Richard Branson Responds to S’pore’s Invitation for Live Debate With K Shanmugam Over Death Penalty

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.

The 72-year-old, who was also in the popular business reality television series Shark Tank for a season, was particularly active in the Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam’s case.

And on 10 October 2022, Branson took it one step further, writing about his disagreements on his blog that is published on the Virgin Group website for the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

In the blog post, he reiterated his stand, and also made some strong allegations like claiming that there’s “continued harassment of capital defence lawyers and human rights defenders.”

Suffice to say, the POFMA office would have been very busy if Richard Branson is based in Singapore.

Therefore, on 22 October 2022, the Ministry of Home Affairs posted a statement instead, debunking what Branson has said.

Other than setting the records straight, MHA also mentioned in the statement that they have “invited Mr Branson to Singapore for a live televised debate on Singapore’s approach towards drugs and the death penalty, with Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam. Mr Branson’s flight to and accommodation in Singapore will be paid for.”

They added that Branson may use this platform to demonstrate to Singaporeans the error of our ways and why Singapore should do away with laws that have kept our population safe from the global scourge of drug abuse.

Well, Branson has responded.

Richard Branson Rejects Singapore’s Invitation for Live Debate With K Shanmugam

The short answer?

“I’m out.”

In the same blog that is addressed directly to Minister Shanmugam, Branson posted that he has respect for Singapore and Singaporeans for what we’ve achieved over the years.

And it was due to this respect that he spoke out.

He then shared a personal story, saying that when he was young, his grandfather was a judge and had to sentence people to death—something he regretted doing. In 1969, the death penalty was abolished in the UK, but his grandfather had then passed on.

He then explained that he had to decline the invitation for a live debate, claiming “that a television debate—limited in time and scope, always at risk of prioritising personalities over issues – cannot do the complexity of the death penalty any service. It reduces nuanced discourse to soundbites, turns serious debate into spectacle. I can’t imagine that is what you are looking for. What Singapore really needs is a constructive, lasting dialogue involving multiple stakeholders, and a true commitment to transparency and evidence.”

This sounds chim, but basically, what he implies is that it’d become an entertaining show that people like you and me would watch just for fun, and not a serious debate. In other words, the debate would be like a Shark Tank episode instead of a Parliament seating.

The other reason, he claimed, is that this conversation needs a local voice instead, and he actually suggested…Mr M Ravi.

Cue the Shark Tank music.

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