BBC asked Shanmugam about S'pore's 'social controls', 'draconian' drug laws and Section 377A. Here's how he responded
In the 24-minute podcast, British journalist and presenter Stephen Sackur quizzed the minister on Singapore’s model as an “economically open, socially conservative and highly politically controlled” country.
Mr Sackur: Let me ask you about Singapore as a model. It was sort of set up by Lee Kuan Yew. It's been in effect for well over six decades. It combines economic openness with a real sense of political control and social control. Do you think that model needs to change?
Mr Shanmugam: Well, I will disagree with the assumptions in your question about political control and economic control. The last elections, we had 61 per cent, the Opposition had (almost) 40 per cent of the votes. Voting is free and fair.
Mr Sackur: Singapore is very well known around the world for its, many would say, draconian criminal code, and particularly when it comes to drugs, narcotics and the bringing of drugs into Singapore — you have a mandatory death penalty for that particular crime. Do you have any doubts at all that that is the right policy?
Mr Shanmugam: I don’t have any doubts. Capital punishment is one aspect of a whole series of measures that we have to deal with the drug abuse problem. It's imposed on drug traffickers, and it's imposed because there's clear evidence that it is a serious deterrent for would-be drug traffickers. The trafficker wants to make money.
Mr Sackur: Now, let's move on from drugs. Another aspect of your social policy, and that is the fact that in Singapore, homosexuality is still defined as a criminal act. Now that's not saving lives. So, what on earth is the justification for that?
Mr Shanmugam: The position in Singapore is that people engaging in gay sex will not be prosecuted. Even though there is this old piece of law which makes gay sex among males an offence, the Attorney-General has confirmed their position, and the Supreme Court has said that the Government's position has legal force.