MHA offers Richard Branson live debate with Shanmugam on Singapore's death penalty


SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has offered to pay for British billionaire Richard Branson's flight to and accommodation in Singapore for a live debate with Minister K Shanmugam on the country's approach to drugs and death penalty.

In a press release on Saturday (22 October), the MHA responded to Branson's 10 Oct blog post on the case of Malaysian Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who was executed in April for drug offences in Singapore.

In inviting Branson to debate Minister Shanmugam, the MHA said the billionaire "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".

Branson had, in his post — titled "World Day Against the Death Penalty: What’s the matter with Singapore?" — said that Nagaenthran had a "well-documented intellectual disability", and was hanged despite that.

"We have clarified on several occasions that this is untrue," the MHA said it its statement.

"The Singapore Courts held that Nagaenthran knew what he was doing and that he was not intellectually disabled. The psychiatrist called by the Defence themselves agreed, in court, that Nagaenthran was not intellectually disabled," the Ministry said in its statement.

Other allegations

The MHA also refuted Branson's suggestions that there were developments that should give Singaporeans "cause for concern", stating that the billionaire had "probably picked it up from some activists in Singapore with their own agendas".

The Ministry also addressed Branson's allegations that Singapore "continually targets capital defence lawyers and human rights defenders, resulting in a 'chilling effect' on the willingness of lawyers to represent persons facing a capital sentence".

"This is another falsehood," the MHA said. "Defence lawyers have never been penalised for representing and defending accused persons. Every accused person who faces a capital sentence is provided with legal counsel to defend them."

The MHA said that Branson was "entitled to his opinions", but added that while "these opinions may be widely held in the UK", it did not accept that "Branson or others in the West are entitled to impose their values on other societies".

"Nor do we believe that a country that prosecuted two wars in China in the 19th century to force the Chinese to accept opium imports has any moral right to lecture Asians on drugs," the MHA added.

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