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Lies, accountability, double standards, and power in Singapore

Reflections on everything that's going on over the lie that Raeesah Khan told in Parliament, and what its implications might be for our society.

Kirsten Han
Kirsten Han
8 min read
Lies, accountability, double standards, and power in Singapore
Raeesah Khan before the Committee of Privileges. (Photo: a screenshot of the video on govsg's YouTube page.)

The lie that Raeesah Khan — Singapore’s youngest MP until she resigned on 30 November — told when speaking in the House on sexual assault, and everything that has transpired since, have been dominating Singaporean political news. The frames upon which the narrative has been hung have to do with dishonesty, cover-ups, irresponsibility, or, at the very least, ineptitude. But what’s not mentioned is that, at the heart of it, there’s also trauma, pain, sensitivity. And that’s even before we acknowledge the dark cloud of power and partisan politics hanging over the whole thing.

I’ve covered developments in weekly wraps, but they’ve felt inadequate in unpacking all the complexities of what’s going on here. I’ve been mulling over a special issue for some time, but have found it much more challenging to write than I’d expected. I feel like I have to word things very, very carefully, to make it clear that I’m not trying to dismiss serious mistakes, or play a game of whatboutism, while also highlighting the power play that’s unfolding. Everything about this is now partisan, with people eager to toss around labels of “PAP loyalists” or “WP fans”, projecting their assumptions even before engaging in any real conversation.

Regardless of what people might think, I’m not here to defend Raeesah and the Workers’ Party, or dismiss or downplay what has happened. I’m more interested in the impact and implications of what is playing out — not for any politician or party, but for us as a society.