What really unfolded between the first instance that former Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan’s lie was told in Parliament, and her eventual admission?
After five days and over 24 hours’ worth of hearings, we’ve since heard from Raeesah herself, the top three Workers’ Party (WP) leaders — Leader of the Opposition and Sec-Gen Pritam Singh, Chairman Sylvia Lim, and Vice-Chair Faisal Manap — as well as other WP members.
Unfortunately, due to differing interpretations of what happened at several key junctures, the reality of what happened across the few months isn’t 100 per cent clear yet.
Aug. 8 meeting: “Take the information to the grave”
Raeesah had met Faisal, Singh and Lim on Aug. 8. Afterwards, she had sent a message to Loh Pei Ying and Yudhishthra Nathan, according to the first special report. The message read:
“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.”
When asked during the Dec. 2 hearing, on the WP leaders’ reaction to her lie at the Aug. 8 meeting, Raeesah said: “The reaction was that, if I were not to be pressed, then the best thing to do would be to retain the narrative that I began in August.”
Faisal Manap disagrees
On Aug. 8, Raeesah told the WP leaders that 1) the sexual assault account she had shared in Parliament was untrue, and that 2) she was a sexual assault survivor.
However, Faisal claimed that the WP leaders did not discuss further on what to do about the lie, nor did they press her further about it during the Aug. 8 meeting.
Hence, there was no further conversation on point 1 on that day. According to him, their main concern was to comfort Raeesah as she was crying at that time.
He also denied that the trio (himself, Singh and Lim) asked Raeesah to take the lie to the grave.
Desmond Lee: She (Raeesah) said that you all discussed two things: Muslim issue as well as the issue of sexual assault. On Muslim issues — decision (was) to put up a post. On sexual assault anecdote — take it to the grave.
You disagree with the second, but not the first? Which means you agree on Muslim issues being clarified in a post, you disagree that the anecdote about sexual assault was discussed, and you disagree with her that the decision was to take this lie in Parliament to the grave.
According to Faisal, the only thing they had agreed on during that meeting was to put out a post on Muslim issues (referring to the “statement” in Raeesah’s WhatsApp message).
Desmond Lee: The sum total of what you take away from that meeting, apart from that two new pieces of information that you were in possession, with regards to the anecdote and her own experience as a survivor, was that she was going to put up a post that very evening.
That same evening she told you she had been sexually assaulted and that she had lied in Parliament. The only thing you all agreed on was that she (Raeesah) would put up a post about FGC (female genital cutting) and polygamy, yes?
Pritam Singh disagrees
Regarding what happened and what was discussed during the Aug. 8 meeting, Singh largely mentioned the same details as Faisal.
Namely, he did not tell Raeesah to take a lie she had made in Parliament "to the grave" and there were also no substantive discussions regarding how to proceed with Raeesah’s lie.
Tong: So your recollection was that there was no substantive discussion on what to do.
Singh: That’s right.
Tong: And there was certainly no instruction or directive by you to her to clarify the lie, right?
Singh: No, there was not.
However, Singh mentioned that Raeesah left his home with a “direction to speak to her parents” and that he told her that “we will have to deal with this issue”.
He agreed that it would be fair to say that Raeesah would have left the Aug. 8 meeting not being very clear about the Party leaders’ instructions on how to deal with her lie, but maintained that she was not told to “take things to the grave”.
Tan Chuan-Jin: When (Raeesah) left that session, it would be fair to say it’s not necessarily very clear in her mind that she received very clear instructions from the leadership as to how exactly to deal with it. Save for those two points we just briefly mentioned.
Singh: Yes, but certainly not to lie or to take things to the grave.
Sylvia Lim disagrees
Reacting to the contents of the WhatsApp message sent by Raeesah, Lim said she's "not sure what she's referring to when she says they've agreed that the best thing to do is to take the information to the grave".
If Raeesah was not pressed on the matter again, in other words, if the matter didn't come up again, then the best thing to do would be to continue the lie — was this true?
According to an exchange between Lim and Tong during the hearing,
Tong: It's not true because, on your account, there was a confession on the 8th of August and there was no response from the few of you.
Lim: We did not talk about the next steps, yes.
Tong: So your position is that this is not true, because you simply did not address the next steps at all. Correct?
Lim: Nothing was told to her to suppress anything, I mean, this is not correct.
Tong: Well, there was also nothing told her to come to Parliament to clarify the truth.
Lim: Because as I mentioned earlier, because of her emotional condition and the fact that, you know, she had kept her past away from her parents, those were the immediate things that we were addressing.
Aug. 8 meeting: "A lot of anger"
Another point where Raeesah's testimony appeared to differ from the WP leaders was her recollection of the tenor of the Aug. 8 meeting.
Edwin Tong asked what was the reaction of the WP leadership when Raeesah admitted she had lied.
She replied, "It was incredible disappointment. There was a lot of anger. But I think there was some compassion there as well."
However, during Faisal Manap's hearing, he specifically addressed this portion of Raeesah's testimony.
He said, "I disagree when she mentioned there was a lot of anger. Just want to find out lah, basically, I feel strongly about that. There's no anger at all."
He added that he felt Raeesah was not telling the truth when she said there was a "lot of anger", and said, "there wasn't any anger at all."
When invited by Lee to describe what the reaction was, Faisal Manap used the words "shock", "compassion" and also "kind of a loss of how to react, due to shock."
Lee asked, "So you're saying that when she told you that...and Mr Singh and Ms Lim that she had told an untruth in Parliament, that she could not substantiate and which was false. You had no reaction whatsoever to that? You were neutral to that?"
Faisal replied, "No, because we were overwhelmed by the first point that she brought up."
He added, "I'm trying to say that there was no anger, because we were overwhelmed by the feeling of shock."
Faisal later mentioned that Raeesah seemed upset during the meeting.
Pritam Singh's recollection of Aug. 7 call and Aug. 8 meeting
Pritam Singh did mention anger, but it was upon receiving the call on Aug. 7 from Raeesah. As he described it, during his own hearing on Dec. 10:
"I said, 'Look, I'm SG (secretary-general) of this party, and I'm asking you a question. And I want to know, and then I tell her, 'I'm only gonna ask this once now, did it happen or not?'
And then she said, 'No, it didn't happen.' And of course, when I hear that, I am really angry and upset. And I cut the call. I may have said something after that, like 'we'll talk about this', but I'm not sure really. But I was, I know I was really angry, I cut the call."
Singh said that's when he first knew that Raeesah had lied.
He described the meeting on the following day, Aug. 8, as such:
"And then she gets very emotional. She starts crying straight away, and the first thing she says...was, you know, when I was 18 years old I was...And then, of course, we're shocked to hear this. We're very shocked to hear this. And then she explains that it's because of that condition, that episode that she faced. It was very traumatic for her.
And because it was very traumatic for her, she told the untruth in Parliament, because she feels strongly about, you know, issues of sexual assault and arising from there, she did what she did in Parliament. That was the gist of it."
Singh said that the leaders felt sympathetic after hearing this from Raeesah.
Oct. 3 meeting: “No judgement”
Another point of contention between the testimonies of Raeesah and Singh was something Singh said during their meeting on Oct. 3.
The issue is a phrase that Singh said, which was “there would be no judgement.”
During her hearing before the committee on Dec. 2, Raeesah said the following about their meeting, which took place at her house.
“Before the October sitting, I had a conversation with the Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh. And the conversation was that if I were to retain the narrative, or if I were to continue the narrative there would be no judgement.”
After a brief exchange, Tong asked, “The discussion for you to retain the narrative and there'll be no judgment. Can you give me your interpretation of that? What do you make of that statement?”
“My interpretation was that...that there would be no consequences for me to continue the narrative that I had begun on the…in August.
Tong: In other words, there will be no consequences on you if you continue to... continue the lie and keep up the contention, that there was this occasion, this anecdote that you had described on the third of August despite it being a lie.
RK: That was my interpretation. Yes.
Tong: And there was therefore no attempt by Mr Singh to ask you to clarify the matter in favour of putting out the truth.
RK: Not at that point in time. No,
Tong: Not on the third of October.
Therefore, Raeesah’s interpretation of the meeting was that there would be “no judgement” on her if she kept up the lie she said on Aug. 3.
Pritam Singh's recollection of Oct. 3 meeting
Here’s what Singh had to say about his Oct. 3 meeting with Raeesah:
“I sit with Ms Khan. 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.”
When Tong repeated Raeesah’s interpretation to Singh, he said he “absolutely” disagreed with this.
Tong asked, “So if this is what Ms Khan said, you would say she is lying?”
Singh replied, “Absolutely.”
Top image from Gov.sg.
Follow and listen to our podcast here