SINGAPORE - Leaders of the Workers' Party (WP) were told by their MP Raeesah Khan that she had lied in Parliament, about a week after she made false statements about a sexual assault case in a speech on Aug 3.
But the party leaders decided to give her time to deal with the matter because she had also told them she had been a sexual assault victim herself, and had not told her family about it, WP chief Pritam Singh said on Thursday (Dec 2).
At the next session of Parliament that she was able to attend, in October, Ms Khan was supposed to clarify the matter. But she did not and, in fact, repeated untruths that were wholly inconsistent with the revelations she had shared with the WP leaders - Mr Singh, chair Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Faisal Manap.
Speaking at a press conference two days after the WP announced Ms Khan's resignation from the party and as an MP, Mr Singh said he had asked her to make her best efforts to contact the victim or to contact the individuals involved in the sexual assault case in August after she gave her speech.
"Initially, Raeesah stuck to her untruth in her communication with me," said Mr Singh at the press conference, held at the WP headquarters in Geylang.
"After being repeatedly pressed, a number of new facts and disturbing personal revelations were disclosed. These concerned Raeesah's sexual assault, an event which was unknown to the party leadership at that time, and other related matters of a deeply personal nature."
He was immediately concerned about the fact that Ms Khan's own family was not aware of her sexual assault, which had traumatised her. It was important for the family to be told about this before Ms Khan could fully address the reasons behind her untruthful conduct in Parliament, he added.
"In view of her sexual assault and my assessment of the scale of her state of mind, I was prepared to give her the space necessary to address the matter with her loved ones," he said.
Mr Singh, who is Leader of the Opposition, added that after her admission to the WP leaders, Ms Khan came down with a case of shingles and could not attend the Parliament sitting in September.
But it was nonetheless made known to her before the sitting in October that any parliamentary clarification of this matter was supposed to be in her capacity as an elected MP, said Mr Singh.
Ms Khan had in her August speech said she had accompanied a 25-year-old rape victim to a police station to make a police report, and that the officer who interviewed the victim had made inappropriate comments about the victim's dressing and the fact that she was drinking. But Ms Khan never accompanied the victim to a police station.
Ms Khan later admitted that the victim had shared the account in a support group for women, which Ms Khan herself was in, and said she did not have the victim's consent to share the story.
When questioned in Parliament on Oct 4 by Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam - who said the police had checked their records and found no cases that fit Ms Khan's description - Ms Khan declined to provide details, saying she did not want to re-traumatise the victim.
She also said she had not been successful in contacting the victim. In response, Shanmugam said that police would interview Ms Khan. The police later said she did not turn up for an interview despite requests to provide case details.
Mr Singh said that almost immediately after the Oct 4 sitting, Ms Khan agreed with the party leadership that she had to set the record right. The next opportunity to do so was on Nov 1, when she revealed that she had lied.
With Mr Singh at the press conference on Thursday were Ms Lim and Sengkang GRC team leader He Ting Ru. They were later joined by the other Sengkang GRC MPs - Associate Professor Jamus Lim and Mr Louis Chua - and Mr Faisal. Ms Khan was not present.
Her resignation came a month after her Nov 1 admission in Parliament that she had lied in her August speech.
Ms Khan was referred to Parliament's Committee of Privileges for a breach of parliamentary privilege following the admission. It will continue its work into Ms Khan's case.
On Nov 2, the WP announced that it had also formed a disciplinary panel to look into the admissions made by Ms Khan. The panel comprised Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal.
On Thursday, Mr Singh said WP leaders had "voted overwhelmingly" to ask Ms Khan to resign even before she decided to do so.
He added that she would have been expelled from the party if she had failed to step down.
As it turned out, Ms Khan informed him of her intention to resign on Tuesday afternoon, shortly before the party central executive committee met to discuss the matter.
Ms Khan was voted into Parliament in the July 2020 General Election as part of the four-member WP team contesting Sengkang GRC.
Her resignation means that the group representation constituency will now have three MPs: Ms He, Prof Lim and Mr Chua.
Ms Lim, the party chairman, said there will not be a by-election in Sengkang GRC as the constituency's three remaining MPs will continue to serve for the remainder of the term.
Under the law, there is no stipulation to hold a by-election for a GRC if a team member resigns. A by-election is needed only if all the MPs for the GRC vacate their seats.
Apologising to the residents of Sengkang and all victims of sexual assault, Mr Singh said that public trust and confidence in its sitting MPs are fundamental to the ethos of the WP.
"Singaporeans have the right to expect the best efforts from Workers' Party MPs and we should never take their faith, trust and confidence in us for granted," he said.
Timeline of events
Aug 3: During a parliamentary debate on empowering women tabled by the WP, Ms Raeesah Khan relates how she had accompanied a 25-year-old rape victim to a police station to make a police report three years ago. The officer who interviewed the victim had allegedly made inappropriate comments about her dressing and the fact that she was drinking, says the MP.
About a week after Aug 3: WP chief Pritam Singh asks Ms Khan to contact the victim or the individuals involved in the sexual assault case, as well as to provide the necessary information to Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan, who had sought more details on the matter in Parliament. She repeats her untruths at first, then eventually reveals to Mr Singh new facts and "disturbing personal revelations", including her sexual assault.
Mr Singh says her family should be told about this before she can fully address the reasons for her untruthful conduct in Parliament.
September: Ms Khan has shingles and does not attend Parliament. She is told by the party some time in September that she would have to set the record straight in the House.
Oct 4: Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam tells Parliament police have checked their records and found no cases that fit Ms Khan's description. He says such allegations are taken very seriously and presses her for details. She declines, saying she did not want to re-traumatise the victim. She also says she had not been successful in contacting the victim. In response, Mr Shanmugam said the police would interview Ms Khan. She eventually did not turn up for the interview. Almost immediately after the sitting, Ms Khan agrees with the party leadership that she has to set the record right.
Nov 1: Ms Khan reveals in Parliament that she had lied. She is referred to Parliament's Committee of Privileges for a breach of parliamentary privilege following the admission.
Nov 2: The WP announces that it had also formed a disciplinary panel to look into the admissions made by Ms Khan. The panel comprised Mr Singh, WP chair Ms Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Mr Faisal Manap.
Nov 30: Ms Khan resigns from the WP, which also means that she has resigned from her position as a Sengkang GRC MP. The party, in a statement on her resignation, says it will hold a press conference in two days to provide more information on the matter and to share its plans for Sengkang residents.
Dec 1: The Clerk of Parliament's Office says that the Committee of Privileges looking into the complaint against Ms Khan for lying in Parliament will continue with its work.
Dec 2: WP gives more details of Ms Khan's actions at its press conference. It also says that Sengkang GRC will proceed as a three-man GRC.