A politician from Singapore’s main opposition Workers’ Party on Monday admitted to lying in parliament when she took the police to task earlier this year for being insensitive towards a rape survivor. Raeesah Khan – who at 27 is the youngest of 93 elected members – offered a tearful apology in a shocking turn of events that analysts said would affect the credibility of her party. Leader of the House Indranee Rajah filed a formal complaint against Raeesah, who will now be investigated by a parliamentary committee for breach of parliamentary privilege. In August, during a debate on how to better empower women, Raeesah – who on Monday also said she too was a victim of sexual assault, as a teenager abroad – suggested the police treat survivors of sexual assault with more sensitivity. Raeesah recounted how she had accompanied a 25-year-old rape survivor to a police station three years ago and the woman “came out crying” after the police officer handling her complaint allegedly commented on her dressing and alcohol consumption. But on Monday Raeesah admitted she had lied, saying she had not accompanied the victim to the police station. Instead, she had taken the anecdote from a women’s support group she attended and did not have the victim’s consent to share this account publicly. ‘The most powerful law’ in Singapore: Foreign Interference bill brings concerns for civil society Raeesah said she herself had been sexually assaulted at the age of 18 while studying overseas, which is why she had attended the group session. Reflecting on why she had recounted the anecdote in this way, she said: “I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I did not have my own courage to report my own assault.” “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 dignity,” she said, admitting that she had made a mistake and was issuing a “frank apology”. In last year’s general election the Workers’ Party (WP) wrested a larger share of the popular vote and parliamentary seats from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) that has dominated the city state’s electoral landscape since 1959. Raeesah was part of a four-member team that ousted a PAP team comprising experienced political office-holders from the Sengkang constituency, home to relatively youthful voters. Since August the police and government ministers have called on her to furnish more details of her encounter with the rape victim, saying they took the allegations seriously. But Raeesah demurred, saying she did not want to again traumatise the victim and also wasn’t able to contact her. Women’s rights groups leaped to the politician’s defence, saying there were ethical obligations regarding confidentiality. The WP’s secretary general Pritam Singh, also Leader of the Opposition, issued a statement saying Raeesah “should not have shared an account that contained untruths in the House”. “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.” Singaporean women are using virtual reality to fight back against sexual harassment Political science academic Elvin Ong from the National University of Singapore said Raeesah’s lie “not only calls into question her integrity, but also tarnishes the credibility of the Workers’ Party”. The parliamentary committee that will investigate her comments has the power to impose fines or a jail term. In answering Indranee’s questions in parliament on Monday, Raeesah was made to repeat at least three times that she had lied in the House, finally admitting she would still have been able to “advocate for survivors like myself” without speaking untruths. It is not the first time Raeesah’s comments have prompted a run-in with police. During last year’s hustings, her old online posts on race and religion sparked a police investigation into whether it had promoted enmity among different racial groups, resulting in her making a public apology. Political analyst Ong said the WP should try to mitigate the fallout from Raeesah’s admission. “Failure to do so might open the Workers’ Party to future doubts and questions about the integrity of its candidates and the credibility of the party,” he said. Raeesah’s lie “undermines the good work that many people have done trying to raise awareness of the stigma surrounding sexual assault victims in Singapore”. Gillian Koh, from the Institute of Policy Studies at the National University of Singapore, said it was both surprising and disappointing that a member of the WP’s younger guard had “been caught out for deception involved in speaking about a matter that is so important to all of us”. Indranee said Raeesah was doing a “great disservice” to survivors of sexual assault and rape who already face difficulties in getting people to believe them.