'Not relevant' for the public to know WP leaders' knowledge of Raeesah's lies: Pritam Singh

(From left) Mr Jamus Lim, Ms He Ting Ru, Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Louis Chua and Mr Faisal Manap at a Workers' Party press conference, on Dec 2, 2021. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh did not see it as relevant for the public to know that Workers' Party (WP) leaders knew about Ms Raeesah Khan's lie days after it was uttered in Parliament.

Instead, Mr Singh said he decided to call a press conference on Dec 2 and disclose this information because questions were going around about when and what WP leaders knew about Ms Khan's untruths, he told the Committee of Privileges when he gave evidence on Friday (Dec 10).

The Committee of Privileges released its third special report on its hearings on Sunday (Dec 12), which was centred on Mr Singh's evidence on Ms Khan's case.

Mr Singh held that party leaders' knowledge of the untruth in August was not important because "ultimately, this was about Ms Khan and her decision to lie in Parliament, to continue the lie". 

"It would be very relevant if the party leadership told her to tell a lie - we did not - to continue a narrative, (which) we did not."

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After Ms Khan confessed to lying in Parliament in a statement on Nov 1, Mr Singh had put up a Facebook post on the same day that said Ms Khan should not have shared an account that contained untruths in the House.

The post did not mention that Ms Khan had confessed to him, vice-chair Faisal Manap and Ms Sylvia Lim five days after she had lied in Parliament about accompanying a sexual assault victim to the police station.

A media statement put out by the Workers' Party on Nov 2 that announced the formation of a WP disciplinary panel into the matter also did not mention this.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong asked if this could have given a false impression that Ms Khan had persisted in her lie alone.

"Whether that lie was held firmly and not discussed with senior leadership would be a different scenario from an MP who has lied, but confessed early, almost three months prior to coming clean in Parliament," Mr Tong said.

He added that it could also have been a mitigating factor when WP's panel made its recommendations to the party's Central Executive Committee (CEC) on how to sanction her.

The disciplinary panel, comprised of the three senior leaders who knew about the lie on Aug 8, did not disclose this information to WP members who were invited to give their opinions about the issue.

Mr Singh disagreed, saying: "In my view, that point rests on her telling the senior leadership after she's been forced to tell the senior leadership what has happened." 

On Dec 2, the WP held a press conference during which it was first disclosed that the party's senior leadership was aware of Ms Khan's untruths months prior.

When asked why he decided then to make what he had earlier thought to be irrelevant information public, Mr Singh said he wanted to do away with the illusion that the party was hiding something.

"There was online chatter about it. And I thought it would be relevant to answer it. And I would expect journalists to ask that question," he said.

Mr Tong asked what was wrong with making the information public earlier, to which Mr Singh replied: "That's precisely my point: it didn't even cross our minds. The question of it being relevant wasn't even active at that time."

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin then asked Mr Singh why the press conference on Dec 2 was held at around the same time on the first day that the Committee of Privileges met to hear evidence, and whether it was called because the WP senior leadership knew their involvement would emerge when Ms Khan came before the committee.

Mr Singh said this did not occur to him and that the press conference had been publicly announced days before.

On why the WP leaders' prior awareness of Ms Khan's Aug 3 lie to Parliament was kept even from the WP's CEC, Mr Singh said that Ms Khan was before the CEC on Oct 29, and could have raised any concerns then if she had wanted to.

Mr Singh reiterated that the necessity for such a disclosure to the CEC did not cross the three senior leaders' mind.

"It did not press on our minds. But if (the CEC) would have asked (about our involvement), we would have (told them)."

See the full report released by the Committee of Privileges.

Watch videos of the nine-hour hearing:

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