You would have thought that it would take just a few minutes for Dr Christopher Cheok to present his professional assessment of Raeesah Khan to the Committee of Privileges (COP). After all, it is an objective assessment based on internationally established criteria and practice.
Not so for Dr Cheok. He found himself being asked numerous general questions by WP MP Dennis Tan who was also a panel member of the COP. The questions included those that were out of Dr Cheok’s remit as a psychiatrist to offer an opinion. And Dr Cheok wisely declined to answer those questions.
To anyone watching the hearing, it became quickly clear the direction that Dennis Tan was driving at with his line of questioning. He set aside the psychiatrist’s assessment of Ms Khan and spent at least an hour to pursue a line of questioning aimed at pressing the medical expert to agree with his party leaders’ assertion of Ms Khan’s mental state.
He asked so many general questions on dissociation and dissociative identity disorder without any specifics that the chairman of the COP had to remind him politely that the doctor was there to evaluate Ms Khan’s condition.
“I understand where you’re going with the general questions,” Chairman Tan Chuan Jin said. “When you go into the realms of general questioning, there’s so many possibilities, and really depends on context. So perhaps, if you could narrow down, that’ll be useful.”
You can watch the questioning here:
The independent assessment of the mental health of Raeesah Khan was done at the request of Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh who, together with Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Faisal Manap, had insinuated that Ms Khan’s evidence to the COP was unreliable because she suffered from ‘disassociation’.
The request was acceded to by the COP and Ms Khan also agreed to it.
In coming to his opinion, Dr Cheok had assessed Ms Khan on her ability to function in multiple dimensions: as a wife, as a mother, and in her occupation.
He assessed Ms Khan to be of sound mind and mentally fit and present when she made her speeches in Parliament (3 Aug to 4 Oct), and when she gave evidence to the COP. She did not suffer from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). She did not suffer from dissociation. She did not suffer from any dissociative identity disorder. It is to be noted that her speech given in Parliament on 3 Aug was not an impulsively given speech. It was a prepared speech.
Despite Dr Cheok’s assessment, Mr Dennis Tan continued to persist in his line of questioning, even asking, “Are you able to then offer any reason as to why she would suddenly make up a lie like this?”
To which Dr Cheok replied, “I don’t think it’s within my remit to make such an opinion. And I do not think that this is the role of a psychiatrist.”
There are many reasons why a person would lie and mental disorder is not the only reason.
Dr Cheok explained that it was understandable if Ms Khan were to be emotional whenever the topic of sexual assault is mentioned. It is a normal reaction from a survivor of a sexual assault because sexual assault is one of the most traumatic experience a person has gone through, it being a violation of their person. But such a reaction did not mean Ms Khan was mentally impaired. It didn’t reach that threshold that would have impacted her judgment, or her decision making capacity. She was of sound mind, Dr Cheok reiterated.
Still, Dennis Tan persisted and asked, “Would it still be possible that when the trauma is brought up, it would have affected her judgment in such a way that she is capable of false memory creation telling a lie?”
Dr Cheok reiterated that Ms Khan did not suffer from dissociation. “I do not think that when she speaks of the topic of her sexual assault, it affected her so severely that she lost her mental capacity.”
Dennis Tan persisted with yet another question. “Perhaps not losing mental capacity, but lapses of judgment. Telling a lie, for example. Could you exclude that definitively?” he asked Dr Cheok.
It is extremely disturbing to watch the multiple attempts by Dennis Tan to associate dissociation with lying, with false memory creation. He even attempted to characterise dissociation as something that one can turn on and off at will, what he described as ‘conscious’ dissociation.
The Workers’ Party claimed that they championed women’s development and mental illness. Yet, when push comes to shove, they have no hesitation throwing Ms Khan under the bus or casting aspersions and further stigmatising individuals suffering from a traumatic experience.
This is a new low for the Workers’ Party. The WP failed to guide their youngest former MP. They failed to give her the right advice. It is bad enough that the top leaders of the WP did nothing about Ms Khan’s lies for 3 months. But painting her as suffering from mental disorder in order to discredit her evidence to the COP to save themselves is like a scene out of a movie. The ‘most credible’ opposition party in Singapore has just discredited themselves. Again.