WP MP's allegations of police mishandling sexual assault case are serious, says Desmond Tan

Mr Desmond Tan (left) said Ms Raeesah Khan needed to provide more details so that the authorities can investigate the matter. PHOTOS: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Workers' Party MP Raeesah Khan's allegations that the police mishandled a sexual assault case are serious and need to be investigated, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan.

He was responding in Parliament on Tuesday (Aug 3) to Ms Raeesah (Sengkang GRC), who said she had accompanied a rape survivor to make a police report three years ago.

But the 25-year-old woman came out of the police station crying, she added.

Speaking during a debate on empowering women, Ms Raeesah said: "The police officer had allegedly made comments about her dressing, and the fact that she was drinking."

She said there was a need to train more officers to handle such cases and suggested that counsellors also be deployed at police stations.

That, she added, will help build confidence and capacity among law enforcement officials to handle difficult issues delicately, and encourage more victims of sexual violence to come forward.

Responding, Mr Tan said Ms Raeesah needed to provide more details so that the authorities can investigate the matter.

He said: "We take any form of questions raised about how the police have handled or mishandled this case very seriously, and it should be investigated."

Ms Raeesah said she did not want to bring the issue up again. "Like I mentioned, it was three years ago and I do not wish to retraumatise the person that I accompanied. But I have to say that these anecdotes are not isolated," she added.

The hope, she added, is that such anecdotes can spark a conversation on how survivors of sexual assault are treated when they make reports - not just to the police, but to other institutions.

Mr Tan said Ms Raeesah should file a parliamentary question if she had specific queries on the issue, to which she agreed.

Making a clarification later, she said the intention of her speech was not to cast aspersions on the police. "The police is part of the solution, not the problem," she said.

Ms Raeesah added that she has been unsuccessful in contacting the woman since the incident three years ago. She also said she would communicate directly with the Home Affairs Ministry given a similar situation in the future, even as she works to preserve her relationship of confidentiality with the victim.

"I believe that given the topic at hand, consent is imperative, not least to avoid revictimisation," she said.

Leader of the House Indranee Rajah then rose to remind all MPs to exercise their parliamentary privilege responsibly.

She said: "I just wanted to remind members of the House that when assertions and allegations are made, members must be prepared to substantiate them."

She added that this is especially important when an assertion is made against an agency that is not in a position to defend itself.

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