Raeesah Khan's version of events more credible
Former Workers' Party (WP) MP Raeesah Khan must take full and sole responsibility for her initial lie in Parliament in August last year, said a parliamentary committee.
When Ms Khan repeated the lie in October, she had done so under the guidance of senior party leaders, the Committee of Privileges noted in a lengthy report released Thursday (Feb 10).
This "mitigating factor", among others, led to the committee recommending a smaller fine of $10,000 for her lie in October, compared to $25,000 for the original untruth.
The committee also concluded that Ms Khan's version of events from Aug 8, when she first came clean about her lie to three WP leaders, was "more credible" when set against the conduct of the trio - namely party chief Pritam Singh, chair Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Faisal Manap.
On Aug 3, Ms Khan had fabricated details in Parliament about police officers mishandling a sexual assault case. She confessed in the House in November that this was in fact an anecdote from a support group she was part of, as a sexual assault victim herself.
She resigned as a WP member and MP for Sengkang GRC on Nov 30.
The committee, in its report, said Ms Khan was guilty of abusing parliamentary privilege, and had "acted with disregard for the dignity and decorum of the House in making a serious allegation against the Police in Parliament, that was untrue in some parts, and was unsubstantiated".
In considering the appropriate penalties to recommend to Parliament, the committee took into account previous cases, such as those similarly involving false or unsubstantiated allegations in the House.
For instance, the Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan - though not an MP - was fined $25,000 in 1996 for fabricating data and committing perjury among other misleading acts, while making representations as a member of the public to a select committee on health care subsidies in polyclinics and hospitals.
The committee noted, however, that this was a case of lying to Parliament rather than abuse of privilege. It said a precedent more apt to its deliberations over Ms Khan involved former WP leader J.B. Jeyaratnam, who in 1987 was fined $1,000 for making unsubstantiated allegations, including over the supposed wrongful arrest and detention of one Lim Poh Huat.
Mr Jeyaretnam did not provide details on the allegation, which he repeated in Parliament a few days later while also falsely claiming he had made a police report on the matter.
The committee pointed out that when Ms Khan lied on Aug 3, only she was aware of the untruth.
While still liable for repeating the lie on Oct 4, the first-time MP was no longer solely responsible as from Aug 8, she was acting on the advice of senior WP leaders to bury and continue the untruth, said the committee.
"Her conduct and evidence show that if she had been advised on Aug 8, to come clean, she would have done so," it added.
The report highlighted that after her meeting with WP leaders that day, Ms Khan immediately sent a text message to her secretarial assistant Loh Pei Ying and another party member assisting her, Mr Yudhishthra Nathan, to share that she had been told to "take the information to the grave".
The two aides were due to meet Mr Singh in two days' time, without her, and would have found out if she was misreporting what happened at the Aug 8 meeting, the committee observed.
"In the committee's view, the contemporaneous message is a clear indicator that Ms Khan is telling the truth," the report read. "When asked about the contemporaneous message, Mr Singh said that Ms Khan had mental health issues and may therefore not have told the truth to Ms Loh and Mr Nathan. The committee finds this suggestion from Mr Singh to be both untrue and regrettable."
The committee noted that after Aug 8, the three WP leaders had not discussed with Ms Khan anything to do with her lie.
"If there was a genuine desire to have this untruth clarified, there would have been at least some discussion taking place between the three senior WP leaders on what to make of the confession, what next steps to take, and at least some indication of a rough timeline," said the committee. "By their own admission, none of this was done."
It noted that Ms Khan came clean on Nov 1 after being told to do so by Mr Singh and Ms Lim on Oct 12; and that her mental health had been "unfairly and publicly attacked, in particular, by Mr Singh".
The committee took these factors into account in making its recommendations.
"Ordinarily, repeating an untruth should carry a higher penalty," it said. "However, a lower amount has been recommended because of the mitigating circumstances."