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Pritam Singh slams privileges committee's report, says it disregards evidence from WP leaders

SINGAPORE — Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh slammed the findings by the Committee of Privileges in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 15), saying that it had disregarded certain evidence submitted by Workers' Party (WP) leaders during a probe into lies told in the House by former WP Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan.

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh said the privileges committee's processes and the report "leave many questions, gaps and omissions".
Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh said the privileges committee's processes and the report "leave many questions, gaps and omissions".
  • WP chief Pritam Singh said the Committee of Privileges had disregarded certain evidence given by WP leaders
  • He said the report "leaves many questions, gaps and omissions, and by extension suggests political partisanship"
  • He acknowledged that he had given Ms Raeesah Khan too much time before closing the issue with her after finding out about her lie
  • He refuted the allegation that he had "weaponised" her mental health condition

SINGAPORE — Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh slammed the findings by the Committee of Privileges in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 15), saying that it had disregarded certain evidence submitted by Workers' Party (WP) leaders during a probe into lies told in the House by former WP Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan.

Mr Singh, who is WP secretary-general and MP for Aljunied Group Representation Constituency, was speaking during a debate on two parliamentary motions on the committee’s findings.

The committee 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 committee's processes and the report before Parliament leaves many questions, gaps and omissions, and by extension suggest political partisanship," Mr Singh said, stressing that the committee disregarded evidence that he submitted.

"At minimum, I would have expected a listing of all the documents my fellow WP colleagues and I submitted to the committee to be included in the committee's report to indicate that they were actively considered in deliberations.

"I can only assume they were not considered despite my colleagues and I being served with a summons to produce them."

He added that these were objective documents that he had submitted to the committee, "which raised serious doubts about the eventual findings reached in the report".

At the same time, he admitted, as he had done during the committee's proceedings, that he should have checked in with Ms Raeesah after an Aug 8 meeting between her and senior WP leaders, in which she confessed that she had lied in Parliament, and that the example she had cited in Parliament had come from a member of a support group she had attended as a victim of sexual assault herself. 

Mr Singh said: "My firm belief is that an MP must be accountable in Parliament for what they say in Parliament. In addition, I consider that whenever she confessed, Ms Khan would have to explain her reason for telling her lie."

"I did not want Ms Khan's parents or loved ones to be caught by surprise before she had the chance to speak with them. Looking back though, I gave her too much time to settle herself before closing the issue with her."

He added that he should have been proactive and check "where she was in addressing the matter with her family".

Mr Singh said that the committee did not include several evidence from the WP leaders in its report, and instead deemed the “contemporaneousness” of Ms Raeesah's evidence as critical — including messages she had sent to her aides Loh Pei Ying and Yudhishthra Nathan after her meeting with WP senior leaders.

The opposition leader said that the committee had depended on this “uncorroborated” evidence to come to its conclusion that Mr Singh had told Ms Raeesah to take the lie "to the grave" in an Aug 8 meeting.

Mr Singh said: “The Committee of Privileges does not question Ms Khan’s credibility, even though she was the one who lied in this House by her own admission, and even though she also lied when she first communicated with me about the matter.

“So if contemporaneous evidence is indeed central, one would expect the Committee of Privileges' report to exhibit a fidelity to such evidence, but it does not.”

He then gave an example of how the committee had not considered text messages that he had sent to Ms Loh and Mr Nathan. He noted that the committee had made the case that both WP cadres were surprised that a disciplinary panel for Ms Raeesah was put up by the party.

The report, he said, also advances the view that the disciplinary panel was a self-serving one.

“However, what were Ms Loh and Mr Nathan’s contemporaneous views on the disciplinary panel when it was set up? I submitted my WhatsApp texts with both of them to the Committee of Privileges. Once again, this evidence is left out from the report,” Mr Singh added.

He read out the texts in Parliament, in which Ms Loh and Mr Nathan reacted to him telling them about the disciplinary panel.

Ms Loh replied to Mr Singh at the time, upon hearing of the WP panel, whether there was anything he needed her to do, while Mr Nathan said: “Hi, Pritam, noted on this. I know it's difficult but I think party members and supporters will be comforted by it.”

These contemporaneous WhatsApp messages directly contradict the Committee of Privileges' findings, Mr Singh said.

He then rejected the committee’s claim that he had characterised Ms Raeesah's two WP aides in antagonistic terms when he was giving evidence to the committee, saying that the committee failed to consider evidence that he had submitted, which lauded the two longtime members.

“I can only speculate why (the committee omitted these evidence). Would it be to strategically drive a wedge and disunite the Workers’ Party and show that its leaders recklessly cast aspersions on their own members?” 

The WP chief also criticised the committee for concluding that he had tried to smear Ms Raeesah by talking about her mental health issues to the committee.

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

“If the Committee of Privileges was indeed a fact-finding body, should I not have raised the matter of Ms Khan possibly labouring under a condition to the committee?” Mr Singh asked.

Following his speech, National Development Minister Desmond Lee sought to clarify Ms Singh's use of the term "weaponised", stating that the word had been used in a draft version of the report, but was removed for the final version that was available to the public.

Mr Lee, a member of the Committee of Privileges, also rejected Mr Singh's claim that the COP had ignored text messages regarding Ms Loh's and Mr Nathan's reaction to the formation of the disciplinary panel, proceeding to read out a portion of the annex that detailed the two WP members' impression of the panel. This evidence will be placed before the Public Prosecutor, he said.

In response, Mr Singh said that the word "weaponised" was his own characterisation and that he had also seen it used online. He then added that Mr Lee did not address his point that despite the weight the COP placed on contemporaneous evidence, it did not include his evidence in the report.

He added that he did not go into detail into what specific evidence he hoped would be included due to the possibility of court proceedings, and requested that these documents — which he was summoned to produce — would be returned to him.

To this, Mr Lee stressed that the committee had considered all evidence submitted to it. 

"I will just say in response to that, that the committee did not rely purely on contemporaneous messages. It looked at the whole suite of action or inaction (from WP). That is quite plain from the the report," Mr Lee said.

Related topics

Pritam Singh WP Workers' Party Parliament Committee of Privileges Raeesah Khan

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