MP Raeesah Khan admits lying in Parliament about sexual assault case
Workers' Party MP apologises and will appear before Committee of Privileges
Workers' Party (WP) MP Raeesah Khan will have to appear before the Committee of Privileges, after she admitted to lying in Parliament about details of a sexual assault case that she alleged was mishandled by the police.
Yesterday, Ms Raeesah (Sengkang GRC) apologised in Parliament to the Singapore Police Force and retracted an anecdote she had shared of the alleged incident. In explaining why she had made up the details, the 27-year-old said she had been a victim of sexual assault when she was 18.
Leader of the House Indranee Rajah said Ms Raeesah had lied to Parliament on three occasions after clarifying details of the matter with the WP MP when she finished her statement.
She raised an official complaint against Ms Raeesah for breaching her parliamentary privilege and asked for the matter to be referred to the Committee of Privileges, which looks into any complaint alleging breaches of parliamentary privilege. Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin agreed to do so.
Ms Raeesah had told the House during a debate on empowering women on Aug 3 that she had accompanied a 25-year-old rape victim to a police station to make a report three years ago, and the officer who interviewed the victim had allegedly made inappropriate comments about her dressing and the fact that she was drinking. Yesterday, she admitted that she had not accompanied the victim to the police station.
Instead, she said the victim had shared the account in a support group for women, which Ms Raeesah herself was a part of, and that she did not have the victim's consent to share the story in Parliament.
"I did not share that I was a part of the group, as I did not have the courage to publicly admit that I was part of it. I attended the support group because I myself am a survivor of sexual assault," she said.
Ms Raeesah said she was sexually assaulted as an 18-year-old while studying abroad. The experience continues to traumatise her to this day, she added.
"Unlike the survivor whose anecdote I shared in this House, I did not have the courage to report my own assault," she added.
"I should not have shared the survivor's anecdote without her consent, nor should I have said that I accompanied her to the police station when I had not. It was wrong of me to do so."
Ms Raeesah also apologised to the survivor whose story she had shared, Parliament, her Sengkang constituents and residents, the WP, and her family.
Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said yesterday Ms Raeesah should not have shared in Parliament an account that contained untruths.
In a statement, the WP secretary-general noted that the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act gives an MP significant freedom of speech, to the extent that what is said in Parliament cannot be impeached or questioned outside Parliament.
"However, this freedom of speech does not extend to communicating untruthful accounts, even if an MP's motives are not malicious," Mr Singh said. "(Ms Raeesah) shared with me that she wanted to set the record straight in Parliament. This was the correct thing to do."
Ms Indranee noted that Ms Raeesah had confirmed that she did not have any details of the police case and was thus unable to substantiate her allegation when she spoke in August.
Her actions had resulted in "a cloud hanging over the police" and caused them to devote time and resources to investigate the alleged incident. It also does a "great disservice" to survivors of sexual assault, Ms Indranee added.
She said she was raising the complaint to the Committee of Privileges with great reluctance as she had sympathy for Ms Raeesah's personal circumstances.
"But as Leader of the House, I also have a responsibility and that is to ensure that in this Chamber, all MPs discharge their duties faithfully, accountably and responsibly. Any breaches of privilege have to be dealt with," she said.
Under the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act, Parliament can take action against MPs who breach their parliamentary privileges.
The punishments include a jail term not extending beyond the current session of Parliament; a fine of up to $50,000; suspension; a reprimand from the Speaker; or a combination of the above.
MPs can also have their privileges and immunities suspended, which means they can be liable to civil proceedings for anything they said in Parliament.