Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Workers' Party MP Raeesah Khan admits to lying in Parliament about allegation that police mishandled rape case

WP MP Raeesah Khan referred to committee after admitting she lied to Parliament about sexual assault case
Raeesah Khan should not have shared account with untruths in Parliament: Pritam Singh
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 2 Nov 2021

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.

On Monday (Nov 1), she 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 details of that case, Ms Raeesah, 27, said she lacked the courage to admit that she was part of a support group for women, where the story was shared, as she herself had been a victim of sexual assault at the age of 18.


Leader of the House Indranee Rajah said Ms Raeesah (Sengkang GRC) 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 police report three years ago, and the police officer who interviewed the victim had allegedly made inappropriate comments about her dressing and the fact that she was drinking.

On Monday (Nov 1), 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. Yet, as a survivor, I wanted so deeply to speak up and also share the account I had heard when speaking on the motion, without revealing my own private experience.

"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.


Ms Indranee noted that Ms Raeesah had confirmed that did not have any details of the police case and was thus unable to substantiate her allegation when she made her statement 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 the survivors of sexual assault and rape victims, Ms Indranee added.


In a statement posted on Facebook, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said Ms Raeesah should not have shared in the House an account that contained untruths.

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 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.

The eight-member Committee of Privileges is chaired by the Speaker of Parliament. Its other members are Ms Indranee, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, National Development Minister Desmond Lee, Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC) and WP MP Dennis Tan (Hougang).


Ms Indranee said she and Mr Shanmugam would recuse themselves as she had made the complaint, while his ministry was involved.

Under the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act, Parliament can take action against MPs found to have breached 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 any 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.

The late WP chief J.B. Jeyaretnam was referred to the Committee of Privileges four times – once in 1982 and three times in 1986 – for accusing the Government of tampering with the judiciary on multiple occasions, and the police of abusing their powers of detention.

He was fined $1,000 for two counts of breach of parliamentary privilege – the maximum fine at that time. Later, he was also fined $25,000 for publishing a distorted report of the committee’s proceedings and $1,000 for not declaring a pecuniary interest in a question he raised.













Timeline of events

Aug 3

During a debate on a motion about empowering women, Ms Raeesah Khan (Sengkang GRC) said she had accompanied a rape survivor to a police station to make a police report three years prior.

She said the 25-year-old woman came out of the police station crying, because the police officer had allegedly made comments about her dressing, and the fact that she had been drinking.


Responding, Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said the allegation that the police mishandled a sexual assault case was serious and would need to be investigated. He called on Ms Raeesah to provide more details.

Ms Raeesah declined, saying she did not wish to re-traumatise the victim. She also said she had not been able to contact the woman since the incident happened.

Leader of the House Indranee Rajah then reminded all MPs to exercise their parliamentary privilege responsibly and be prepared to substantiate any allegations made in the House.








Oct 4

Speaking in Parliament, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam pressed Ms Raeesah to provide details of the incident.

He said the police had checked their records and found no cases that fit Ms Raeesah’s description.


In response, Ms Raeesah affirmed that her account was true but repeatedly declined to reveal any further details due to confidentiality concerns.

Mr Shanmugam said the police would continue to investigate the matter and would interview Ms Raeesah about the case.




Oct 20

The police said in a statement that it could not identify the case despite an extensive search.

Ms Raeesah had also not responded to two requests to attend an interview, the police added.

In response to media queries, Ms Raeesah said she would make a statement on the matter in Parliament on Nov 1.
















Raeesah Khan should not have shared account with untruths in Parliament: Pritam Singh
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 2 Nov 2021

Ms Raeesah Khan (Sengkang GRC) should not have shared in Parliament an account that contained untruths, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said on Monday (Nov 1).

In a statement, the Workers' Party secretary-general said 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 Raeesah admitted on Monday that she had lied about details of a sexual assault case that she had alleged was mishandled by the police. She did not accompany the rape victim to a police station, as she had recounted in the House on Aug 3 during a speech.

Instead, she said the victim had shared the account in a support group for women, which Ms Raeesah had attended in her capacity as a survivor of sexual assault, and that she did not have the victim's consent to share her story in Parliament.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) on Monday said Ms Raeesah's actions had set back advocacy around sexual violence in Singapore and did a disservice to other survivors.

"While we believe that her intentions - to raise the need for more sensitive first response from officials handling sexual violence cases - were sound, we are disappointed that (Ms Raeesah) lied about the details of this situation."

The gender equality advocacy group said on Facebook that sexual assault advocacy must be survivor-centric, which means it must put the needs of survivors above all other considerations.

It added that Ms Raeesah's decision to share the participant's experiences without seeking permission was not survivor-centric.

"Survivors are unlikely to talk about the trauma they experience unless they feel they can do so safely, without their privacy being violated," AWARE said.

"This is why support groups, which play an important role in allowing survivors to process feelings, connect and recognise that they are not alone, impose rules of confidentiality upon participants. The sanctity of such spaces must be maintained, and survivors must continue to feel comfortable to attend them."


Ms Raeesah's actions also play into the persistent myth that women frequently lie about assault, which has long been used to discredit survivors of violence while enabling perpetrators to escape accountability, AWARE noted.

It cited figures from the Ministry of Home Affairs that showed that only 4 per cent of sexual assault reports are found to be false. On the other hand, the majority of survivors do not file police reports, AWARE said.

It added: "Unfortunately, high-profile instances of untrue stories can disproportionately colour the way society views other testimonies from women."

AWARE noted that Ms Raeesah's own experience of sexual assault had played a role in her decision to conceal the truth about how she had heard about the other survivor's account.

"We sympathise greatly with her reluctance to disclose her experience... it can be immensely difficult and traumatic to identify yourself as a victim-survivor of assault, particularly in the public eye."

AWARE also said it hopes the incident does not undermine the original matter that Ms Raeesah was trying to address, namely the need to deal with sexual assault more sensitively and effectively.

"This is an important societal issue that we hope will continue to be discussed and debated in Parliament," the group said.
















Workers' Party (WP) forms disciplinary panel to look into Raeesah Khan's admission she had lied in Parliament
By Hariz Baharudin and Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 2 Nov 2021

The Workers' Party (WP) has formed a disciplinary panel to look into the conduct of MP Raeesah Khan, after she admitted to lying in Parliament about the details of a sexual assault case.

A party spokesman on Tuesday (Nov 2) said the panel will look into the admissions made by Ms Raeesah in Parliament on Monday, arising from an earlier speech made by the MP on Aug 3, when she alleged that the police had mishandled the case.

"The panel comprises secretary-general Pritam Singh, chair Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Faisal Manap. The panel will report its findings and recommendations to the central executive committee after it completes its work," said the spokesman.


He added that the work of the party's disciplinary panel is separate from any decision the Committee of Privileges of Parliament may make.

On Monday, Ms Raeesah had admitted that she did not accompany the rape victim to a police station, as she had recounted in her Aug 3 speech in Parliament.

She 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 details of that case, Ms Raeesah, 27, said she lacked the courage to admit that she was part of a support group for women, where the story was shared, as she herself had been a victim of sexual assault at the age of 18.


Leader of the House Indranee Rajah said Ms Raeesah (Sengkang GRC) 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 has agreed to do so.

Following this, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said in a statement on Monday that Ms Raeesah should not have shared an account that contained untruths.

He 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."





































No comments:

Post a Comment