COP report highlights things Parliament 'cannot ignore', WP leaders didn't address key findings: Indranee Rajah

Indranee said that referring Singh and Faisal to the Public Prosecutor would be fair, as it gives them a chance to vindicate themselves if the matter goes to court.

Sulaiman Daud | February 17, 2022, 10:58 AM

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The Feb. 15 debate in Parliament lasted about four hours. Members of Parliament (MPs) from the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and the Workers' Party (WP) all stood up to give their views on the matter of former WP MP Raeesah Khan lying in the House.

Raeesah, of course, was not present. Party chief Pritam Singh, party chair Sylvia Lim, and vice chair Faisal Manap all had their turn. Even a couple of Nominated MPs rose to speak.

The debate on whether Parliament should accept the findings of the Committee of Privileges (COP) also marked a speaking appearance in the House by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his first since Sep. 2020.

WP leaders don't address core of the matter, COP's key findings: Indranee

While PM Lee's speech dealt with ideals of democracy and at times appealed to emotion, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah's speech took on a different tone, which reminded those listening that she's also a lawyer.

Her speech largely focused on addressing and rebutting the arguments put forth by the WP leaders.

Indranee said that while Singh, Lim and Faisal raised several points, "...the points don't really address the core of this matter. And they don't address the the key findings of the Committee of Privileges."

She added that the WP leaders picked "small little things here and there" in the hope that "other people" would focus on those instead, but she would address them before returning to the "key issue".

Pritam Singh's points

COP did try to find out why Raeesah lied: Indranee

In his speech, Singh questioned why the COP did not appear to want to figure out why Raeesah lied in Parliament.

Indranee said Raeesah's first lie was not in dispute, and she did it of her own accord. The question was why she lied again in Parliament on Oct. 4, 2021, and "reams and reams of paper" and hundreds of questions have been focused on that question.

"So I don't think one can say that the Committee of Privileges did not want to get to the bottom of why she lied," Indranee said.

Lied previously, weighed against evidence?

Indranee addressed Singh's claim that the fact that Raeesah had lied was not balanced against her evidence.

"What that allegation really is...that she's lied before, she must be lying again," Indranee said.

However, she added that just because someone has done something before, it doesn't necessarily mean they're guilty of the same thing.

Corroboration of Raeesah's testimony

Singh said that Raeesah's testimony that she was instructed to lie was uncorroborated, however Indranee said the Committee took into account contemporaneous evidence, the evidence of other witnesses and "whether or not something made sense."

She added, "I don't think that that is a fair accusation to level against the Committee of Privileges."

Indranee also refuted Singh's allegation that the Committee had cherry-picked the evidence, and said the final report referred to "relevant evidence", including many documents submitted by the WP leaders.

She said, "And if he feels that something is relevant, and was not taken into account, he will have the opportunity to refer to it if this matter goes to court."

Sylvia Lim's points

Indranee said that contrary to what Lim claimed, the COP did take into account her explanation that her notes had to be taken in totality to be understood, and it noted that Lim did not know the context in which Singh used the phrase "Your call".

Indranee also explained that the COP did take into account Lim's point that Singh had also said "can't lie, right?"

Indranee also challenged Lim's casting of aspersions on the make-up of the Committee.

She pointed out that the standing orders of Parliament says that the balance between the government benches and the opposition members in Parliament is reflected in the Committee.

Indranee added that these rules have been there for "a long time", and the WP did not raise objections when nominating Hougang MP Dennis Tan to be part of the Committee.

"So it just really rather does sound as though if you don't like the outcome of the Committee of Privileges, then you complain about how it is composed when it was never an issue before," she said.

WP leaders did not address 'core findings' of COP

Indranee then contended that the WP leaders didn't address the core finding, which was why did it take so long for the WP to disclose the truth to Parliament.

"The first reaction should be 'Oh no, this is terrible. We better go back and clarify'. But no, this matter dragged on for one month, two months, three months, and it only came about after the police had already put in their request for an interview, and it became clear that this issue was not going to go away."

Indranee said the other thing was the "puzzling" matter of why there was no clear instruction to tell the truth.

She said it was not in dispute that after going through all the evidence, there was no "clear instruction from Mr Singh or anybody else" to tell Raeesah to go back to Parliament and tell the truth.

"Instead, there's this passing of words (like) take ownership, take responsibility, I will not judge you. And how difficult is it to just say 'Raeesah, tell the truth'. How difficult is it to do that? Not very."

Indranee also pointed out that if Singh wanted to give Raeesah time to inform her parents before informing Parliament, how come no one asked whether she had done so.

Committee can't ignore things that come up in course of inquiry

Indranee also addressed Singh's question about who did Parliament refer to the Committee, Raeesah or the WP leadership.

She said that in the course of the COP's inquiry, other matters came up, and "it became clear" that there's a problem, because they think the WP leaders guided Raeesah not to tell the truth.

"Now, what what is the committee privileges supposed to do? Pretend it didn't happen. Ignore it. It can't do that," she said.

While the COP was not set up to look into the WP leaders, it became aware of information that the WP leaders had "done something wrong", so it had a duty to inform Parliament.

To not address it would be an abdication of Parliament's responsibility and a "rejection of our values", Indranee said.

She also explained that while the COP could impose a punishment on Singh and Faisal at the same time as Raeesah, "somebody" has to look into their cases, just as the COP did for Raeesah.

She mentioned that setting up another COP probably wouldn't get very far as they've heard the evidence, and for the more "serious transgressions" should be referred to the Public Prosecutor, as it is the "fairest" thing to do.

If Singh and Faisal maintain their innocence, they will have a chance to vindicate themselves before an independent judiciary, Indranee said.

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