November Note From the Editor: When Members of Parliament Lie
Top image: Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

The position I’m about to take is not a pro-establishment or a pro-opposition one. Rather it is pro-accountability and pro-truth, tenets which I, as a citizen, demand equally from all members in Parliament regardless of which side of the fence they languish on. 

Yesterday, between quivering voice and mournful tenor, Raeesah Khan admitted to fabricating her account of accompanying a sexual assault survivor to the police station. The story she told was, in fact, adapted from the account of a survivor who shared her story behind closed doors at a sexual assault support group Raeesah Khan attended.

Raeesah was 18 and studying overseas when she was sexually assaulted. Unlike the survivor in her support group, Raeesah Khan did not make a police report, keeping the incident close to her heart till the day she felt moved to share the story with those who deigned to listen.

That day was Monday, 1 Nov 2021.

Dress it up or down however you like, but no amount of posturing can detract from the political mileage Raeesah was trying to score in sharing her personal tale of tragedy. Neither is there any amount of apology that can diminish the betrayal felt by the collective voices of women all across the island who stood by Raeesah in stoic solidarity. 

Truth is a tricky thing. That is to say, your truth is not the same as the truth, the former oftentimes employed to dismiss the harsh realities of living and to embellish mundanity or doubt. When you insist on your version of the truth because the fact of the matter is not palatable enough or sexy enough, or sufficiently sensational to stand up to public scrutiny, you take away any real impact the truth could have for a society that demands restitution. 

It’s easy for leaders of social justice initiatives to label this whole affair as merely unfortunate. But when an MP lies about the cause you’re championing, that hill that was, a second ago, challenging to scale has now become impossible to climb. 

So what happens when Raeesah lies? First, pro-government supporters will come out, knives sharpened, pitchforks raised to denounce and condemn the opposition party. 

Then, social justice groups will issue statements to focus on the real issue of the insensitive handling of sexual assault cases—to no avail. Elsewhere, liberal groups will insist all this focus on the lies Raeesah tells is but a political distraction. I assure you it is not. 

This all ends with actual sexual assault survivors forced to retreat into their shell of shame and guilt, forever languishing with the question: “Who would believe us now?” It ends with another assault victim choosing the path of least resistance—that of silence. The next time someone speaks up, their voice will be drowned by the horde of well-meaning supporters who now can’t help but remember the day an MP lied in Parliament. 

And whose fault would that be?

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