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SG govt goes on the offensive calling Richard Branson's debate decline 'lame'

SG govt goes on the offensive calling Richard Branson's debate decline 'lame'

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The Singapore government is going on the offensive calling out Sir Richard Branson for declining an open, live, televised the debate with the government.

Calling his reasons “lame” and saying that they “do not hold water”, the Ministry of Home affairs (MHA) re-emphasised that Branson  has been “publicly peddling falsehoods about Singapore”, using his celebrity status to campaign to change Singapore’s position.

“If his facts are wrong, it is important this be publicly exposed. If Branson is convinced he is correct, he should take up our offer of a debate, and not offer lame excuses to opt out,” MHA said.

According to Branson’s earlier statements, the British Mogul said that the debate would reduce a “nuanced discourse into soundbites”. As such he declined the debate on penalties imposed on drug traffickers in Singapore – an area that MHA claimed Branson has been “making untrue statements about” for “some time now”.

Breaking down Branson’s view that the debate would reduce a “nuanced discourse into soundbites”, MHA said the statement is surprising as the government offered the debate precisely to give Branson every opportunity to explain himself fully.

It added that Branson’s “sudden scrupulous desire not to engage in soundbites is at odds with the soundbites and broad unsubstantiated allegations, which he has been making” in his blog posts.

“He would have been able to put forward his views (nuanced or otherwise), and explain fully whatever he wants to explain. There was no suggestion that he should only engage in soundbites,” MHA said.

It added, “We can only surmise that Branson realises he will be shown up, because what he has been saying about Singapore is not true.”

On Branson’s suggestion the Singapore government engages Singaporeans instead of him on the death penalty, MHA said that this year alone, the government has engaged in discussions on the death penalty with thousands of Singaporeans. It added that in Singapore, important matters are discussed in Parliament by MPs, as elected representatives of the people. The discussions reflect not just the Government’s view, but the different perspectives of Singaporeans, and the death penalty has been discussed in Parliament several times in recent years.

In fact, even the leader of the opposition has agreed that in Singapore, the imposition of the DP is necessary. According to MHA, currently 74% of Singaporeans supported the death penalty for the most serious crimes. Another study found more than 80% agreed that it deters crimes like drug trafficking, firearms offences, and murder, and 66% agreed that the mandatory death penalty is appropriate for those convicted of trafficking a significant quantity of drugs.

MHA added that it is also not for Branson to tell the Singapore government who in Singapore it should talk to, and that some of the names he shared are “quite clearly among those who have been feeding him misinformation and untruths”. On Branson’s point of Singapore looking outward to what happening in the UK, US, Europe, and other parts of the world, MHA said it does so, and what it sees is “the high rates of drug abuse and drug related crime, and the countless lives lost and families destroyed.”

“Singapore is not completely free from the drug menace either, but our drug situation is under much better control. We adapt what works to our own situation, and avoid practices that have failed […] We ask only for our right to choose our own path, to continue keeping Singapore and Singaporeans safe. The elected government of Singapore is fully capable of taking our own decisions, explaining them to Singaporeans, and getting support for them, including at the polls,” MHA added.

MHA added that Singapore does not accuse Branson of hypocrisy as some British media have done. “We do not question (as others have), his prioritisation of profit over the human rights principles which he so loudly professes. Nor do we judge him for taking drugs together with his son (as he has publicly admitted to doing). But Branson should act with some honour. If he takes a public position on a matter which can impact thousands of lives in another country, then he should be prepared to explain himself,” it said, adding:

Pontificating from a distant mountaintop, and then avoiding a serious discussion when challenged, does not suggest any respect either for principle, nor for the people whose well being he claims to champion.

Related articles: 
Richard Branson's decline of SG govt debate: A missed opportunity?
Richard Branson declines public debate with SG law minister
Sir Richard Branson: 'No one gave our curious airline much of a fighting chance'

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