SINGAPORE, Nov 3 — A day after Raeesah Khan of the Workers’ Party (WP) admitted to misleading Parliament about a sexual assault case, some residents in her Sengkang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) expressed disappointment over her actions.
Several of them felt that Raeesah, 28, who oversees the Compassvale ward, should step down as a Member of Parliament (MP), while others said that this one error of judgement should not wipe out all the work that she has done for her constituency.
They also felt that the incident highlighted her youth and inexperience as a parliamentarian and said that senior party leaders should put in more effort to train her for the role of MP.
Of the 25 residents that TODAY approached yesterday, seven said that they were unaware of the issue. Among the remaining 18, half said that they were disappointed by Raeesah’s actions.
The residents were also divided over whether she should quit Parliament: Seven said that she should stay, while an equal number said that she should leave. Four residents did not give an opinion or they had no views on the matter.
On Monday, Raeesah apologised in Parliament for claiming in August that she had accompanied a rape victim to a police station, where the victim was treated insensitively.
The MP said that she had not followed the victim to the station, but had heard the anecdote from the victim while attending a women’s support group.
In response, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah referred Raeesah’s conduct to Parliament’s privileges committee, which looks into any complaint alleging breaches of parliamentary privilege.
Yesterday, the WP announced that it had formed a disciplinary panel to look into Raeesah’s admission. The panel comprises WP chief Pritam Singh, chairman Sylvia Lim and vice-chairman Faisal Manap.
‘Shameful’ to lie in parliament
Speaking to TODAY, one resident of Raeesah’s ward, who asked to be identified only as Lim, described her admission in Parliament as “shameful” and said that she should step down.
“Even though they are the Opposition, I expect them to uphold high standards,” the 75-year-old retiree said.
“I voted for her, and she played me out.”
Karthikeyan, 35, who is self-employed and declined to give his full name, said that Raeesah should step down as her “integrity has been tarnished”.
He added that Singh, WP’s chief, should also use this as an opportunity to send a strong message to all MPs that lying should not be tolerated in Parliament.
Another resident, Summer Chong, said that taken together with a police investigation into Raeesah during the General Election (GE) last July for alleged online comments on race and religion, this latest episode was further evidence that Raeesah was not a competent MP.
However, the 31-year-old administrator said that she did not mind giving Raeesah a second chance since she could be voted out in the next GE.
‘Just a slip-up’
Other residents were more forgiving of Raeesah, saying that she was still learning the ropes of being an MP and that it should not negate her other efforts to help her constituents.
“One slip-up doesn’t invalidate her other good work,” a Compassvale resident said.
The 35-year-old teacher who wanted to be known only as Vee added: “She’s always doing house visits and speaking to people. I can see my MP often.”
Another teacher and Compassvale resident, Mohamad Nasrullah Refa’ie, 36, said that although he was disappointed in Raeesah, the MP still appeared to be a “compassionate listener” who was regularly present at Meet-the-People sessions before they were suspended recently due to rising Covid-19 cases.
Jeremy Tan, a 29-year-old marketing executive, said it was understandable that younger WP MPs would “stumble here and there” in Parliament.
He added that he still had faith in Raeesah’s capabilities as an MP and did not see the need to “keep harping” on her mistake.
Reuben, an IT consultant, said that “it was just one mistake” and did not warrant her stepping down. The 29-year-old, who declined to give his full name, hopes that Raeesah would learn from this episode.
More guidance required if she stays on
Other residents suggested that senior WP party leaders should provide more guidance to her if Raeesah stayed on as MP.
She was the party’s youngest candidate in last year’s GE.
Chong, the administrator, said that the mistake could have occurred due to Raeesah’s inexperience as an MP and that senior party members such as Singh should give her guidance.
Similarly, Nasrullah, the teacher, said that the party could ensure that its MPs deliver accurate statements in Parliament in future to avoid a repeat of the incident.
There were residents who said that they would wait to hear the outcomes of deliberations by WP’s disciplinary tribunal and the Parliament’s privileges committee.
A 29-year-old engineer who wanted to be known only as John said that Raeesah’s mistake has no direct bearing on residents, and it was up to WP to decide on how to approach the matter.
“She has already apologised. I don’t know what else she can do to make up for it,” he added.
TODAY has approached WP and Raeesah for comment. — TODAY