Singapore calls Richard Branson’s rejection to live TV debate on the death penalty ‘lame’

Singapore is not taking no for an answer from Richard Branson who last week turned down an invite to a public debate on the death penalty with Ministry of Law minister K Shanmugam.

In a post published on Nov. 5, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reiterated again that Branson had been making “untrue statements” regarding the penalties for drug traffickers in Singapore and further irk Branson to take up their debate offer if he still holds truth in his words.

“If Mr Branson is convinced he is correct, he should take up our offer of a debate, and not offer lame excuses to opt out,” MHA wrote.

They also said his reasons for turning down the debate “do not hold water.” 

The British billionaire wrote on Oct. 31 that he declined the invitation as the debate on the controversial capital punishment on live TV would be reduced to a “spectacle.”

In reply, MHA said: “We can only surmise that Mr Branson realises he will be shown up, because what he has been saying about Singapore is not true.”

They went on to claim that the government has been involved in discussions on the death penalty with “thousands of Singaporeans” and cited the recent vague survey by MHA that seemingly showed support for the death penalty. 

The survey, published last month, showed that the majority of respondents (more than 70%) agree that sentencing people to death is justified and should be used for the most serious crimes like murder, the use of firearms, and drug trafficking.

MHA’s reaction to Branson’s rejection warranted plenty of commentary from the online community. 

Journalist and activist Kirsten Han labeled it as a “meltdown” which was embarrassing for all to witness. 

Others said that they were “cringing the whole way” and thought the response from MHA was “childish.”

However, even before the debate challenge was on the table, they were many people – Branson included – who felt that the ones MHA should be having a dialogue with is the local community.

Organisations like Transformative Justice Collective (TJC), of whom Han is a member, have been at the forefront of protesting the death penalty. 

Han ​​had earlier also questioned the motives of MHA’s challenge to a debate saying that it is “an attempt by the Singapore government to frame the death penalty issue as an “East versus West” culture clash, and to set up Shanmugam as a Singaporean nationalist standing firm against a sanctimonious Western interloper. It’s not a debate. It’s a red herring designed to distract from a growing local abolitionist movement.”

So do you think it’s time MHA open the “debate floor” to the local movement?

Other stories you should check out:

Richard Branson declines offer to live TV debate on the death penalty, urges Singapore to challenge local activists insteadThe details about the death penalty Singapore doesn’t want to talk about
According to MHA, Singaporeans approve of the death penalty and so do others in the region

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