Workers' Party to review candidate selection, speech vetting process following Raeesah Khan incident

A photo taken on July 1, 2020 shows Ms Raeesah Khan during a walkabout at Block 308 Anchorvale Road. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party (WP) will review its candidate selection and vetting processes following the resignation of Ms Raeesah Khan, its chief Pritam Singh said on Thursday (Dec 2).

But the incident involving Ms Khan will not deter the party from fielding young and progressive candidates, he added.

"No candidate selection process can be fail-proof. We make our best efforts to select candidates who are committed to looking after residents and Singaporeans, and who as a whole can represent a wide spectrum of Singapore society," Mr Singh said at a press conference.

"As a pan-national party, and in view of the increasing diversity of our electorate, particularly the younger generation, I think we will have to continue to consider people from all walks of life."

The candidate selection process identifies individuals who are most likely to succeed and do well as MPs, and Ms Khan was assessed to be someone who could carry the responsibility faithfully when she was selected as a candidate, Mr Singh said.

Describing Ms Khan's recent conduct in Parliament as "inexplicable", Mr Singh added: "No selection process can eliminate the prospect of a candidate who has certain traits or characteristics that were not highlighted or were not raised initially, but the Workers' Party will undertake our best efforts to lower this prospect as best we can, while at the same time working to ensure that there's a diverse slate of candidates in concert with the increasingly diverse aspirations of Singapore society."

On the vetting process for MPs' parliamentary speeches, Mr Singh said Ms Khan was told to be ready to substantiate the anecdote she had included in her speech on empowering women.

Ms Khan on Aug 3 said she had accompanied a 25-year-old rape victim to a police station to make a police report, and alleged that the officer who interviewed the victim had made inappropriate comments about the victim's dressing and the fact that she had been drinking. But Ms Khan had never accompanied the victim to a police station.

Said Mr Singh: "She was put on notice to substantiate it, so the process did not fail in that regard. Why didn't she take heed of that instruction and why did she ignore it? That's not a question I can answer."

Other MPs from the party have previously reacted to the vetting process by adjusting and sharpening their arguments to make sure they are aware of what they say in Parliament, Mr Singh noted.

"I think the process is fine. The process is working, but of course with every lesson, it would be a disservice if you don't learn from it and so I think we've got to also always remember how important it is to be acute, specific and objective-oriented when we raise things in Parliament."

Mr Singh on Thursday also responded to comments made by WP cadre and former Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh on Facebook.

Associate Professor Goh had written two posts about the incident involving Ms Khan, and on Wednesday said her resignation had left "many inconvenient questions for the WP leadership" unanswered.

Said Mr Singh: "Cadre members don't usually operate in the way (Prof) Goh did, but this is an internal party matter that we will look into."

In response, Prof Goh said he had every right as a citizen to give his views on matters of public concern.

"There was no special communication to members that made me more informed than an ordinary citizen. This is in line with party values," he told The Straits Times.

"If the party sees fit to censure or sack me for asking pertinent questions that makes for a leadership accountable to the public, then so be it," he said.

"It is a reflection on the leadership. By the way, I am not resigning," he added.

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