5 things to note from the Committee of Privileges report on Raeesah Khan

(Clockwise from top left) Former WP MP Raeesah Khan, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, WP chairman Sylvia Lim and WP vice-chairman Faisal Manap. PHOTOS: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - A parliamentary committee has found former Workers' Party (WP) MP Raeesah Khan guilty of abuse of privilege for lying to the House, and recommended that she be fined a total of $35,000.

The Committee of Privileges on Thursday (Feb 10) also recommended that WP chief Pritam Singh be referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigation into his conduct before the committee.

The committee is chaired by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and comprises six other People's Action Party lawmakers and Mr Dennis Tan, an MP from the WP.

The committee's report will be debated in Parliament next week and MPs will vote on whether to accept its recommendations.

Here are five key points from the over 1,000-page report:

1. Raeesah Khan to face $35,000 in total fines

The committee recommended that Ms Khan, 29, be fined $25,000 for stating an untruth in Parliament on Aug 3 last year.

During a debate on empowering women, the then-MP for Sengkang GRC lied that she had accompanied a victim to a police station where officers allegedly handled the matter insensitively and drove the victim to tears. She repeated the allegation in a subsequent clarification later that day.

The committee concluded that she was the only person aware at that time that what she had said was untrue. She should therefore take full and sole responsibility for lying to Parliament twice on Aug 3.

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On Oct 4, Ms Khan repeated the lie in the House. The committee found that she was acting according to the guidance of three senior WP leaders, namely party leader Pritam Singh, chairman Sylvia Lim and vice-chairman Faisal Manap.

It recommended a reduced fine of $10,000 for the repetition of the untruth on Oct 4, in view of "substantial" mitigating factors.

The committee also took note that Ms Khan had resigned from Parliament on Nov 30. She had also admitted the lie to the WP leadership but was not instructed to tell the truth at the next available sitting. Instead, she relied on the "wrong advice" of the WP leaders to continue to lie, the committee said.

2. Pritam Singh played main role in causing Raeesah to repeat lie

The committee concluded that Mr Singh was the "operating brain" and the key reason why Ms Khan's untruth was not clarified immediately after Aug 8 - when she admitted she had lied to the three party leaders - and why she repeated the untruth on Oct 4.

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The committee said a WP disciplinary panel consisting of Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal was self-serving and had been "engineered" to cover up their own roles in the matter. Although Ms Khan had admitted her lie to the three leaders, the panel did not reveal this to other party members.

The WP leaders also did not produce any contemporaneous evidence that supported their version of the disputed facts.

The committee added that Mr Singh was the only WP leader who gave Ms Khan guidance on what to do in Parliament on Oct 4, while Ms Lim and Mr Faisal played a "subsidiary role".

3. Pritam Singh and Faisal Manap may face further probes

The committee does not have the power to recommend penalties be imposed on Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal, as it was convened specifically to look into complaints against Ms Khan.

However, it said the trio had not been fully truthful in their testimonies under oath during the hearings, and this may amount to perjury, a criminal offence.

It recommended that Mr Singh be referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigations and with a view to consider if criminal proceedings ought to be instituted regarding his conduct before it.

Parliament's Committee of Privileges has recommended that Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh (left) and WP vice-chair Faisal Manap be referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigations. PHOTOS: GOV.SG

While Parliament can impose punishments on Mr Singh on its own, the committee said the seriousness of the matter warranted a trial process. The Public Prosecutor will be able to consider all evidence afresh, including evidence that may not have been available to the committee. Mr Singh would also have the opportunity to defend and vindicate himself, with legal counsel.

The committee called for Mr Faisal to be similarly referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigations, namely into his "flagrant and inexcusable" refusal to answer relevant questions, and to also consider if criminal proceedings ought to be instituted.

While lying to Parliament is considered abuse of parliamentary privilege and is a serious matter, it is not a criminal offence as MPs are given immunity from prosecution and civil lawsuits for statements made in Parliament.

However, lying in response to questions posed by a committee is considered a criminal offence under the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act, which carries a maximum fine of $7,000 and a jail term of up to three years or both.

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A parliamentary committee has recommended that former Workers’ Party MP Raeesah Khan be fined and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh be referred to the Public Prosecutor for their roles in lies told by Ms Khan in Parliament in August and October.

Refusing to answer relevant questions and prevaricating as a witness are also offences which can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and a jail term of up to two years or both.

Parliament may refer such matters to the Public Prosecutor.

4. Sylvia Lim volunteered notes that were 'damaging' to Pritam's testimony

Notes taken by Ms Lim made up a key piece of evidence that the committee relied on in determining that Mr Singh had guided Ms Khan towards repeating the lie.

During a Nov 29 meeting with the WP disciplinary committee, Ms Lim had recorded what Mr Singh had said to Ms Khan as: "Before Oct session, I met you + told you it was your call. Did need to tell the truth in Parl occur to you?"

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Ms Lim had produced the notes voluntarily and the committee had not previously been aware of them, it said.

"Ms Lim, a lawyer and Chairman of the WP, would have appreciated the effect of such evidence," said the committee. "It would be, and was, extremely damaging to the testimony given by Mr Singh - it directly contradicted Mr Singh's evidence that he did not give Ms Khan a choice."

The fact that Ms Lim had volunteered this evidence should be taken into account by Parliament in assessing her role in the matter, the committee added.

5. Pritam Singh's 'regrettable' allegations about two WP members, Raeesah's mental health

The committee said it was regrettable that Mr Singh had made allegations against WP members Loh Peiying and Yudhishthra Nathan, and about Ms Khan's mental health.

In the course of the hearings, Mr Singh was asked about a WhatsApp message sent by Ms Khan to Ms Loh and Mr Nathan stating that Mr Singh had told her to suppress the lie and to "take the information to the grave".

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He told the committee that Ms Khan had mental health issues and may not have told Ms Loh and Mr Nathan the truth. This was disputed by an independent psychiatrist, Dr Christopher Cheok, who had examined Ms Khan.

The committee noted that Mr Singh had also suggested Ms Loh and Mr Nathan had a "skewed impression" and could have lied in their evidence to the committee out of loyalty to Ms Khan.

"It is regrettable that Mr Singh attacked those two young persons, who spoke the truth," said the committee.

It added that it accepted Ms Loh and Mr Nathan's testimonies and found Mr Singh's testimony inconsistent with his conduct and the contemporaneous evidence.

See the full report released by the Committee of Privileges.

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