Singapore GE2020: WP's Raeesah Khan apologises for posts which allegedly promoted enmity between different groups

WP's Sengkang GRC candidate Raeesah Khan speaking to the media on July 5, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Workers' Party (WP) Sengkang candidate Raeesah Khan apologised on Sunday for two Facebook posts said to allege police discrimination against minorities.

At an unplanned press conference the party called on Sunday night, Ms Khan, 26, said she did not mean to cause social division, but had made the remarks as she wanted to raise awareness about minority concerns.

Flanked by WP leaders Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim and her GRC teammates, Ms Khan, with her head bowed and reading from a piece of paper, said: "I apologise to any racial group or community who have been hurt by my comments.

"My remarks were insensitive, and I regret making them. I feel really passionate about minority issues regardless of race, and in my passion I made improper remarks, and I have to be accountable for them. I will fully cooperate in any police investigations."

The apology comes after the police issued a statement on Sunday about two police reports that were made against Ms Khan.

Police said in a statement on Sunday (July 5) that she had allegedly commented that Singapore law enforcement authorities discriminated against citizens, and that compared with other groups, rich Chinese and white people were treated differently under the law.

Another police report was made over a separate post. In the context of a news article on the City Harvest Church ruling, she was alleged to have commented that Singapore jailed minorities mercilessly, harassed mosque leaders but let "corrupt church leaders who stole $50 million" free.

Responding to questions from the media, Mr Singh said the party would stand behind its Sengkang team and he and Ms Lim were at the press conference to support them.

The rest of the candidates, equity analyst Louis Chua, economist Jamus Lim and lawyer He Ting Ru looked on solemnly but did not answer questions.

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Asked if this matter would affect Ms Khan's candidacy, Mr Singh said it was too early to talk about it and that the police investigations would have to be allowed to take its course.

He added that he had not known about the Facebook posts beforehand, but noted that at 26-years-old, Ms Khan is WP's youngest candidate in this election and comes from a generation that has "completely grown up on social media".

"And for me, I would be actually a bit disappointed if our candidates try to sanitise their past. And I think they should be upfront and authentic to the public. This is who they are. And in the event there are certain posts or certain comments that they may have made which are untoward, then I would expect them to explain themselves."

He added that he has no regrets fielding her and that she will continue with her campaign.

"I know that she takes each case very seriously, regardless of race, regardless of religion. She's very vested in what issue the resident is facing," he said.

"I think those are very important criteria for me personally to consider someone for candidature, whether you are able to put yourself and walk a mile in the shoes of someone who needs help and assistance, so I've got no regrets for fielding a candidate who is like that, who is prepared to walk with residents and solve their problems and issues, and I think that's an important criteria, which resulted in Raeesah being selected as a candidate."

The Straits Times understands that both of the posts in question were made on her personal Facebook account.

One post was made on May 17 about an incident involving seven foreigners violating social distancing rules at Robertson Quay during the circuit breaker period.

"Imagine if this was a group of minorities," she had said, adding that she saw police patrolling near a hawker centre and supermarket near her house every day to ensure that people practise social distancing and mask-wearing.

"Do you see police officers here? Imagine if this was a neighbourhood hawker centre. There would be policemen swarming the area and enforcing the law within minutes," Ms Raeesah had said in her post.

"Why is the law different for these people? Is it because they're rich Chinese or white people? Do you think expats will be treated with the same disdain as migrant workers who broke the law?

"I'm not a fan of aggressive policing, but what I will not accept is law enforcement that discriminates against its citizens."

The seven foreigners, including four Britons, an Austrian and two Americans, were tracked down by the police and fined in court last month. Six of them had their work passes revoked by the Manpower Ministry and were banned from working in Singapore in future.

Ms Raeesah was comparing the case to a separate incident in April, in which a work pass holder was stripped of his pass and permanently banned from working in Singapore, after breaching circuit breaker measures. Another 39 foreign workers were also fined in April for gathering in groups.

The Straits Times understands the comments on the City Harvest Church ruling were also posted on Ms Raeesah's personal Facebook account in February 2018.

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After the police reports were made, her social media accounts were made private.

The police said in its statement: "The police have consulted the Attorney-General's Chambers, which advised that an offence of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race under Section 298A of the Penal Code is disclosed. Police investigations are ongoing."

For promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race under the Penal Code, a person can be jailed up to three years, or fined, or face both punishments.

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