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    Branson’s reasons for turning down debate ‘do not hold water’

    CNA – Richard Branson’s reasons for turning down a TV debate with Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Singapore’s approach towards drugs and the death penalty “do not hold water” and are “lame excuses”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) yesterday.

    In response to the British billionaire’s blog post on Monday, the ministry said that Branson was “pontificating from a distant mountaintop”, only to avoid a serious discussion when challenged.

    Two weeks ago, MHA said it invited Branson to Singapore for a live televised debate with Shanmugam to argue his case.

    Branson has been vocal in his views against Singapore’s death penalty for crimes such as drug trafficking. Earlier this year, he also spoke out against the execution of convicted drug trafficker Nagaenthran Dharmalingam.

    But on Monday, Branson said no to the debate, saying that the conversation “needs local voices”.

    Richard Branson. PHOTO: 9NEWS

    In its response yesterday, MHA said, “He says that a televised debate would be limited in time and scope, ‘always at risk of prioritising personalities over issues’, and cannot do the complexity of the death penalty any service.

    “He adds that it would reduce ‘nuanced discourse into soundbites’. This is surprising. The Government offered the debate precisely to give Branson every opportunity to explain himself fully.

    “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.

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

    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.

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