Branson – a long-time campaigner against capital punishment – had criticized Singapore’s decision in April this year to execute 33-year-old Nagaenthran Dharmalingam for drug trafficking.
In a blog post at the time, Branson called the news “heart-breaking,” and spoke out against Singapore’s “relentless machinery of death.”
Branson doubled down on his criticism in another post on October 10. “The truth is that Singapore’s government seems bent on executing scores of low-level drug-traffickers, mostly members of poor, disadvantaged minorities, whilst failing to provide clear evidence that it has any tanigble impact on drug use, crime, or public safety,” he wrote.
Responding to this criticism, the Singaporean government said it invited Branson to Singapore to discuss its approach to drugs and capital punishment with home affairs minister K. Shanmugam.
“Mr 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,” the government said in a statement published on October 22.
“We do not accept that Mr Branson or others in the West are entitled to impose their values on other societies,” the statement continued. “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.”
Branson turned down the debate invitation on Sunday.