Committee recommends 'key orchestrator' Pritam Singh be further probed, Raeesah Khan fined $35k, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Committee recommends 'key orchestrator' Pritam Singh be further probed, Raeesah Khan fined $35k

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A parliamentary committee has recommended that Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh be referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigations and that former Workers' Party (WP) MP Raeesah Khan be fined a total of $35,000 for their involvement in lies told by Ms Khan in Parliament in August and October last year.

In a report released on Thursday (Feb 10) following a series of hearings held in December last year, Parliament's Committee of Privileges said that Mr Singh's referral was with a view to considering if criminal proceedings ought to be instituted regarding his conduct before the eight-member panel.

The committee said that it is satisfied that Mr Singh was untruthful in giving evidence under oath. It said this may amount to perjury, a serious criminal offence.

The committee similarly recommended that WP vice-chair Faisal Manap, an MP for Aljunied GRC, be referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigations over his refusal to answer relevant questions put forth during its hearings, and to also consider if criminal proceedings ought to be instituted.

The committee is chaired by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and comprises six other People's Action Party lawmakers and Hougang MP Dennis Tan from the WP.

It recommended that Ms Khan be fined $25,000 for stating an untruth in Parliament on Aug 3, when she claimed to have accompanied a sexual assault victim to a police station where officers allegedly handled the matter insensitively and drove the victim to tears.

She repeated the untruth on Oct 4 - for which the committee is recommending an additional fine of $10,000.

In November, Ms Khan confessed in Parliament that she had in fact heard this anecdote in a support group she was part of, and had shared it without the victim's consent.

Ms Khan, 29, resigned as a WP member and MP for Sengkang GRC on Nov 30, a mere 15 months after being sworn in as Singapore's youngest MP after the 2020 general election.

Appropriate sanctions for the WP leaders should be deferred until after the conclusion of investigations or criminal proceedings, if any, against Mr Singh, said the committee.

The committee hearings in December saw the public release of six special reports and over 30 hours of video recordings of testimonies. 

They were filled with conflicting accounts of what transpired between and around Ms Khan’s telling of the lie on Aug 3, her repeated fib on Oct 4, and her eventual admission on Nov 1.

Laying out its considerations behind the sanctions in a report numbering over 1,000 pages that it presented to Parliament on Thursday, the committee said Ms Khan must “take full and sole responsibility” for the untruth on Aug 3, which she had uttered twice while making a clarification on the same day.

For repeating the lie on Oct 4, the committee said it was recommending a smaller fine of $10,000 – compared to $25,000 for the August act.

The committee noted that while ordinarily, repeating an untruth should carry a higher penalty, there were “mitigating circumstances” - including that Ms Khan had confessed internally to WP leaders on Aug 8; that she had been acting thereafter on the guidance and advice of WP leaders to “bury” or continue the untruth; and that she ultimately resigned from Parliament.

Mr Singh was singled out by the committee for being the “key orchestrator” and “operating brain” behind the circumstances leading to Ms Khan’s repeated untruth on Oct 4.

The committee suggested that Parliament refer Mr Singh to the Public Prosecutor, citing – among other things – its belief that Mr Singh had lied to them on affirmation; and that the “seriousness of the matter” would be best served through a trial process where a court could look at the matter afresh and Mr Singh could defend himself with legal counsel.

While the committee was of the view that WP chairman Sylvia Lim and Mr Faisal had played a “relatively subsidiary role” compared to Mr Singh, it noted that Mr Faisal’s “flagrant and inexcusable” refusal to answer questions posed by the committee could amount to contempt of Parliament.

These questions were pertaining to a meeting between the three leaders before Mr Faisal appeared before the committee on Dec 10.    

The committee thus recommended that Mr Faisal also be referred to the Public Prosecutor for further investigation.

Its report noted that WP MP and committee member Dennis Tan had objected to all the findings during a review of a draft, but had no further comments after a round of deliberations by committee members over his objections.

Posting on Facebook shortly after the release of the report, Mr Singh, who is WP chief and an MP for Aljunied GRC, said he and Mr Faisal would continue their work as per normal till the matter is resolved.

He noted that there remain a number of unknowns, assuming Parliament adopts the committee’s recommendations. 

“These include the eventual decision of the Public Prosecutor to prosecute, the intervening time before the matter goes to trial, the eventual verdict and any sentence meted out, and the prospect of both Faisal and I losing our parliamentary seats and stepping down as Members of Parliament if either of us is fined $2,000 or more,” Mr Singh added.

The committee's recommendations are expected to be debated when Parliament sits next week, with Leader of the House Indranee Rajah set to move a motion for MPs to vote on after they have received the report.