SINGAPORE - Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim has disputed a parliamentary committee's interpretation of evidence she had submitted to it as "damaging" to her party leader.
In its report released on Feb 10, Parliament's Committee of Privileges (COP) said a set of handwritten notes provided by Ms Lim supported its finding that Leader of the Opposition and WP chief Pritam Singh had guided former Sengkang GRC MP Raeesah Khan to continue to maintain an untrue narrative she had shared in Parliament on Aug 3 last year.
"I take a different view," Ms Lim told Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 15).
"If read in the proper context, my evidence is not inconsistent and not damaging to Mr Singh. In fact, it is consistent with his evidence that he was telling her she had to tell the truth."
The notes, taken by Ms Lim during a meeting between herself, WP vice-chairman Faisal Manap, Mr Singh and Ms Khan, reflect that Mr Singh had said to Ms Khan: "Before Oct session, I met you + I told you it was your call. Did need to tell the truth in Parl occur to you?"
Ms Khan replies: "Yes but consumed with guilt + own experience. Thought it wouldn't come up."
Mr Singh then asks: "Can't lie right?", to which Ms Khan responds: "Yes."
Ms Lim said this exchange shows that Ms Khan had accepted that she could not lie and understood that she had to tell the truth.
She added that she was "baffled" by the committee's conclusion that she had recognised Mr Singh acted contrary to an MP's duty to tell the truth. She said her evidence did not support this finding, and that the committee did not quote her testimony accurately.
"I'd also stated, at the same time, that I could not imagine Mr Singh giving Ms Khan a choice, and I do not believe it. That puts a totally different complexion to the paragraph cited by the COP," said Ms Lim.
In her speech, Ms Lim also said she found the composition of the committee "unsatisfactory" as it was "overwhelmingly dominated by ruling party members" and included just one opposition WP MP - Mr Dennis Tan (Hougang) - out of eight members.
She suggested that the committee should include at least three members from opposition parties.
Ms Lim also asked why lawyers are not allowed to represent those who are summoned before the committee.
She also complained of the lengthy and "oppressive" process of questioning witnesses for long hours, noting that the process took nine hours in a single day for Mr Singh and six hours for Mr Faisal, while her own questioning took nearly three hours.
Leader of the House Indranee Rajah later responded to several of Ms Lim's points.
She said the committee had taken Ms Lim's interpretation of the notes into account and noted her position in its report.
Ms Indranee also said Ms Lim's questioning of the committee's composition was a "strategy to cast aspersions" on the committee.
"When we had to determine who would be the opposition representative on the Committee of Privileges, Mr Dennis Tan was nominated by Mr Singh, and he certainly did not complain at that time, or say that he should have more opposition members," she said.
"So it just really rather does sound as though, if you don't like the outcome of the Committee of Privileges, then you complain about how it is composed when it was never an issue before."
On the length of the questioning process, Ms Indranee said the time it takes to question a witness depends on whether they answer questions straightforwardly.
She also noted that lawyers are not allowed before the committee by default, but exceptions can be made by special application when there are good reasons to do so.
Added Ms Indranee: "Mr Singh is a lawyer, and so is Ms Lim. I don't think they really needed external counsel to be able to answer the questions that were put to them, which were not particularly difficult, well within their ability to understand and respond to."
Mr Faisal also spoke briefly in Parliament on Tuesday, stating that he will cooperate with investigations if he and Mr Singh are referred to the Public Prosecutor.
He also assured Aljunied GRC residents that services such as house visits and Meet-the-People Sessions will not be affected, and that he will continue to support the remaining Sengkang GRC MPs with issues related to the Malay-Muslim community.