Who Is Pritam Singh? Singapore Opposition Leader Facing Grave Charges Of Manipulation And Lying | World News


NEW DELHI: Singapore’s Leader of Opposition, Pritam Singh, was on Tuesday charged with lying under oath to a parliamentary committee. Singh, 47, the Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party (WP), is accused of falsely testifying at the Committee of Privileges hearings involving former Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan. The Indian-origin opposition politician has pleaded not guilty to the two charges under Section 31(q) of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act and claimed trial. 

Who is Pritam Singh?

Born on 2 August 1976, Pritam Singh is a leading Singapore-based politician, author, and lawyer who has been the Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party since 2018, and Leader of the Opposition since 2020. A member of the Workers’ Party (WP), Singh has been a Member of Parliament (MP) representing the Eunos division of Aljunied GRC since 2011.

Pritam Singh: Family And Educational Background

Singh graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. In 1999, he won the Straits Steamship Prize for being the top undergraduate student in history and political science. He was later awarded the Chevening Scholarship for postgraduate studies at King’s College London, where he completed a Master of Arts degree in war studies in 2004.

Singh joined the Workers’ Party and was elected to Parliament in the 2011 general election, and has retained his parliamentary seat in subsequent elections. That same year, Singh completed a Juris Doctor degree at the Singapore Management University as well as qualifying for the bar. In 2013, Singh joined the litigation and dispute resolution practice at Donaldson & Burkinshaw, Singapore’s oldest law firm.

Singh was elected Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party on 8 April 2018 as part of a leadership renewal, succeeding Low Thia Khiang. Singh was the de facto Leader of the Opposition between 2018 and 2020. 

After the 2020 general election, his party emerged as the largest opposition party in Parliament when the party secured Aljunied GRC, Hougang SMC and Sengkang GRC, a total of 10 seats. Subsequently, Singh was appointed as the first de jure Leader of the Opposition by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

What Are The Accusations?

According to Singapore’s Channel News Asia (CNA), a pre-trial conference has been scheduled for April 17. According to chargesheets, Singh falsely testified on December 10, 2021, that after a meeting with fellow WP members Khan, Sylvia Lim and Faisal Manap on August 8, 2021, he wanted Khan to tell Parliament that what she told MPs on August 3, 2021, was untrue. He is also accused of falsely testifying on December 10 and December 15, 2021, that when he spoke to Khan on October 3, 2021, he wanted her to admit to having lied in Parliament.

What Is The Case?

Khan’s case came to light in 2021 when she admitted to lying in Parliament over a rape case that she alleged was mishandled by the police. 

Her conduct was referred to Parliament’s Committee of Privileges. After a series of hearings, the committee recommended that Singh be referred to the public prosecutor for further investigations and possible criminal proceedings over his conduct before the committee. He previously rejected the Committee of Privileges’ findings, calling out ”gaps and omissions” in the report, which he said suggested political partisanship.

During the parliamentary debate on the Committee of Privileges’ final report, Singh argued that the Committee of Privileges focused on Khan’s “uncorroborated testimony” that she was instructed by the WP leadership to never reveal that she had lied to Parliament. 

“At no time did I instruct Khan to hide the truth. At the meeting on August 8, none of the three Workers’ Party leaders told Khan to take her lie to the grave,” Singh said on February 15, 2022. 

A day after the Committee of Privileges released its final report, the WP said it noted with ”grave concern” the recommendation to refer Singh and Workers’ Party (WP) vice-chair Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap Faisal for possible public prosecution.

At the heart of the Committee of Privileges’ final report was its finding that Singh had lied while testifying under oath, conduct that the committee said could amount to perjury. 

The report determined that Singh appeared to have “played the key and leading role in guiding Khan in respect of the untruth”. Calling him the ”key orchestrator” of the circumstances that led to Khan repeating her lie in Parliament on October 4, 2021, the committee suggested Singh was the ”operating brain” for why Khan’s lie was not immediately clarified at the first instance after August 8, 2021. Khan resigned from the WP and her parliamentary seat on November 30, 2021. 

Will Pritam Singh Be Suspended From Parliament?

The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) will not seek suspension from parliament of the Singh. “Parliament should not prejudge the outcome of the proceedings,” said People’s Action Party organising secretary Grace Fu. In a media statement, PAP organising secretary Grace Fu said there have been queries about whether the party will, through its Members of Parliament, be seeking to suspend Singh given that he has been formally charged. 

Channel News Asia cited Fu as saying that the party will not comment on the merits of the case as it is now before the courts. Following Singh’s charging on Tuesday, Fu said, ”Parliament must deal rigorously with any MP who has committed wrongdoing, but suspending an MP is a serious action that must be done in accordance with due process of the law and natural justice. Parliament should not prejudge the outcome of the proceedings.”

What May Happen To Singh?

If convicted, Singh may be jailed for up to three years or fined up to SGD 7,000 per charge. He requested a four-week adjournment to engage a lawyer. Under laws passed in May 2022, a person is disqualified from standing for election to become an MP, while a sitting MP will lose their seat, if they are jailed for at least one year or fined at least S$10,000. The disqualification lasts for five years.


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