The Government need not even change the law if they are serious about keeping their word to Singaporeans that TraceTogether data would only be used for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes, said the Peoples Voice (PV) party leader Lim Tean on Wednesday (6 January).
His remarks came after it was revealed in Parliament on Monday that the Singapore police are empowered to obtain any data under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), including data from COVID-19 contact tracing system TraceTogether.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told the House on Tuesday that he “had not thought of the CPC” when he said at a press conference in June last year that TraceTogether data would be used “purely for contact tracing, period”.
“After I realised that the CPC applied to this, I did have sleepless nights wondering: Should I try to persuade my colleagues to change the law?” said the Minister in Parliament.
“But having thought about it, discussed, consulted people both within and outside this House, I’ve come to the conclusion that right now, we are doing well. We are able to keep Singapore safe, we are able to deal with the current crisis,” he added.
Following that, Mr Lim took to his Facebook yesterday criticising Dr Balakrishnan for giving such excuses to Singaporeans on why it was not disclosed earlier that the data could be used for criminal investigations.
“When he gave the assurance last June, he would have known that there were real concerns in the public that the information could be used for other purposes, and that was why the assurance was given,” he wrote.
Mr Lim believes that the Government can easily change the law if that is what they needed to do to keep their word, instead of hiding “behind the skirt of some law” like the CPC to backtrack on their promise to Singaporeans.
“They need not even change the law if they are serious about keeping their word. The Government could issue a directive to the police that they would not be allowed access to the information, period,” he noted.
To support his point, Mr Lim cited the Australian Government’s recent move that rejected the requests from police and other law enforcement authorities to access data within the country’s COVIDSafe app.
He also noted that the argument made by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in Parliament – that there could be judicial review challenges if the police are prohibited from accessing TraceTogether data – was “nonsense”.
“It once again attempts to introduce fallacious legal arguments to cloud a clear-cut issue,” the lawyer remarked.
“Once a Government has issued an assurance, that constitutes a compact with the citizens, and to suggest that the courts will go beind that compact is rubbish,” he added.
Mr Lim went on to highlight how the Government has been “consistent” in going back on their word to Singaporeans.
Firstly was the Central Provident Fund (CPF) issue, in which the Government had promised that Singaporeans can withdraw from their CPF at the age of 55 when the scheme was introduced, but later on the minimum withdrawal age was increased to 65.
He also brought up about the Government had earlier gave the assurance that HDB properties would always have an increase in value, but later on said that HDB values will shrink after 99 years.
“And in November 2019, Lee Hsien Loong told Singaporeans they had to give the PAP a strong mandate, as the world was watching, especially at a time of leadership transition. After the GE, the narrative led by Jayakumar changed to ‘Let’s not change horses midstream!’
“These useless so-called 4G Ministers can’t even take over after years of sitting in Government,” Mr Lim added.
The PV’s chief concluded his post by expressing his disappointment that none of the “so-called lawyer MPs” dared to interrogate the Ministers “more forcefully” in Parliament over the TraceTogether data use issue.
“Their arguments should have been shredded to pieces in the full glare of live TV,” he asserted.