Law Society President Adrian Tan puts the nails on Branson’s reasons for not debating with Shanmugam

Singapore, law, Drug, debate, blog, death, penalty, time, Richard, Branson

And so it was that Richard Branson chickened out and declined an invitation by MHA for a televised debate with Minister Shanmugam on the death penalty in Singapore.

This led Law Society President Adrian Tan to ask him in a LinkedIn post:

Were you just teasing us? Were you never really serious about this issue? Was it just some social media thing that you had to do because you needed a trendy cause to champion? I hope not. I thought you were sincere."

Branson, you see, has been blogging about Singapore’s drug laws.

His latest blog “What’s the matter with Singapore?” prompted Singapore law minister K Shanmugam to invite him to a televised debate in Singapore on Singapore’s approach towards drugs and the death penalty. 

In his LinkedIn post, Mr Adrian Tan recounted the original Opium Wars in the 19th century where the Chinese government, concerned with opium abuse, enacted tough laws against traffickers – including the death penalty – to protect their own population

The British response at that time was to wage war on China, insisting that ‘their principles of free trade trumped a nation’s right to regulate its own affairs’.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Once again, there is an Asian government, Singapore, enacting tough laws against traffickers, including the death penalty, to protect its own population. Once more, an Englishman, Richard Branson, objects to an Asian country's laws because they don't conform to his principles,

Mr Tan wrote.

This story, however, pans out differently from the opium war in history.

sgmatters.com law society president adrian tan puts the nails on bransons reasons for not debating with shanmugam law society president adrian tan puts the nails on bransons reasons for not debating w

Branson's reasons don't make sense

The Law President said Branson’s reasons for not accepting the debate don’t make sense. 

Branson’s reason that a televised debate would be limited in time is but a feeble excuse. 

We would have given Branson as much time as he would have wanted,

wrote Mr Tan

Branson also said that the debate would be limited in scope. 

No, it wouldn’t. The scope would be exactly what he’s been talking about: the death penalty in Singapore.,

was Mr Tan's rejoinder.

The third reason given by Branson for turning down the debate is a fascinating one. Mr Branson wrote: “What Singapore really needs is a constructive, lasting dialogue involving multiple stakeholders” and “this conversation needs local voices”.

To this, the Law Society President wrote:

“It’s funny that Branson says that. For the longest time, Singaporeans have been saying the same thing to him. We’ve been telling Branson that he’s not a stakeholder, and he’s not a local voice.

But it’s never stopped Branson from telling Singaporeans what to do. He kept having blogs published under his name, telling Singapore what to do.

It was only when Singapore invited Branson to debate that he suddenly changed his tune. Now, Branson feels that Singaporean stakeholders and local voices should matter more and that foreigners (like him) should not talk.”

Mr Tan concluded, “Maybe, Branson doesn’t want to be tested on his knowledge of the Singapore situation on live TV. It’s surprising because, from reading his blog, you would assume that Branson knows so much about us already.”

Great job by the Law Society President.

If you are keen to read Mr Adrian Tan’s LinkedIn post in full, you can find it here.

Hopefully, the next time Branson is tempted to blog about Singapore, he will remind himself that he is neither a stakeholder nor a local voice, and mind his own business

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