MHA Responded to Richard Branson’s Rejection for TV Debate Pointedly

Have you ever expected to see the words “lame excuse” used in an official government statement? Yeah, me neither.

Seems like the MHA was so triggered by Richard Branson’s rejection that they worded their response really pointedly. And I don’t know about you, but it all seems very passive-aggressive to me. 

Here’s what happened.

Richard Branson Declines TV Debate

Lest you’re not aware, British billionaire and founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, had always been vocal about Singapore’s approach towards drugs and the death penalty.

MHA then decided to invite Mr Branson to Singapore for a live TV debate on Singapore’s drug policies and death penalty with Minister K Shanmugam.

Branson basically said nope, saying that a live TV debate will just turn this serious matter into an entertaining show that people will watch just for fun. Which, TBH, isn’t wrong, especially since many netizens have ridiculed the government for debating with a foreigner before local activists. 

 MHA Labels It A ‘Lame Excuse’

The Ministry of Home Affairs basically slammed Branson’s reasons for rejecting the debate, saying that they were offering him “every opportunity to explain himself fully” and not just make soundbites out of it.

“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.”

The “nuanced or otherwise” in parenthesis really marks the start of passive-aggressiveness in this entire response. 

MHA then assumes that Branson’s true reason for rejecting the interview is the realisation that “he will be shown up, because what he has been saying about Singapore is not true”.

“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.”

Honestly, are we still using the word ‘lame’ as a good insult? It’s 2022, and I thought we’d long established that using ‘lame’ as an insult is terribly ableist. 

MHA Apparently ‘Engaged in Discussions’ with Thousands of Singaporeans

Responding to Branson’s suggestions that the Government engage Singaporeans instead of him, a foreigner, on the death penalty, MHA stated that they have engaged in discussions “with thousands of Singaporeans” just this year.

MHA then proceeds to list Parliamentary Debates and surveys as evidence of such discussion.

While MPs are elected representatives of the people, we should also note that they can’t possibly represent every single opinion of Singaporeans. Surveys also only provide limited representation of opinions. How can these equate to “discussions with thousands of Singaporeans”?

MHA then states that “it is not for Mr Branson to tell the Singapore Government who in Singapore it should talk to”. Which, well, we can’t disagree with that. We are a sovereign state, after all.

But the MHA labels Branson’s recommendations as people who “have been feeding him misinformation and untruths”.

This is interesting because he actually recommended a bunch of independent journalists and activists like the Transformative Justice Collective and Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network.

“These are persons who turn to foreigners like Dr Mahathir and Mr Branson to pressure Singapore, because they do not get much support from Singaporeans,” said MHA.

Well, you can look at their follower counts and engagements on social media, and decide for yourself. 

Join our Telegram channel for more entertaining and informative articles at or download the Goody Feed app here: 

Singapore Adapts Foreign Lessons to Our Own Circumstances 

MHA also stated that Singapore does study lessons from other countries, which was another recommendation Branson made in his rejection.

“We adapt what works to our own situation, and avoid practices that have failed,” stated MHA, citing our successes in creating a mostly drug-and-violence-free nation.

“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.”

“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,” ended the MHA.

You can read MHA’s full statement here, and Branson’s full rejection letter here.

Read Also:

Featured Image: Brian Friedman /