Brought back to testify before the Committee of Privileges, Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh clarified his position on a portion of WP chair Sylvia Lim's notes, recorded during disciplinary panel interviews with former Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan.
During the Nov. 29 interview with Raeesah, Singh used the phrase it was "your call", in reference to a conversation they had on Oct. 3.
The notes, which were also taken on Nov. 29, recorded an exchange between Singh and Raeesah, where they recalled a meeting that occurred before the Oct. 4 sitting of Parliament. This meeting took place at Raeesah's house on Oct. 3.
When she testified before the Committee, Lim referred to her notes:
"And the question was put to her by Mr Singh, as follows, he says, 'Before the October session, I met you and I told you that it was your call, did the need to tell the truth in Parliament occur to you?
And her response was, 'Yes. But I was consumed with guilt and my own experience, and I thought that it wouldn't come up.'
That's her response. She was consumed with guilt and her own experience that she thought that it wouldn't come up.
And Mr Singh says to her, 'You can't lie, right?' And then she says, 'Yes'.
So I mean, as far as the third of October meeting, I was not there. But that was her response to the disciplinary panel when asked why she didn't tell the truth before the October setting."
Lim was not present at that Oct. 3 meeting, but details of that meeting had cropped up during the Nov. 29 interview.
Singh agrees with Tong on the 'ordinary meaning' of the phrase 'your call', but asks to be considered in totality
In the Dec. 15 hearing — a much shorter and arguably milder affair compared to Singh's first appearance before the committee — Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong questioned the Leader of the Opposition on whether his use of the phrase "your call" meant that it was up to Raeesah to make a choice.
"I think this was the way I phrased my question to Ms Khan at the disciplinary panel. But insofar as what I said to her at the meeting at her house on the third of October, it was clear that you had to take ownership and responsibility for it. And thereafter, as I already have given evidence, I said, you know, I will not judge you but in the context of her appearing to look uncertain of herself."
After some context-setting, Tong repeated his question. After Singh said no, Tong suggested that it's the "ordinary meaning" of the phrase.
Singh agreed, but said, "If you look thereafter, I said 'did the need to tell the truth in Parliament occur to you'. It's a confirmation in my mind of putting that word — the term 'your call' into context."
Singh added he did not specifically frame the question to say that Raeesah was told to "take ownership and responsibility", and his communication was "quite clear", saying that "one has to look at it in totality."
After Tong read out the exchange between Lim and committee chairman Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, he asked if Singh would agree that "it is for Ms Khan to decide."
Singh replied, "Well, I think when one informs an MP that he or she has to take ownership and responsibility indeed, that MP has to take ownership and responsibility. And I can see why the word 'your call' gives the suggestion that it's a choice for her to make, and I think that's a reasonable look at it."
However, Singh clarified that it is important to look at the broader context of what he said after the 'your call' remark, all of which had been included in Lim's notes:
"In the context of how I put it to Ms Khan at the DP (Disciplinary Panel) and in particular, the question that I followed up with, I mean — 'You really can't tell a lie, can you?' — I think the whole the entire context of the discussion on the third of October really comes back to Ms Khan having to take ownership and responsibility for this issue, which I believe I communicated to her quite clearly."
Tong asked if the phrase "your call" would lead to a "reasonable interpretation" that it would be for Ms Khan to make a decision.
Singh replied, "If you discount the context of this word being used in a DP, and the subsequent question put to her, I can understand."
I never actually used the phrase "your call" when speaking to Raeesah on Oct. 3: Singh
Tong then asked if it would be reasonable for Ms Khan to believe on Oct. 3 that she will be given a choice as to whether to tell the truth or continue the lie.
Singh then reminded Tong that he had not used the phrase "your call" in the Oct. 3 meeting with Raeesah, but rather had used that phrase when recalling the substance of that exchange when questioning her, during the Nov. 29 interviews with the WP DP.
He added, "You also have to see what comes after that, which is...'you can't tell a lie, right?' So I think it was a, I wouldn't want to use the word abridged. But I had just put the matter across to Ms Khan at the DP in that manner."
"If you didn't use those words (on Oct. 3), how would you have conveyed to her that it was 'your call'? Why would you say to her on the 29th of November, that it was 'your call'?" asked Tong.
"I think it was in the context of how she was responding to us," replied Singh.
"I mean that whole meeting on the 29th was a meeting where she was just continually crying and crying and crying. And in that context, I put a question which I felt could elicit a response, which would be helpful to the DP."
Edwin Tong: Why not be direct?
Noting that Raeesah was a new MP, coming to see the senior leadership of her party, Tong further pressed Singh asking:
"Would you not accept that in that context, really the only thing that you ought to have said to her at that point in time should be, 'Look, Ms Khan, there's a lie on the record. You must go and own up. Tell the truth in Parliament, if it comes up.' Make it very clear, in clear simple direct terms. Would you agree?"
Singh said that he considered the nature of why the lie was told in the first place, namely a traumatic episode of sexual assault.
He said, "I took a course of action where I wanted her to address that issue. And then thereafter, I could pursue that with her".
When asked why he had not been more direct in his instructions specifically when he met Raeesah on Oct. 3 to discuss the possibility of her allegations against the police being raised during the October sitting of parliament, Singh said:
"I believe I communicated that in my way, when I suggested her to take ownership and responsibility."
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