'Trailblazer' or liability to Workers' Party?: Local political commentators react to Raeesah Khan's resignation

One politician called for the entire Sengkang GRC team to resign.

Andrew Koay | December 01, 2021, 02:12 PM

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On Nov. 30, the Workers' Party announced that Raeesah Khan had resigned from the party and consequentially, her position as a member of Parliament.

The bombshell announcement came after Raeesah had admitted on Nov. 1 to fabricating an anecdote she had shared with the House about accompanying a rape victim to a police station.

According to a statement by the Workers' Party, its Central Executive Committee (CEC) met at 8pm on Nov. 30 to deliberate and decide on the recommendation of the Disciplinary Committee, which was formed on Nov. 2 to investigate Raeesah's admissions in Parliament.

After indicating her intention to resign to party chief Pritam Singh, Raeesah then attended the CEC meeting at 8pm and conveyed her resignation in person.

Raeesah also posted her letter of resignation to Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on Twitter.

Reiterating her apology to the House, Raeesah said she would be spending more time with her family and on causes she was passionate about.

After expressing her gratitude to residents of Sengkang and her volunteers, Raeesah concluded the letter by saying that she would assist with the Committee of Privileges, which looks into complaints of alleged breaches of parliamentary privilege.

Here's how several local political commentators and one opposition politician reacted to Raeesah's resignation.

1. Bertha Henson, former Straits Times editor and academic

Henson mused that Raeesah's resignation might mean that the Committee of Privileges no longer needs to review her case.

She wrote on Facebook: "She took the ultimate punishment and resigned... unless committee wants to 'punish' the party or put a statement on code of conduct in Parliament."

The veteran journalist also added that it should be the Workers' Party that makes such a statement.

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

In a lengthy Facebook post, da Cunha said Raeesah's decision was expected, and "on many levels, it is also an entirely right decision".

The author then referred to another controversy that the former Sengkang MP had been embroiled in when old tweets were dug up during the GE2020.

While the party had "stood by her" in the wake of police reports being made over Raeesah's race-related social media posts, da Cunha said "it appears she learnt nothing and remained impervious about the consequences of what she said and did".

Opining that electoral politics should be treated with "same kind of respect and intensive study" as professions such as law, medicine, and engineering, da Cunha wrote that Raeesah's resignation would be good both for her and the Workers' Party.

"She would no longer be a lightning rod spawning unnecessary side issues for the (Workers' Party)."

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

Acknowledging that Raeesah's resignation was the right decision, Walid wrote that she was a "trailblazer in many ways".

This included being the first female minority opposition parliamentarian, and being the "first 'woke' politician in Parliament".

"And in GE2020, she inspired many youngsters."

"It is always a sad day for the country when someone has to resign in this manner," he added.

4. Calvin Cheng, former Nominated Member of Parliament

Shifting attention from Raeesah to the Workers' Party, Cheng wrote that the opposition party ought to come under scrutiny as well.

"What did they know about the lies? When did they know this? And what did they do with this knowledge?" he asked.

"It’s incomprehensible that nobody else knew anything before Raeesah Khan made the admission in Parliament."

5. Daniel Goh, former Workers' Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament

Commenting on the timing of Raeesah's resignation, Goh pointed out that "many inconvenient questions for the Workers' Party leadership remained unanswered".

"Why resign now one month after the parliamentary apology and just hours before the CEC meeting when the disciplinary committee findings were to be discussed and a decision taken? Did (Raeesah) know the outcome already?" he wondered publicly.

"What motivated her to resign only now? Did anyone of importance ask her to resign and why?"

6. Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Secretary-General of the Reform Party

While he expressed doubt that the party would indeed do so, Jeyaretnam called on all the Workers' Party MPs in Sengkang to resign so that a by-election could be called.

"Otherwise they endorse the PAP practice of leaving seats vacant," he said.

"It's disrespectful to the residents of Compassvale to leave them without representation."

Previously, Halimah Yacob — then an MP of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC — had resigned from her position to contest the 2017 Presidential Elections.

No by-election was called at the time.

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Top image via Raeesah Khan's Facebook