Home News Balakrishnan on removal of TraceTogether: SG to follow science, not politics

Balakrishnan on removal of TraceTogether: SG to follow science, not politics

“I would still stick by that commitment and let the science, the doctors, tell us. This should not be a political decision, this should not be politicised," Dr Balakrishnan said.

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Singapore — Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that decisions regarding TraceTogether should follow what science says, and not politics, perhaps being mindful of the backlash the government received earlier this year concerning the contact tracing platform.

He noted that contact tracing had not been a political issue in Singapore and that By and Large, opposition parties had supported the need for it.

Dr Balakrishnan, the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, was asked in a recent Reuters interview regarding his previous comment that TraceTogether would no longer be used after the pandemic.

However, since Covid is now being considered as endemic—meaning it’s not going anywhere anytime soon—Reuters’ Aradhana Aravindan asked him what the thinking is on TraceTogether at the moment.

Dr Balakrishnan said, “I would still stick by that commitment and let the science, the doctors, tell us. This should not be a political decision, this should not be politicised. 

Let the professionals tell us whether contact tracing to that level is necessary or helpful, and whether it secures the safety of our people.”

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“There is no need to politicise it,” he repeated, before stating that “in Singapore, certainly, it has not been a political issue.”

The Foreign Minister noted that opposition parties “supported the need for contact tracing and the use of new and innovative technologies which can enable us to make society safer,” although he seemed to throw shade at certain parties, since he said it was “at least the sensible parties” who had done so.

Dr Balakrishnan further noted that trust between the government and people is a “fundamental ingredient” as well as “one big advantage we have in Singapore.”

The Foreign Minister may have mentioned politics in connection with Trace Together because earlier this year, in Jan, the Government received backlash after Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said in Parliament that the police are empowered under the CPC to obtain data for criminal investigations, including data from contact tracing. 

Moreover, Mr Tan’s announcement was in stark contrast to what Dr Balakrishnan had said in Jun of last year, that TraceTogether would be used for the sole purpose of contact tracing.

Many people expressed their concerns online over security and privacy issues, and the news that the government was allowing this was reported all over the world.

Two months later, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the government had been mistaken in not having been upfront in the matter.

“I think we made a mistake,” he said to Ms Karishma Vaswani in a BBC interview, with regard to the Government not having been upfront concerning the data from the TraceTogether platforms.

PM Lee added, “This app was designed for contact tracing and for pandemic purposes. But under the law, the police have powers to ask for information for criminal investigations and police investigations, and it covered this app.”

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The transcript of Dr Balakrishnan’s Reuters interview may be read in full here.

/TISG

Read also: PM Lee says Gov’t mistaken in not being upfront with TraceTogether

PM Lee says Gov’t mistaken in not being upfront with TraceTogether

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