SINGAPORE - Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh appears to have been the "operating brain" and key reason why former WP MP Raeesah Khan repeated her lies in Parliament, said a parliamentary committee.
In a report released on Thursday (Feb 10), the Committee of Privileges said it was satisfied that Mr Singh had been untruthful in his evidence, under oath, during its hearings held in December last year. This may amount to perjury, a serious criminal offence, it added.
In its report, which was the culmination of the committee's probe into lies told by Ms Khan in Parliament in August and October last year, it also said that Mr Singh had made "regrettable" allegations about Ms Khan's mental health and against two WP cadres.
Ms Khan had on Aug 3 claimed to have accompanied a sexual assault victim to a police station where officers allegedly handled the matter insensitively and drove the victim to tears. She repeated the untruth on Oct 4.
Mr Singh had visited Ms Khan at her home on Oct 3. During that meeting, he had used words that indicated to her that she should continue with the untruth, said the report.
The committee heard that Mr Singh had told Ms Khan that there would be no judgment by him if she kept to her narrative on the lies she told on Aug 3.
While it was possible to describe such a statement as a choice given to Ms Khan, as Mr Singh had testified, the committee said this would be an incomplete description. It would be more accurate to describe the statement as a strong guidance to continue lying, the committee added.
"He was the primary cause, the operating brain, for Ms Khan repeating the untruth in Parliament on Oct 4. He orchestrated it. He could easily have told Ms Khan to tell the truth. And she would have listened to him," it said.
"He did not advise telling the truth. Instead, he suggested to her to continue with the untruth. Ms Khan followed his advice."
According to the report, Mr Singh acted with "considerable surreptitiousness", and did not tell other members of the WP leadership that he was going to meet her.
"At the meeting, Mr Singh did not tell Ms Khan to proactively raise the matter and also did not tell Ms Khan that she should tell the truth. This is not disputed," the report said.
The report also noted that Mr Singh left the Oct 3 meeting on the basis that Ms Khan will continue to lie in Parliament, as neither he nor the party made preparations for her to come clean in case she had to admit the truth if the matter was raised.
Various steps would have been taken if she was to admit to her lie, the committee said, highlighting the actions that were taken in preparation for when Ms Khan told the truth on Nov 1. This included a prepared clarification that would have been reviewed by party leaders and informing the WP's central executive committee.
"Mr Singh was obviously quite settled in his mind, that based on his advice, if the matter came up, Ms Khan will just repeat the untruth," the committee said.
It added that in his testimony, Mr Singh gave some reasons as to why Ms Khan ought to know that she should tell the truth, including how he had asked her to substantiate her false anecdote before she spoke about it in Parliament in August, and how he had sent a general e-mail to all WP MPs on Oct 1 informing them that they had to be able to substantiate any statements made in Parliament.
But none of these reasons provide a credible basis for Mr Singh to reasonably believe that he had made clear to Ms Khan that she should tell the truth on Oct 4, the committee said.
'Using mental health issues as a smear against Raeesah'
The COP also outlined how Mr Singh had made regrettable statements that were not true, including allegations about Ms Khan's mental health.
The WP chief had suggested that Ms Khan's alleged dissociation could have caused her to lie to her aides on Aug 8 that she was told by party leaders to "take the information to the grave", said the report.
Dissociation is a mental health condition where a person disconnects from one's thoughts and feelings.
But the committee also noted that Mr Singh had testified that there was nothing unusual about Ms Khan's performance as an MP between August and September of last year, which meant that his statements about her mental state were "at odds" with his conduct at the relevant time.
In her testimony, Ms Khan denied the allegations about her mental health, and had expressed her "disquiet" that such allegations had been made.
The report also mentioned how she agreed to an independent evaluation of her mental state, which found that allegations about it were without basis.
"We consider it regrettable that Mr Singh made allegations about Ms Khan's mental health. It was particularly regrettable, in part, because Mr Singh has been the person, untruthful to this Committee, on the key points, as to what had happened," said the committee.
It noted that Mr Singh "essentially made unsubstantiated allegations, that Ms Khan was unstable and unreliable because of her mental health - and that this was connected to her being a sexual assault victim".
"He used the mental health issues as a smear against Ms Khan, to explain away his own conduct and lies to this Committee," it said.
Attacks on young persons who spoke the truth
Mr Singh had made allegations against WP cadres Loh Pei Ying and Yudhishthra Nathan as well, and had attacked them even though they had spoken the truth, said the report.
After she lied in Parliament, Ms Khan had confided in Ms Loh, her secretarial assistant, and Mr Nathan, a WP member who had assisted her.
Ms Loh and Mr Nathan met Mr Singh on the night of Oct 12, after Ms Khan told them she would have to make a statement in Parliament to clarify her lies.
They told the committee that it was during this meeting that they learnt that Mr Singh had met Ms Khan on Oct 3, and that he had told Ms Khan he had a feeling the issue might come up the next day.
Ms Loh said Mr Singh had shared with her that he would not judge Ms Khan.
Separately, Mr Nathan told the COP that the WP chief had expressed to them that regardless of whether Ms Khan had decided to tell the truth or not, he would not judge her.
In his testimony, Mr Singh told the committee that he did tell the two cadres that he expected Ms Khan to take ownership and responsibility for the matter, and it was in this context that he told them about how he would not judge her.
He had also explained to the committee that what he meant was Ms Khan was a leader in her own right and had a choice in the matter.
In its report, the committee said that Mr Singh had alleged that the two party members had a "skewed impression" and that they could have lied "out of loyalty" to Ms Khan.
But the committee found both Ms Loh and Mr Nathan to be truthful witnesses who had little to gain by lying, and much to lose by telling the truth.
The report noted that Ms Loh had previously been Mr Singh's secretarial assistant, whom he had spoken about in glowing terms, and that Mr Nathan had worked for WP MPs at various points and was featured in a party video for the 2020 General Election.
"It is regrettable that Mr Singh attacked those two young persons, who spoke the truth. It is quite un-Parliamentary, and quite shameful conduct, on the part of Mr Singh, to accuse them of lying," said the report.