Gaps in WP's evidence consistent with Raeesah Khan's version of events: Janil at COP report debate

Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary speaking in Parliament during the debate on the Committee of Privileges report on Feb 15, 2022. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - The gaps and omissions in the submission of evidence and documents by the Workers' Party (WP), taken with what has been provided to the Committee of Privileges (COP) during its hearings, are more consistent with former WP MP Raeesah Khan's account of events, said Dr Janil Puthucheary.

He was speaking during the debate on the committee's report following its probe into Ms Khan's lies in Parliament last year.

On Tuesday, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh stated that he rejected the findings of the committee and that he intends to clear his name if referred to the Public Prosecutor. He added that the recommendations of the committee relied on one pillar - it believes Ms Khan's evidence that she had been told to take her lie to the grave.

Speaking right after Mr Singh, Dr Janil, who is Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health, said it was Mr Singh and his party colleagues who engaged in political partisanship by choosing to obfuscate the matter and to deal with Ms Khan in the way that they did.

He said: "The reality is that in examining the evidence provided by him and his WP colleagues, MPs, cadre members and the back and forth, the committee came to conclusions on the basis of questions that they had, gaps in the logic, omissions in the submissions and the documents.

"The questions, gaps and omissions that he began his statement with are still present... These questions on the facts do go to the very heart of the matter as to whether or not Mr Singh has been honest in his dealings, including with Ms Khan."

Dr Janil said there was a question of why there were no steps taken to prepare Ms Khan to come clean and tell the truth from August - when she first told the lie in Parliament - till Oct 3, the day before she was pressed in Parliament on the matter by Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, and when she lied again.

He said this gap, taken with the other statements and evidence, is consistent with Ms Khan's account that the truth could remain buried if the matter did not come up.

He added: "Mr Singh should explain clearly why no steps were taken if indeed it was important, and it remains important, for Workers' Party MPs to come clean, to tell the truth, to clarify an untruth told in Parliament as he claims."

Dr Janil said: "One untruth is a problem. The second time, worse. And why not at that point, ensure that the second lie in Parliament, the one which he, Ms (Sylvia) Lim and Mr Faisal (Manap) were aware of to be a lie, be clarified immediately?"

He asked: "The Workers' Party stands for honesty, integrity, accountability, where was all of that when Mr Singh was privy to a lie being told again, in Parliament?

"Mr Singh should come out clearly and tell Parliament what is his response to the specific findings (by) the Committee of Privileges. What is his explanation for the various inconsistencies that have occurred on the facts based on his own accord?"

Dr Janil also asked why there were no contemporaneous communication between Mr Singh, party chair Sylvia Lim and party vice-chair Faisal Manap on this topic.

He said: "Between me and my colleagues, just to settle what time we should meet, in order to go through our parliamentary questions, we would exchange various pages of e-mails.

"But this, for a most important matter, nothing - deafening silence. If it is, so it is hard to believe."

Dr Janil concluded by saying that he supported the motion that Parliament accepted the committee's recommendations: "To support the motion is to fight for a Singapore that is special, where politicians can be trusted and are expected to be honest, capable and upright.

"To support the motion is to fight for a Singapore where politicians do the right thing, not the politically convenient thing. To support the motion is to believe in our values and our integrity."

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After a four-hour debate, Parliament voted to refer Workers' Party leaders Pritam Singh and Faisal Manap to the Public Prosecutor over a lying scandal. During the debate, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said integrity was the linchpin of democracy.

Speaking after all three WP leaders, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann said that when faced with an honest ruling party with a proven track record, every opposition party can choose between two paths.

The first path is to deal only with the truth, point out where the incumbent has genuinely fallen short and propose workable alternatives, while the second path is to opportunistically and cynically distort the truth and inflame emotions, all for the sake of winning more support and votes.

A responsible opposition party should commit only to the first path and reject the second, said Ms Sim in Mandarin.

She said the WP leadership leaned towards the second path.

“They have demonstrated an opportunistic and cavalier attitude towards the truth, when it came to deciding whether Ms Khan should own up, and when and how it should be done,” said Ms Sim.

She said that the WP leaders’ “machinations” have hurt Ms Khan, the WP and its supporters, Parliament, victims of sexual assault and mental health patients as well as Singapore’s political ecosystem.

Condoning lies and being cavalier with the truth undermine the foundation of honesty and trust that our democracy is built on, she said.

She added: “To exploit the public’s sympathy for the underdog and paint the COP as being politically motivated, not only distracts the public from the core issue, but seeks to numb the public to lies and dishonesty.

“It is wrong to lie, and worse for an MP to do so. But if party leaders (including Leader of the Opposition) lie, then it must be looked into seriously. The behaviour of party leaders sets the tone for the values of the entire party, and is critical to the preservation of healthy dynamics within our political ecosystem.”

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