SINGAPORE – Workers’ Party (WP) vice-chairman Faisal Manap told a parliamentary committee that he and other party leaders had never asked Ms Raeesah Khan to continue with a lie she told in Parliament.
He conceded that it would be hard to understand why he, WP chief Pritam Singh and WP chair Sylvia Lim did not react after Ms Khan told them she had lied.
But he said they were overwhelmed after hearing about Ms Khan’s sexual assault and their concern was for her well-being.
This account of what transpired between the WP leaders and Ms Khan was disclosed by Mr Faisal over six hours of hearings before the Committee of Privileges on Thursday (Dec 9). The committee released a special report summarising Mr Faisal’s testimony on Saturday (Dec 11) night.
Mr Faisal told the committee that he had first heard about Ms Khan’s lie at an Aug 8 meeting held in Mr Singh’s house. The meeting involved Mr Faisal, Mr Singh, Ms Khan and Ms Lim.
Ms Khan confessed to them that she had lied about accompanying a rape victim to the police station in her Aug 3 speech in Parliament, and admitted she heard the anecdote at a support group.
She also revealed that she had been sexually assaulted at age 18 when studying in Australia, and broke down and cried, Mr Faisal told the committee.
Shedding more light on what the WP leaders had said and done at the meeting, Mr Faisal said he, Mr Singh and Ms Lim did not express anger at Ms Khan.
He added that Mr Singh did not indicate that Ms Khan should go before the committee, appointed by Parliament each term to look into any complaint about breach of parliamentary privilege. In fact, other than consoling and comforting Ms Khan about having been sexually assaulted, they did not discuss anything else about her lie in Parliament – not with her or among themselves.
Mr Singh asked her who else knew about the sexual assault, and she mentioned her then assistant, Ms Loh Pei Ying, party volunteer Yudhishthra Nathan, Ms Khan’s therapist, and her husband. Ms Khan said her parents did not know about the assault.
So concerned was Mr Faisal, a former counsellor, that he had suggested to partner an asatizah or Islamic teacher to counsel Ms Khan, he said to the committee.
Asked by Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong if the WP leaders had asked Ms Khan any questions about the lie, tell her what to do about it, discuss details or ask why it was untrue, Mr Faisal said: “Nothing, zero.”
He said they were overwhelmed after hearing about Ms Khan’s sexual assault, and a main concern was her well-being.
Instead, after Ms Khan had calmed down, Mr Faisal had brought up the issues of female genital cutting and polygamy that Ms Khan also covered in her Aug 3 speech, he said.
He wanted Ms Khan to put up a statement on Facebook since there was unhappiness among the Muslim community about her comments. Later that day, he also exchanged text messages with Ms Khan on what she should include in her post on the issues.
After that meeting, Ms Khan had sent Ms Loh and Mr Nathan a WhatsApp message saying that the WP leaders had discussed with her the lie in Parliament and the Muslim issues, and had asked her to “take the information to the grave”.
Mr Faisal, during his testimony, said that everything in the WhatsApp message was true, except the part alleging that the leaders had asked her to keep quiet. He said Ms Khan was lying to her fellow members, but said he was perturbed about why she would do so and could not explain it.
Answering questions from the committee, Mr Faisal said he had been quite alarmed when he found out that Ms Khan had lied, because the lie would cause the public to have a bad impression of the police and was a serious matter.
“Sexual assault victims would also be worried about making a report to the police if they believed the anecdote was true,” said the report, summarising his response.
He also agreed with the committee that given the nature of Ms Khan’s untruth, even though he had been overwhelmed and very affected by what Ms Khan shared about her assault, he also had to apply his mind to her admission that she had lied, the special report said.
The report also said he accepted that it was bad to lie to Parliament and agreed that it was equally wrong to allow a lie to carry on in Parliament, acknowledging that keeping quiet could possibly amount to an offence.
But nonetheless, Mr Faisal said he had not discussed the matter with Ms Khan, Mr Singh or Ms Lim after the Aug 8 meeting, as he had left the WP chief to handle the matter because he trusted Mr Singh, having worked with him for more than 10 years in the WP.
He also believed that Mr Singh had the information to make the judgment call on the matter, and trusted Ms Khan to do the right thing, the special report said. “He accepted that it would have been logical for him to have checked with Mr Singh what was going on, after he found out that Ms Khan had repeated the untruth in Parliament on Oct 4, but he explained that he did not because he trusted Mr Singh and that was also the type of person he was – he did not go by mere logic.”
The report also said Mr Faisal agreed that Ms Khan, as a young MP with barely a year in Parliament, was meeting with her most senior party leaders on Aug 8, and it would have been fair and reasonable for her to expect, going into the meeting, that she would get guidance from Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Faisal about what to do on the issue.
“Mr Faisal agreed that it would be reasonable for Ms Khan to assume, from the Aug 8 meeting, that her senior party leaders were not concerned with the untruth she had told in Parliament, because they said nothing, made no comment and did not tell her what she should do,” said the report.
“However, he felt that if Ms Khan had wanted guidance from him, Ms Lim or Mr Singh, she should have proactively asked them for guidance when they remained silent on the issue at the Aug 8 meeting. In Mr Faisal’s view, Ms Khan was an adult and the mother of two children, and was not young.”
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