the word is not in the committee's report and I mentioned earlier that the word “weaponised” was my characterisation of what I saw was that particular paragraph. 

Indeed, the word is also used publicly. I think there’s a Rice Media — I cannot remember whether I read this specifically, but Rice Media has an article, which says: “Now that the claims on Raeesah Khan’s mental health have been refuted, how do you feel about weaponising an individual's mental health in an investigation?”

So generally, that was my characterisation of what I saw the Committee of Privileges’ report was doing, and hence the choice of my usage of the word “weaponised”.

I did not refer in my speech to say that the report specifically used the word “weaponised”. I said: “The most egregious is the conclusion that in seeking a psychiatric evaluation from Ms Khan, I had somehow weaponised her condition.” I hope that clarifies.

Mr Desmond Lee: Just to confirm before this House, Mr Singh was not referring to any drafts or reference to earlier drafts? No? Thank you.

Related topics

Parliament Committee of Privileges Pritam Singh Desmond Lee Raeesah Khan mental health

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