Sympathy, disappointment, resignation & WP's future: Local political commentators react to Raeesah Khan's admissions

Some mentioned the possibility of Raeesah Khan's resignation.

Sulaiman Daud | Low Jia Ying | November 03, 2021, 09:26 PM

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Nov. 1 was a significant day in Parliament, due to the admissions made by Raeesah Khan, Workers' Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP).

In a prepared statement, Raeesah admitted that she had earlier lied in the House about an anecdote she shared about accompanying a rape victim to a police station.


Previously, the MP for Sengkang GRC had an exchange with K Shanmugam and Desmond Tan, political office holders of the Home Affairs Ministry, when recounting her experience.

Shanmugam and Tan asked for more details about the allegation, but was rebuffed by Raeesah, who cited the confidentiality of the person in question. The police later put out a statement that they had checked their records but could not find a case matching Raeesah's description.

Anecdote came from another person in support group she attended

On Nov. 1, Khan stated that she herself is a sexual assault survivor, and that she had not actually accompanied the rape victim to a police station to make a report. Instead, she had heard the person in question share the anecdote in a women's support group of which Raeesah herself had been a part.

Leader of the House Indranee Rajah asked a number of follow-up questions, before raising a complaint and referring the matter to the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges.

On the same day, WP leader Pritam Singh shared a statement that Raeesah should not have been untruthful in Parliament.

Separately on Nov. 2, the WP announced that it would form a disciplinary panel to look into the matter.

Committee of Privileges

On Nov. 3, Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin announced that as Indranee and Shanmugam have recused themselves from the Committee (as the member who raised the complaint and the minister of the relevant ministry in question, respectively), they will be replaced.

Their places on the Committee will be taken by Minister Edwin Tong and Parliamentary Secretary Rahayu Mahzam.

The other members are Ministers Grace Fu, Masagos Zulkifli and Desmond Lee, MP Don Wee and WP MP Dennis Tan.

Reactions from socio-political commentators

Raeesah's admissions set off a flurry of  comments and observations from a wide variety of local political commentators.

Among other things, the issues raised included the impact on WP's image and credibility, and the issue of society's response to sexual assault survivors and their accounts.

1. Bertha Henson, former Straits Times editor and academic

Henson said that Raeesah has lost credibility with her, and agrees that the Committee of Privileges should be activated.




2. Derek da Cunha, author, independent researcher and political commentator

Da Cunha opined that Raeesah would likely have a "relatively short parliamentary career".

He said that prominent civil society activists around the world struggle to become successful politicians.


3. Jolene Tan, writer and activist

Tan urged for Singaporeans to keep pushing for scrutiny of police conduct and better responses to sexual violence, regardless of Raeesah's actions.



4. Mysara Aljaru, writer and artist, former journalist

Mysara said sexual assault survivors in Singapore have already found it difficult to get support, even without Raeesah's actions.


5. Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, author & journalist

Vadaketh said Raeesah's actions had given a "shot in the arm" to the detractors of Singapore's political opposition and other ideologues, and expressed sympathy towards Raeesah as a sexual assault survivor.


6. Bilahari Kausikan, former Ambassador-at-Large, former Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs

Bilahari noted that the admission came only after "police investigations made her story untenable" and asked if Raeesah would offer to resign.



7. Kirsten Han, freelance journalist and activist

Han said that she was worried that the "establishment machinery" would focus on Raeesah's lie instead of the "actual, real problem at the heart of the matter".


8. Walid J Abdullah, assistant professor, NTU School of Social Sciences

Walid said that while he liked Raeesah and feels that she still has lots of potential to effect societal change, her error was as politically costly as it could get, and the WP has "little choice" but to drop her.


9. Jolovan Wham, activist

Wham said he was more sympathetic towards Raeesah. He added that Singaporeans seem to be "more unforgiving" when an opposition politician makes a misstep.


10. Elvin Ong, assistant professor of political science, NUS

Ong said that this is the first time he's aware of that an MP has been caught "outright lying" and it looks "very bad" on her and the WP.


11. PN Balji, former TODAY and The New Paper editor

The veteran journalist focused on the decisions facing WP leader Pritam Singh regarding Raeesah.

On Raeesah, he felt that she seems to be "an angry young lady" who got "carried away" with the passion she felt for the disadvantaged segments of the society.


12. Pat Law, digital marketing specialist and founder of social media agency GOODSTUPH

Law said, among other things, that she felt disturbed that the Singapore Police Force "had to prove what they did not do."


13. Calvin Cheng, former Nominated Member of Parliament

Cheng took a harder stance and called for the Committee of Privileges to not only investigate the matter, but also the Workers' Party in Parliament.


14. Kin Mun Lee aka Mr Brown, blogger and writer

Lee responded with a phrase from gaming culture.


Related story:

Top image from Workers' Party Facebook.

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