Pritam says he told Raeesah in Oct.3 meeting that she ought to 'take responsibility & ownership of the issue'

Details on Oct. 3 and 4

Nyi Nyi Thet | Sulaiman Daud | December 12, 2021, 09:35 PM

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The Committee of Privileges released another special report on Dec. 12 (Sunday) which summarises the oral evidence given by Workers' Party (WP) Secretary-General Pritam Singh.

Singh was heard by the Committee on Dec. 10.

Oct. 3 meeting with Raeesah Khan

Singh said that he had no discussion with Raeesah between the initial Aug. 8 meeting and the visit to her house on Oct. 3 about the untruth told in Parliament.

Singh was asked if he had told Raeesah directly to tell the truth in Parliament. He said he did not specifically say it in those terms, but that is what he meant by the words he had used, according to the report.

Here's what he said about the conversation he had with Raeesah:

"And I tell her, look, I am not sure what is going to happen with this thing that has, this anecdote that you've told. But it is entirely possible that there could be a clarification made, somebody may ask you something about it. And it is important that you take responsibility and take ownership of the issue.

And I did say, and she started getting a bit uncomfortable when I said that. And then I told her, I will not judge you. And I will not judge you meant I will not judge you if you take responsibility and ownership. That was the gist of the conversation.

I didn't get the sense that she was going to be uncomfortable with telling the truth. She never communicated anything of that sort to me. And at no point did she say 'Pritam, I don't know what to do. Please help me. I need guidance. I need advice.'

Nothing of that sort. I'm just trying to put the context of the third of October meeting."

Singh also said he was "shocked" that Raeesah had answered no when asked if there was anyone else present because according to him, her family members were also at the house. Singh was also accompanied by his wife to Raeesah's house.

Disagreed with Raeesah's interpretation

Tong then read out a transcript of Raeesah's interpretation of the meeting, namely that there will be no consequences for her to continue the narrative she had begun in August, in other words, there will be no consequences for her if she continued the lie and keep up the contention that the anecdote was true, despite it being a lie.

Tong then asked, "So you disagree with this?"

Singh replied, "Absolutely."

Tong responded, "So, your position is that as far as this evidence is concerned, Ms Khan would be lying?"

Singh responded:

"Yes, you look, if I can be even the slightest bit charitable. She read, she completely read the wrong thing that I had put to her when I tell you to take responsibility. It means precisely that.

If you look at my conduct towards you in the run-up to what you had said in Parliament, if I really wanted to let this narrative lie, I don't know where this word comes from. But if I really wanted to do that, I would have just left it where the Leader of the House left it, please substantiate in future."

After the Oct. 3 meeting

Singh did not inform the WP's Central Executive Committee (CEC) that Raeesah might make a clarification, admitting she lied, in Parliament the next day (Oct. 4).

He also did not seek the CEC's approval or consensus, nor was there any discussions or comments sought on a possible draft.

This was discussed at length by Tong and Singh. Tong asked:

"So I put to you that, and I'm sharing my doubt with you so that you can help me to...understand, I find it hard to understand why, if you thought such news would come up, where an MP admits to lying, you would not tell your CEC in advance, you will not look at the draft or what she is going to say in advance. At the very minimum, these two steps if not more."

Singh replied:

"Well number one, as I've established, I didn't know whether it was going to come up for a fact. Unlike on the first of November, which was your initial presupposition. On the first of November, I know it will come up, because I have sight of it. On this particular occasion, I don't know whether it will come up. So there was no other action that was taken. I hope that's clear."

At this point, Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, the chairman of the committee, stepped in. He said:

"Please help me (to) understand this part. So you're suggesting to us that because on first November, you know for a fact that this will come up.

(Singh: That's right.)

And therefore you went through the process (of) informing the CEC, working on a draft, discuss et cetera -

(Singh: We didn't work on any draft of our press statement.)

So as you described. On the fourth, there was a possibility that it might have cropped up. And the gravity of the explanation would be no less significant. But you were not sure, as you said. But there was a real possibility and the significance is no less important. But no similar effort was done and you feel that that's a reasonable, that's a reasonable series of steps not to have taken in preparation for fourth of October."

Singh agreed with that.

Oct. 4 Parliament

While Minister K Shanmugam was making his Ministerial Statement about Raeesah's anecdote, she sent a message to Singh asking him "What should I do, Pritam?" at 12:34pm, when both Raeesah and Singh were in the chamber.

Singh did not read Raeesah's message (he had read it at 12.45pm which was after the exchange) before she stood up to answer Shanmugam's questions, repeating the lie she told on Aug. 3.

According to the report, Singh agreed that Raeesah's message was "completely at odds" with his evidence that he had expected her to tell the truth if the matter came up.

Singh said he had the understanding, based on what he told her, on Oct. 3 that she had to take personal responsibility, and if she did, he will not judge her. He believed this meant that she knew she had to tell the truth if the matter came up.

Singh agreed with Tong this created a far graver situation because Raeesah had repeated the lie. However, he disagreed that it was "more grave" for him as the Leader of the Opposition. He also disagreed with Tong's assertion that this made the situation more grave for him, Sylvia Lim and Faisal Manap, who knew that Raeesah had repeated the lie.

Tong asked, "So you want to explain why you say the situation is not more grave for you. Please explain."

Singh said:

"So as I have alluded to earlier, I believe, the Leader of the Opposition, anyone in Parliament doesn't take an oath, a party leader doesn't take an oath on behalf of all his MPs. Each MP takes an oath on their own standing, on their own merit.

In my mind, you're a leader of the Workers' Party. It's not just in your capacity as a member of a GRC. Every Workers' Party MP is a leader, they have to take responsibility. And I will like to, I've already mentioned it, I will advance my rules of prudence to the committee. It's very clear the sort of responsibility that is expected of you. If you honour the oath that you've taken, it is your prerogative to set the record right.

Now, more specifically, I do not know at that point, whether Ms Khan has told her parents what has happened. Only she knows the truth to that. And if I stand up and say, Ms Khan, you told me that you are suffering from a traumatic episode. You are a victim of sexual assault, without knowing that this information has been communicated to the parents. What have I just done?

That's something for Ms Khan to own up to and take responsibility for. That was my thinking."

He agreed with Tong that as the Leader of the Opposition, he had a "duty" to correct Raeesah's falsehood.

However, he added, "The question is, at what time do I do it, given the unique situation that concerns this falsehood?"

Oct. 4, After the repeated lie

After reading the text, Singh told Raeesah that they will speak after the sitting, "Keep chair (Sylvia Lim) and I posted".

He later met Raeesah in the LO office, but could not remember if he had met once or twice on that day. Singh remembered that he, Lim, and Raeesah had met some time past 11pm.

Singh recalled that Raeesah was in a "distraught state", and he asked her, "What have you done?"

Singh continued, "And then she looks up at me with this dazed look in her eyes and said, perhaps there is another way. That is, to tell the truth".

Singh then said:

"But look at the choice you made. You've made your choice. And from that moment, and then of course she completely starts to break down. And I say anyway, good, we're going to talk about this, which is, this point she's making about honesty. That was it."

When asked if he had then told Raeesah "let's prepare to tell the truth" the next day (where there was also a sitting) Singh said he had not done so, he said his thinking at that time was that she had not told her parents yet.

Tong asked Singh if he asked Raeesah if her family members were aware. Singh said he did not ask, and explained:

"She had two whole months to speak to her family members prior to the sitting on the fourth of October. And in my mind, the only reason why she did not come out with the truth was that she hadn't closed the loop with them.

If she has trouble closing the loop after two whole months, I have no confidence she can settle this issue in one day....and this session finishes very late at night. We've got only the morning the next day to settle the issue with her parents, who I am sure would want to speak to me about it, as they did and I said no, this is something for Raeesah to do that happens later.

But it's very clear in my mind, because I know that, by then I would have understood that she actually didn't tell her parents, she had not confronted the parents with this...She had not confronted the parents with the issue, and that because of that, she does not want to tell the truth. That was the only reason in my mind."

After the Parliament sitting on Oct. 4, there was no further communication between Singh and Raeesah on this issue till a meeting on Oct. 12, apart from an email that Ms Khan forwarded from the police on Oct. 7 requesting her assistance on the anecdote.

You can read the full report here.

Here are the four videos:

Image from YouTube