SINGAPORE - It is in the public's interest to refer the senior Workers' Party (WP) leaders to the Public Prosecutor for further investigations into their conduct before a parliamentary committee, said Nominated MP Raj Joshua Thomas on Tuesday (Feb 15).
While Parliament is equipped and legally empowered to deal with these matters by itself, any potential punishments meted out by the House may have political consequences, he said.
These punishments may be perceived as being politically motivated and the gravity of the offences, if made out, would be lost, Mr Thomas added.
He was speaking during the debate on the findings of Parliament's Committee of Privileges following its investigations into lies told by former MP Raeesah Khan in Parliament on Aug 3 and Oct 4.
In the course of its investigations, the committee found Leader of the Opposition and WP chief Pritam Singh may have guided Ms Khan to continue with her lie.
It also did not believe parts of the testimony given by Mr Singh and recommended that he be referred to the Public Prosecutor for investigations into whether he had lied under oath, which would amount to the criminal offence of perjury.
The committee also recommended that WP vice-chairman Faisal Manap be referred to the Public Prosecutor for repeatedly refusing to answer its questions, which may amount to contempt of Parliament.
Court proceedings would afford Mr Singh and Mr Faisal "what may be seen as a second, even third, bite of the cherry", Mr Thomas said in Parliament on Tuesday.
"Both the public prosecutor and the courts - if it proceeds to the courts - would consider all the facts anew," he said.
"If the matter goes to court, Mr Singh and Mr Faisal would also be able to avail themselves of the adversarial process in criminal proceedings, with all the protections of the Criminal Procedure Code and the application of the higher evidentiary threshold of 'beyond reasonable doubt' for criminal matters."
Mr Thomas noted that MPs from both sides of the House have expressed the view that the courts should be the impartial arbiters of truth in matters where there may be political consequences or overtones.
As examples, he cited past debates on issues such as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) and the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act.
The Court of Appeal allowed part of an appeal by the Singapore Democratic Party against a Pofma direction issued by the Ministry of Manpower, said Mr Thomas, adding that the courts can be expected to undertake a similarly rigorous examination of the facts and the law in the matter of Mr Singh and Mr Faisal's conduct.
It is thus not a foregone conclusion that Mr Singh and Mr Faisal will be convicted and lose their seats as MPs, he said.
Another NMP, Ms Janet Ang, also spoke during the debate on Tuesday.
She said: "I have listened to as many of the key recordings and read as many of the key transcripts as I could, and I am satisfied with the process and the effort that was put in by the committee to establish the truth of the situation."
Ms Ang said honesty, integrity and trust have put Singapore on the world map and allowed the Republic to earn its reputation of trustworthiness in business, diplomacy, government and society.
"We hold each other to high standards, and, almost always, we are not prepared to bend the rules, or turn a blind eye," she said, adding: "We strive to be cleaner than clean. It's not easy to hold up to high standards, but we must."
Ms Ang said she had thought long and hard about what the committee could have done differently.
"Suffice to say, to ignore the evidence is not an option. Hence, the recommendation made by the COP to refer the case to the Public Prosecutor is the right and best option."
Mr Thomas and Ms Ang both voted in favour of the committee's recommendations, as did the other NMPs present, who did not speak during the debate.