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COVID-19 White Paper goes beyond original report: Lawrence Wong

Some parts of the original report cannot be published for national security reasons, as well as commercial sensitivities, said the Deputy Prime Minister.

03:35 Min
The COVID-19 White Paper goes beyond the original review report of the pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (Mar 21). In his closing speech, Mr Wong talked about how the government, the people, and the private sector came together to deliver the best outcomes. Michelle Teo explains.

SINGAPORE: The COVID-19 White Paper goes beyond the original review report of the pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (Mar 21). 

He was responding to Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh’s call for the original report to be published. 

On Monday, the Workers’ Party (WP) chief called for the original report on the Singapore government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to be published in full, so that the public and Members of Parliament can draw their own conclusions. 

The COVID-19 White Paper was published by the Prime Minister’s Office on Mar 8, drawing on an original report presented by former head of civil service Peter Ho. 

The White Paper identified six areas where the government could have done better, including the outbreak in migrant worker dormitories, border measures, contact tracing and the transition to endemic COVID-19.

It also included interviews with ministers and civil servants, and incorporated the findings of various reviews by government agencies, and perspectives from the people and private sectors.

After debating the COVID-19 White Paper for almost two days, the House voted to endorse it on Tuesday afternoon. 

“We do not know what is stated in Mr Ho’s report and the AARs (after-action reviews) from the respective ministries. It would be important in my view for Singaporeans to consider the details and breadth of perspective secured from all who participated in the various AARs,” Mr Singh said again on Tuesday. 

He also stressed that his request to publish the report in full “does not overshadow” WP’s support for the motion. 

Mr Ho’s report focused on lessons for Singapore on crisis management, and includes details on the internal workings of the government and crisis management structures, said Mr Wong on Tuesday. 

“And these internal workings and crisis management structures are not just to deal with a pandemic … The same structures are used for dealing with external security threats. And that’s why we are unable to publish that part of the report for national security reasons,” he continued. 

The original report also addresses commercial sensitivities, such as how Singapore leveraged different partners for essential supplies and managed its supply chains, said Mr Wong. 

“That had some commercial sensitivities and we can’t reveal that,” he added. 

“If we redact all of these sensitive materials, we will essentially end up with the lessons for the government, which are already in the White Paper. In fact, it will be a subset of the White Paper.” 

This is because the White Paper includes the lessons from agencies after their respective reviews and covers the lessons learnt after August 2021. 

Source: CNA/hw(sn)


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