Singapore – Opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Dr Paul Tambyah deemed the correction notices issued by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to be “inappropriate and a complete distraction.”
Dr Tambyah was quoted saying during a National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) forum on July 3, that the Ministry of Manpower had released an advisory to employers of foreign workers without the advice of public health medical experts. He was also quoted as saying that employers would lose their work pass privileges if they brought their workers in for Covid-19 testing and that MOM had “actively discouraged” the testing of migrant workers.
Correction notices were issued to four organisations on Sunday (July 5) regarding the statements of Dr Tambyah over the Covid-19 situation in the dormitories. The correction directions were issued to Channel News Asia, a video posted by NUSS, a livestream video by The Online Citizen (TOC), a Facebook post and video by TOC Asia and an audio recording released by New Naratif. “The multi-ministry taskforce, led by the ministers and staffed by senior public officials and medical professionals, was set up in January 2020 to direct the national whole-of-government response to COVID-19 and to ensure smooth coordination across ministries and all affected sectors,” read the correction notice. “The medical management of migrant workers was guided by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and its medical professionals, based on the prevailing scientific evidence and local situation.”
In a separate account, National Development Minister and co-chair of the task force, Lawrence Wong, said on Sunday, that he had expected better of Dr Tambyah and called his allegations “baseless and false.” Mr Wong confirmed the task force had always relied on scientific evidence and the advice of medical experts on all decisions relating to the Covid-19 crisis since the beginning of the outbreak.
During a walkabout at Bukit Panjang SMC on Monday (July 6), Dr Tambyah told reporters that this whole development was a “complete distraction.” According to a straitstimes.com report, the professor clarified that the advisory released by MOM was only signed by a MOM official and not anyone from the Ministry of Health. “Frankly, that seems to me an inappropriate use of POFMA,” said Dr Tambyah who denied making the statements highlighted in the correction directions. “Frankly, trying to decide who signed a circular is not going to cause racial and religious strife whether it (the advisory for employers) came from MOH and MOM, or whether it came from MOM alone,” he added.
The SDP has been trying to focus on issues that matter to Singaporeans such as income security, jobs and the response to Covid-19 as this “is not just a medical problem, but is also an economic problem,” said Dr Tambyah who is contesting in Bukit Panjang against Mr Liang Eng Hwa from the People’s Action Party.