The vice-chairman of the Workers' Party (WP), Faisal Manap, has testified before the Committee of Privileges (COP) regarding the lie that former Sengkang GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan told in Parliament, and the discussions that she had about the matter with the party's three most senior members — Leader of the Opposition and Secretary-General Pritam Singh, WP chair Sylvia Lim and Faisal himself.
The Aljunied GRC MP gave his testimony on Dec. 9, with the COP subsequently releasing their report on Dec. 11.
Aug. 8 meeting: Faisal finds out that Raeesah's anecdote was untrue
On Aug. 8, Faisal was asked by Singh to go his house for a meeting at 11am, which was also attended by both Lim and Raeesah.
Faisal had arrived with the impression that the meeting would primarily be regarding the other issues that Raeesah had raised during the Aug. 3 debate on empowering women — namely female genital cutting and polygamy, which related to the Muslim community — as he had been discussing these with both Singh and Raeesah since her speech.
He was not aware that Raeesah had spoken to Singh before the Aug. 8 meeting, to relate that her anecdote about accompanying a rape victim to the police station in her Aug. 3 speech, with the victim leaving the station in tears and the police allegedly asking the victim comments about her dressing, was untrue.
This meeting, which lasted about an hour, was therefore the first time Faisal found out that the anecdote was a lie, when she confessed to Singh, Lim and Faisal.
In addition, the meeting also saw Raeesah said that she had suffered a sexual assault in Australia as a student when she was 18 years old, whereupon she broke down and cried.
Faisal added that he, Sylvia and Singh were "overwhelmed" by what Raeesah shared about her incident, and that all three of them had tried to comfort and console her, with their main concern being her well-being.
At that point, Faisal said that there was no anger against Raeesah, after she shared her experience. He added that none of the three leaders reacted to Raeesah's confession that she had lied in Parliament on Aug. 3 and they also did not discuss what to do about it.
There was also no indication by Singh that Raeesah should go to the COP.
After she calmed down, Faisal's discussion with Raeesah focused on her statement regarding female genital cutting and polygamy, with Faisal asking Raeesah to put out a Facebook statement to clear the air as it had caused unhappiness among the Muslim community.Faisal acknowledged that it would be hard to understand why the trio did not react to Raeesah's confession, the special report wrote.
No further discussions held with Raeesah, Singh or Lim, following the Aug. 8 meeting, about the lie, until Oct. 29
Following the meeting, Faisal did not discuss or raise further questions about the issue of Raeesah's lie with Raeesah herself, Lim or Singh until Oct. 29.
As such, Faisal agreed with the COP that he would not have known whether Lim or Singh addressed the problem. Singh also did not update Faisal at any point in time about how he was managing the issue of Raeesah’s untruths.
Faisal added that he left Singh to handle the matter as he had worked with the MP for over 10 years, and believed that he had had the information to make the judgement call on the matter. He also believed that Raeesah would do the right thing.
Faisal agreed that given the nature of Raeesah's lie, even though he was overwhelmed and affected by her experience of being a sexual assault victim, he had to apply his mind to her admission of the untruth, given the gravity of the matter.
He also agreed that it would have been reasonable for Raeesah to assume that, following the Aug. 8 meeting, that the senior party members of the WP were not concerned with the lie she had told in Parliament, as they had not reacted to her admission, nor provided advice on what she should do.
Faisal felt that if Raeesah had wanted guidance from any of the senior members, however, she should have proactively asked them for guidance, when they remained silent on the issue at the Aug. 8 meeting, given that Raeesah is an adult and the mother of two children.
What about Raeesah's testimony that WP leaders had advised her to stick to lying?
On the same day (Aug. 8), Raeesah told her secretarial assistant Loh Pei Ying and WP volunteer Yudhishthra Nathan what had transpired at her meeting with the three party leaders, after she confessed to them that she had lied, and sought their guidance.
This was her message to them:
"Hey guys, I just met pritam, Sylvia and Faisal. And we spoke about the Muslim issue and the police accusation. I told them what I told you guys, and they’ve agreed that the best thing to do is to take the information to the grave. They also suggested that I write a statement to send out this evening."
Here, Faisal said that everything in the Whatsapp message was true, except for the claim that they had talked about the police accusation, and that the senior party members had told her to take the lie in Parliament "to the grave".
He added that Raeesah was lying on this point but could not give an explanation as to why.
Faisal also accepted that what Raeesah told the COP and what she had said contemporaneously in her message to Loh and Nathan were different in some parts from what he was telling the COP.
Did not expect Raeesah's anecdote to emerge during Oct. 4 sitting
Faisal then said that he did not expect Raeesah's anecdote to re-emerge during the Parliamentary sitting on Oct. 4.
The MP was not in Parliament during her exchange with Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam, and only became aware about it through a media report on his mobile phone.
Faisal was "shocked and worried", once he learnt of the exchange, as he was "appreciative" of how this was a serious problem for Raeesah and that the WP was now in trouble, and in an even "more difficult position" as Raeesah had now lied twice in Parliament.
However, he did not check with Singh, Lim or any other Central Executive Committee (CEC) member about the matter as he trusted Singh to resolve the issue.
He also said that "that was also the type of person he was – he did not go by mere logic".
On Oct. 5, Faisal sent the following message to Raeesah to comfort her in light of her exchange with Shanmugam the previous day:
Stay strong Sis.
Allah will always be with those who are in need of His assistance. Do regularly turn to Him.
And anytime you need views and opinions insyaAllah I will set aside time."
Subsequently on Oct. 7, Raeesah sent the police's request for her assistance to him, Singh and Lim. Raeesah said that she would consult a lawyer.
Faisal did not reply to this message, and to his knowledge, neither did Lim or Singh.
Faisal further agreed that the request was fair.
He also agreed with the COP that Raeesah's behaviour in Oct. 4 would have been consistent with her account of what he had said, along with Singh and Lim, at their Aug. 8 meeting, if it had been true — namely, that she was to continue with her lie.
Felt relieved once she clarified the truth in Parliament
On Oct. 29, Raeesah shared a draft of her Nov. 1 Parliament statement with the WP CEC at a meeting.
This was the first time that Faisal found out that Raeesah would be clarifying the truth behind her anecdote at the Nov. 1 Parliament sitting.
Faisal then gave Raeesah encouragement on her draft statement on Oct. 31, saying that she was "doing the right thing" and that it was "courageous" of her to share her experience.
Faisal then felt relieved on Nov. 1 once he heard Raeesah tell the truth and correct the record in Parliament.
The formation of the Disciplinary Panel and what happened afterwards
Following the Nov. 1 Parliament sitting, Faisal received a message from Singh on the same day, asking him to be part of a Disciplinary Panel (DP) against Raeesah, which was then formally established on Nov. 2, consisting of Faisal, Singh and Lim.
At this point, none of the CEC members, apart from Faisal, Singh and Lim, knew that Raeesah had confessed to the three of them on Aug. 8 about her untruth in her Aug. 3 Parliament statement, Faisal said.
This continued to be the case up to Nov. 30, when the CEC met to deliberate on the DP's recommendations about the actions to be taken against Raeesah.
Faisal said that the role of the DP was to look into the untruths that Raeesah had told Parliament.
He agreed that whether she was persistent in her lie, or whether she had sought the guidance of senior leadership and confessed to them about the lie, would be relevant to the level of punishment that the DP would recommend.
The report further said:
"The WP press release of Nov. 1 conveyed the impression that Raeesah had repeated the falsehood on Oct. 4, (which she first made on Aug. 3) and did not tell the WP leadership anything about it first. WP members were then asked to come forward and give their views to the WP leadership, in relation to Raeesah’s actions."
Here, Faisal agreed that members of the party would not have been able to give an informed view, if they did not know about Raeesah's confession on Aug. 8. They would also have been unable to give an informed perspective based on the Nov. 1 press release.
However, Faisal did not feel that it was necessary to inform the CEC of the full facts of the DP's knowledge or involvement, or disclose those full facts to the WP members who were invited to provide their views to the DP.
The report noted that Faisal had said:
"These matters were not relevant specifically to the DP’s work, because the DP’s recommendations were to be based only on what it (the DP) had been told, or the information that it gathered, between the specific dates of Nov. 8, 2021 (when the DP first sat to receive evidence), and Nov. 29, 2021 (when the DP concluded hearing evidence). Whatever was not raised to the DP during these two dates would not be considered."
Neither Singh nor Lim also discussed with Faisal whether the Aug. 8 meeting and its details, as well as their own prior knowledge of the lie, should be part of the DP's report to the CEC.
On Nov. 30, the DP recommended that Raeesah should resign or, failing which, she should be expelled from the WP.
The DP did not disclose the Aug. 8 meeting, their prior knowledge, or that senior cadre members Loh and Nathan, who had worked closely with Ms Khan, had made "very strong" statements to the DP for the panel's members to disclose their own involvement and knowledge, and come clean with the party and the public.
The CEC thus voted for Raeesah's expulsion without full knowledge of the facts.
Refused to answer questions pertaining to meetings with Lim and Singh On Dec. 7 and 8
The report further pointed out that Faisal had brought along a note to the hearing, to remind himself of the sequence of events.
Faisal also said that he had met with both Singh and Lim on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, to discuss whether he had gotten the dates right, prior to giving evidence to the COP.
The report highlighted:
"When asked about these meetings, and the material which Singh and Lim brought along to the meetings, Faisal informed the COP four times, that he would not answer the question. He refused to answer, despite being reminded that he had been called before the COP to assist with its investigations, which the documents may shed light on."
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