Pritam revealed detail of sexual assault against Raeesah’s wishes, say former WP members
Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh had gone against the wishes of former Sengkang GRC MP Raeesah Khan when he revealed in public details of her sexual assault, said two former members of the party.
Ms Khan, who had resigned from the party in 2021 after lying in Parliament, had repeatedly asked the party’s leaders not to use the “r-word”, and constantly maintained that she preferred her traumatic experiences to be described generically as sexual assault, added Ms Loh Peiying and Mr Yudhishthra Nathan on Wednesday.
Calling out Mr Singh for using the r-word, the two former WP cadres said in a statement posted on Facebook: “The revelation by Pritam Singh to the public about what happened to her in detail, was without her consent, and against her repeated, explicit request for her privacy to be respected.”
Their comments follow a debate in Parliament on Wednesday, during which Mr Singh had sparred with Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam about whether the WP had handled Ms Khan’s sexual assault sensitively.
In 2021, Ms Khan had revealed that she was a sexual assault survivor when admitting to having lied in Parliament in August and October that year. The WP leaders later came under criticism when it emerged during Committee of Privileges (COP) hearings that they had known about Ms Khan’s lie but had not asked her to clear it up until later.
Mr Singh, who is Leader of the Opposition, on Wednesday drew parallels between this and how the People’s Action Party handled the extramarital affair between Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Tampines GRC MP Cheng Li Hui.
Speaking in Parliament as the House discussed the affair and recent incidents involving PAP MPs, Mr Singh said the PAP had been slow in clearing the air when things happened.
He questioned if Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had taken two years to act on the affair because he was being sensitive to the families of Mr Tan and Ms Cheng as claimed, or because he was just not being upfront.
Comparing this with how the WP handled Ms Khan’s lie, Mr Singh said: “Does the PAP selectively apply these standards expecting Singaporeans to give the PAP the full benefit of doubt when its MPs foul up, while screaming blue murder when the opposition seek to make the same point?”
“When former WP MP Raeesh Khan revealed to the WP leaders that she was a rape victim, sensitivity was not even considered by the COP in accounting for the delay in addressing Raeesah’s lies to Parliament.”
This prompted a rebuttal by Mr Shanmugam who said it was Mr Singh who did not consider sensitivity. He noted that it was Mr Singh who insisted the word “rape” be used during the COP hearing, even though the committee had been very sensitive about describing what exactly happened to Ms Khan.
“So when someone stands up here and says, ‘We want to be sensitive,’ I think we need to look back at what each one did. The word ‘rape’, (in) my recollection, was insisted upon by Mr Singh. So much for sensitivity,” said Mr Shanmugam.
To this, Mr Singh said that he had used the word “rape” during the COP hearings to show the seriousness of the matter that the WP leaders had to deal with.
He added that Mr Shanmugam was missing the point, and said the issue was not “a lack of sensitivity vis-a-vis the word ‘rape’”.
Rather, it was about the PAP’s double standards in citing the need for sensitivity when it took time to handle the Speaker’s affair, while ignoring that the WP was also being sensitive in giving Ms Khan time to come clean about her lie in Parliament, said Mr Singh.
However, Mr Shanmugam cast doubt on Mr Singh’s claim suggesting that he could have asked Ms Khan to come clean without revealing her sexual assault.
Mr Shanmugam also said that the WP chief himself had been insensitive by “insisting on talking about rape” even though the COP had suggested that there was no need to expressly mention it. “I think most observers felt a considerable degree of disquiet at this, that attacking a young lady on the basis of her mental condition, and also insisting on putting on record that she had been raped,” he said.
In response, Mr Singh said that he felt the “rape” was an important point for the COP to consider, as that was why he did not push Ms Khan to clarify her lie in Parliament.
As to Ms Khan’s mental illness, that was “a question of fact” that Ms Khan herself had communicated to the WP leaders, he added.
“It wasn’t a case of putting someone with such an issue out to dry, as the minister is very enthusiastic to portray,” he said.
On Wednesday, Ms Loh and Mr Nathan said in their statement: “We watched with regret Pritam Singh’s statements made in Parliament today... We find it extremely insensitive, and were horrified to witness this disrespect while watching the COP videos and again today in Parliament.
The two former WP cadre members, who had been with the party for about nine years, quit in November 2022, over a disagreement with how the WP leaders handled the incident involving Ms Khan’s lying.
The pair had contradicted the WP leaders’ version of events when giving evidence before the COP, and have accused the WP leaders of being unfair to Ms Khan by not being transparent about their own role in the incident.
In their Facebook post on Wednesday, they said: “We strongly disapprove of this behaviour. Raeesah Khan made a severe mistake. Still, it does not mean that basic human decency should not be extended to her because of her error.”