What a difference a year makes.
Just last July, residents all across the country came together to show their support for former Worker’s Party (WP) MP Raeesah Khan online after two police reports were lodged against her during the election campaign last year.
16 months later, many netizens called for her resignation.
Even though some believe she could continue to serve the people as an MP, including former WP Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh, Khan decided to step down in the end.
So, who exactly is Raeesah Khan? And how did a once-celebrated golden girl end up vacating her parliamentary seat in such an ignominious manner?
Here are 10 facts about Raeesah Khan, the now former MP of Sengkang GRC:
Khan, now 28, has been a social activist ever since she was 17.
Her focus has been on underprivileged families, survivors of sexual abuse, youth activists, migrant workers and refugee issues.
She has also championed women’s rights, founding the Reyna Movement, an organisation that aims to empower marginalised women and children through up-skilling programs and community engagement.
She graduated from Murdoch University in 2015 with a degree in economics and marketing and was an elected member of the Senate, the governing body at Murdoch University, from 2014 to 2015.
Khan first began working with the WP in 2018, where she volunteered with party chief Pritam Singh as a case writer during his Meet-the-People sessions.
Two years later, she was introduced as a WP candidate for the 2020 general elections. When asked for her motivations to serve the people, she said:
“Because this country’s system has created deep-rooted inequality. Vulnerable groups, such as low-income families and people with disabilities are disproportionately affected… especially during this pandemic.”
Khan couldn’t have done any better in her first election, as she was part of the WP team that seized the newly-formed Sengkang GRC.
With 52.13% of the votes, WP’s win in Sengkang was the biggest upset in the campaign, as the losing PAP team had three political office holders, while the WP team had three newcomers, including Khan.
When she was sworn-in, Khan became the youngest ever elected MP, at the age of 26.
Before that, the youngest MPs were 27, with the most recent being Ms Tin Pei Ling, who was the PAP’s youngest candidate in the 2011 Singapore general election.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Khan during the campaign.
Before the election, Khan was the subject of two police reports; she was accused of making inflammatory comments on race and religion in social media posts she had uploaded in the past.
The comments which landed Khan in trouble were made on two separate Facebook posts, one reportedly on 17 May 2020, and another on 2 Feb 2018.
According to the police, Khan allegedly “commented that Singapore law enforcement authorities discriminated against citizens, and that compared to other groups, rich Chinese and white people were treated differently under the law”.
She also reportedly commented on the City Harvest Church ruling, allegedly saying that “Singapore jailed minorities mercilessly, harassed mosque leaders but let corrupt church leaders free.”
In the end, the police handed Khan a stern warning for her allegations of unfair treatment and corruption.
Netizens were outraged by the police reports, as some saw it as a politically-motivated move.
Khan later apologised for the comments, but netizens showed their support for her intentions behind the post, as they felt Khan wasn’t trying to stir up racial tensions but hoping to start a dialogue on racial issues in Singapore.
They shared the hashtag #IStandWithRaeesah, which quickly started trending online.
Little did they know, some of them would be calling for her resignation the next year.
On 3 Aug this year, during a parliamentary debate on a motion about empowering women, Khan recounted a troubling incident which she claimed to have witnessed in the past.
This is what she said:
“In my line of work, I’ve accompanied people to police stations to make reports on sexual violence. It is already incredibly difficult for survivors to feel comfortable making a report in the first place, but sometimes the responses from those called to protect us can be disheartening. Three years ago, I accompanied a 25-year-old survivor to make a police report against a rape committed against her. She came out crying—the police officer had allegedly made comments about her dressing and the fact that she had been drinking.”
She had recounted the anecdote hoping to enhance treatment for survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment by law enforcement.
But it turns out that the anecdote wasn’t true, or at least, wasn’t hers.
In another parliamentary session 4 Oct, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam asked Khan for more details including:
But Khan declined to provide more information, citing confidentiality. She had been questioned by other MPs as well, but always kept schtum about the details.
The police later said that they checked their records and couldn’t find any case which fit Khan’s description. They requested an interview with Khan, but she didn’t respond to them.
Then, on 1 Nov, Khan admitted to lying about details of the rape case which she brought up in August, saying she was “not present with the survivor in the police station as [she had] described”.
“The anecdote was shared by the survivor in a women’s support group for women which I was a part of. 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 a part of it,” she said.
In her admission, Khan revealed that she, too, is a survivor of sexual assault. She said she was sexually assaulted when she was 18 while studying abroad.
She later explained that she had made the mistake of lying in her haste and passion to “advocate for survivors like myself.”
“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I did not have my own courage to report on my own assault. So I felt very compelled to ensure that other survivors who do get the courage to report their assault to have that process done with respect and with dignity,” she said.
Here’s one fact you’re definitely aware of now.
Yesterday (30 Nov), Khan informed WP chief Pritam Singh that she was going to resign from the party.
She then formally announced her resignation in a WP Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting later that day.
Khan also shared on Twitter a letter addressed to Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, where she indicated with a “heavy heart” her decision to resign as MP for Sengkang GRC.
In her post, Khan expressed her gratitude to the residents of Sengkang, for giving her the “honour of serving as their MP in the 14th Parliament.”
“In spite of my own shortcomings, I hope that we continue to work together to make Singapore a place we are proud to call home,” she said.
As for what’s next for Khan, she said she’ll be spending more time with her family and on the causes she’s most passionate about.
Khan is married to Mahadhir Caffoor and a mother of two. She has a two-year-old boy and a girl who was born this year.
Featured Image: YouTube (CNA)