Not much impact on police work as Raeesah Khan's allegations were not substantiated: Pritam Singh

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SINGAPORE - Workers' Party chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh told a parliamentary committee that he felt a lie told by Ms Raeesah Khan about a sexual assault case did not cause the police much harm.

While Ms Khan told Parliament on Aug 3 that the police had treated a sexual assault victim insensitively and made her cry, the then-MP was not able to substantiate the allegation, Mr Singh said.

Given this, he added, he disagreed that the false anecdote would have had an adverse impact on the work of the police.

His gave his views on the issue at a hearing held by the Committee of Privileges on Friday (Dec 10), after Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong suggested that Ms Khan's lie was made more serious as it could impact the work of the police.

Ms Khan told Parliament in a speech that she had accompanied a sexual assault victim to the police station to make a report, and alleged the victim came out crying after the police asked about her dressing and whether she had been drinking.

She later admitted that she had been lying and had never accompanied a sexual assault victim to a police station. In fact, she had heard the anecdote at a support group.

In a short but tense exchange during the hearing on how the lie had affected the police, Mr Tong asked Mr Singh if it was okay for a lie to be told in Parliament relating to the "bad reaction" of the police to a complaint by a sexual assault victim.

To this, Mr Singh stressed that Ms Khan had been questioned right away and was not able to substantiate her allegation.

He also said: "The police is not some broken-back organisation... I solemnly and sincerely believe if you speak to any senior police officer worth his salt, he or she will tell you that in the course of investigations there can be a number of situations where certain questions are put to a witness which are uncomfortable for that person."

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Mr Tong then suggested that wrong was done to the police as time had been wasted by the police "chasing their tails for three months" in order to find the case Ms Khan was talking about.

But Mr Singh disagreed.

He pointed out that Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said at the very sitting that the police could not find any case resembling what Ms Khan had described.

"So what work was actually done? I am not aware. I am not saying no work was done, obviously work must have been done, done to check," said Mr Singh.

When Mr Tong suggested that the police would have had to go through all its cases to check, since the allegation made in Parliament was serious and had to be addressed, Mr Singh replied: "I do not believe I heard that from the police. I did not hear anywhere that they've gone through all the cases."

Mr Tong then asked Mr Singh why he had apologised to the police during a WP press conference on Dec 2 on Ms Khan's resignation, suggesting that Mr Singh must have felt that "wrong was done to the police".

To this, Mr Singh said he did so because "I don't think anyone deserves that... and I work with the police".

Mr Singh also said that he had apologised because a reporter had put a question to him about the police.

Mr Tong then suggested that Mr Singh must have "cleared" or "approved" a statement by Ms Khan on Nov 1 admitting to her lie and apologising to the police.

But Mr Singh, strenuously disagreeing with Mr Tong's choice of words, said the statement contained Ms Khan's words and he did not approve or clear it, though he was satisfied with it.

He added that he never said he did not want an apology to be made to the police.

He also told Mr Tong: "You're not gonna put words in my mouth."

To this, Mr Tong said: "I can't because the truth has to come from you."

It also emerged during the hearing that Mr Singh, WP chair Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Faisal Manap had known about an e-mail that the police sent to Ms Khan on Oct 7, asking for her assistance in their investigations into the allegations.

Ms Khan had forwarded the e-mail to the three WP leaders and asked for their advice on what to do.

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Confirming this, Mr Singh said he did not advise Ms Khan to respond to the police, but added he had told Ms Khan at some point to tell the police that she would clarify the matter in Parliament, according to a special report summarising Mr Singh's testimony to the committee.

Mr Singh also said that while he did not direct Ms Khan to meet the police to answer their questions, he also did not direct her not to do so.

Asked why he had not advised Ms Khan to respond to the police, despite being invited by the police to do so three times, Mr Singh said that it was because it was clear to him that Ms Khan's untruth had to be corrected in Parliament, where it was originally made, the special report said.

See the full report released by the Committee of Privileges.

Watch videos of the nine-hour hearing:

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