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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  June 29, 2022 4:30am-5:01am BST

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this is bbc news. the headlines: a former white house aide has told a congressional committee that president trump wanted to join the capitol hill rioters. cassidy hutchinson also testified that mr trump tried to take the steering wheel from his limousine driver when he was told he could not attend. a court in new york has sentenced the british socialite ghislaine maxwell to 20 years injailfor helping herformer partner, jeffrey epstein, abuse underage girls. maxwell was found guilty in december of sex trafficking. epstein killed himself in a manhattan jail cell in 2019. the turkish government has
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dropped its objections to finland and swedenjoining nato after spending weeks refusing to do so. turkey had accused both countries of harbouring kurdish militants but says it has now �*got what it wanted' from talks at the summit in madrid. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk with stephen sackur. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. singapore is a city state that has thrived in the era of globalisation, international supply chains and mobile workers. but what happens when the geopolitical weather changes? when great power hostility and economic nationalism hold sway? well, my guest is singapore's long—serving home minister, k shanmugam. is singapore's political and economic balancing act sustainable in a world of rising tensions?
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minister k shanmugam in singapore, welcome to hardtalk. thank you, mr sackur. let me ask you about singapore's 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? well, i disagree with
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the assumptions in your question about political control and economic control. you know, in the last elections, we had 61%, the opposition had 40% of the votes. voting is free and fair. the reason why the pap has managed a substantial dominance is because in 1965, when the pap came to... when we took independence, or when we had independence thrust upon us, gdp per capita was about $500. today it's $55,000. it's... on any index that you look at — education, healthcare, housing, law and order — we are, you know, in the top three or four in the world. and, you know, the people understand that. but at the same time, there is a very vibrant set of discussions going on. and i would say that... i wouldn't quite put it as political control and social control. 0k. but the model... let's dig into your particular remit. you're home affairs minister,
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you have been for some time, as well as being law minister. singapore is very well known around the world for its... ..well, 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? i don't have any doubts. capital punishment is one aspect of a whole series of measures that we have to deal with drug abuse problem. it's imposed on drug traffickers and it's imposed because there is clear evidence that it's a serious deterrent for would—be drug traffickers. trafficker wants to make money. he, you know, is damaging the lives of drug users, theirfamilies.
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damaged, often seriously destroyed. you look at the devastating impact of drugs worldwide. who report 2021, 500,000 people died linked to drug abuse in just one year. more than 70% of that was linked to opioid abuse. us, more than 100,000 deaths due to drug overdose in the year ended april 2021. life expectancy in the us declined for the first time in 2015 since world war i, due in large part to the opioid crisis. i don't think... let me stop you, minister, just for a sec, because you said some very important things there that i just want to dig into a little bit. you framed the whole thing in terms of an effort to crack down on traffickers, on the big business of illegal drugs across the world. no question, it's a very serious problem. but the fact is that one of the most high—profile cases that your system has dealt with in the last few months is that of an individual
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from malaysia, nagaenthran dharmalingam, who was caught with the equivalent of three tablespoonfuls of heroin as he entered singapore. he has an iq of 69 — medical experts say that represents intellectual disability. and after more than a decade on death row, you hanged him. does that seem proportionate and compassionate to you? you've got your facts wrong. the courts found that he had the working of a criminal mind and he made a deliberate, purposeful, calibrated, calculated decision, to make money, to bring the drugs in. psychiatrists called... he was mentally impaired, minister. he was mentally impaired. psychiatrist called by the defence... he had an iq of 69. psychiatrist called by the defence agreed and confirmed that he was not intellectually disabled. and last year, when his final appeal was dismissed, at the same time, in october 2021, the us executed two men whose lawyers
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argued that they were similarly intellectually disabled. they had similar iqs — same range. somewhere between 69... 64 and 72, 63 and 95. the courts, the us supreme court in one instance, upheld the executions. the men knew what they were doing for those reasons. now i don't see the bbc... the thing is, it's about reputation. it's about your presentation of singapore to the world, if i may say so. the un human rights experts on the death penalty in may 2022, the un panel said that the executions of persons with intellectual disabilities for drugs—related offences represent a violation of the right to life and the right to be free from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. they amount to, quote, unlawful killings. is that the way you want to present singapore to the world? mr sackur, this depends on whether you want to accept everything that is said by someone. my point to you is, what is the difference between mr nagaenthran and the two persons executed in the us in october 2021?
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surely, surely you should be holding yourself to a universally high standard. you are a minister who has talked about making sure that compassion is at the centre of thejudicial system in singapore. so it's no good pointing to other countries which may have their own flaws. i'm asking you to look at this on its merits. on its merits, this is the point i will make. this is a man who brought in drugs in order to make money. he had the workings of a criminal mind. his own psychiatrist confirmed that he was not intellectually disabled, and... look at the context. we are talking about saving lives. what do i mean? in the 1990s, we were arresting about 6,000 people per year. 30 years later, today, there are more drugs around the region. there are... singapore is wealthier.
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afghanistan and myanmar are among the largest producers of drugs in the world. we are a logistics centre. we would be completely swamped. the undoc... unodc said that, you know, this place is swimming in meth and a record haul of one billion meth tablets were seized in southeast asia. yeah. you keep painting... in that situation... you keep painting this apocalyptic vision of what singapore might face. but surely, in the end, you are going to be challenged by the international community on the standards that you set in yourjudicial system. let me ask you which is better. you look at the netherlands — the chief of the largest police union talks about the netherlands being a narco state with a parallel economy controlled by drug gangs, shootings and killings. you consider that to be better? you look at singapore. law and order, we are number one. you have...
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i believe i'm right in saying, minister, you have about 60 people on death row at the moment, don't you? and the vast majority of them are accused, convicted of drugs offences. we do, but we have also saved thousands of lives because we are now arresting about 3,000 people per year. see, the... that's 3,000 people... the anti—death penalty asia network says this, and then we'll move on after this. but singapore's international reputation, they say, has deteriorated significantly as the result of things like the execution of this individual, nagaenthran. that's what you have to confront. are you prepared to see your state's reputation sink because of the draconian decisions you insist on making? i think the key thing is the lives of singaporeans and protecting singaporeans. you know, people focus on and the bbc focuses on this one person. you ran four articles from october of last year to march of this year.
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one of them was a headline overtaking the ukraine war. but you haven't run any article on what the unodc talked about. the severe situation in southeast asia. and what about the thousands of lives that are at stake from drug trafficking? you know, we're not even talking of mexico... you've made the case. you've made the case, minister. let me just make this point, mr sackur. i think the media reporting and all the things that you've quoted make this point — that a single hanging of a drug trafficker, to misquote a well—known quote, a single hanging of a drug trafficker is a tragedy. a million deaths from drug abuse is a statistic. i think that's what this shows. so that's your frame. your frame is that you are saving lives because illegal drugs cost lives. and i can prove it. no, fine. i can prove it. so that's your frame for that particular aspect of your social policy. what is the... and our... what is the justification... let's move on now.
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let's move on from drugs to another aspect of your social policy. yes. 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? 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 amongst males an offence, the attorney—general has confirmed that position and the supreme court has said that the government's position has legal force. why are we taking this approach? because a significant proportion of our population, the middle ground, as it were, don't want that law repealed. attitudes are shifting somewhat, but still governments cannot... singapore government cannot ignore those views. so we have arrived at this sort of messy compromise the last 15 years, and we have taken this path because these issues are difficult. they are not easily settled. and we have made clear lgbtq+ individuals are entitled
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to live peacefully without being attacked or threatened. we have, in fact, laws that protect the community from hate speech and violence. what is the message sent to gay men in singapore that you are not prepared to remove that section 377a of your criminal code, which quite explicitly says that gay sex between men is illegal? that simply encourages, does it not, a culture of shame and homophobia? as i've said, you know, it's a compromise that we have arrived atjust because of where our society is. and if you believe in a democracy, you've got to take into account where your main ground is. and let's face it, it's not as if others have solved the issue. a supreme courtjudge from the united states suggested a few days ago that court decisions on legality of gay sex and same sex marriage may have to be reconsidered. so our approach deals with these issues in parliament and i've said earlier this year that we are looking at our laws
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and our laws have to change and keep pace with the times. and in a singaporean way we are engaging in a wide set of consultations to try and arrive at some sort of landing. minister, i'm listening very carefully to your words. they're very interesting. and if i say to — you say, you know, public mood and public opinion matters. i say to you that one of the leading polling agencies, ipsos, in singapore, has found, quote, "a steady shift in societal attitudes led by younger adult singaporeans, who are more ready to see the country properly embrace same—sex relationships." so if that's the reality, are you saying to me that we can expect in the near future your government to actually strike off section 377a and make it clear to gay men in singapore that they can be open about their sexuality with no fear that anybody is going to regard them as criminal?
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two points. first of all, the ipsos survey seems to us a little bit of an outlier in the context of other surveys, internal and public, that we have. at the same time, i did say to you that attitudes are shifting, but i'm not quite sure they are shifting as much as what ipsos has said. the second point is i said that we are in deep consultations with stakeholders, including lgbtq+ community, as well as others, and you know, system of cabinet responsibility, what we are going to do can only be announced once a decision is reached. i'm in no position to answer that question with finality at this point. last year, the economist magazine, which has some influence, it referred to a rising tide of ugliness with regard to racial discrimination in singapore, which it said is provoking a reckoning over race.
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now, as home affairs minister, are you worried about the evidence presented of routine systemic discrimination, particularly against malay people in singapore, to a certain extent indian people as well? again, you know, there are various assumptions that there is routine discrimination and that this is systematic. you are not producing any evidence to this effect. as i said, the economist magazine and others have produced evidence which gets to the very heart of this problem. it shows that when people, when people look for housing, to rent housing, it is quite plain. and many people have done this, quite plain that in many places, ethnic chinese people are favoured and it's impossible for indian or malay people to rent in certain neighbourhoods. when it comes to the workplace, often, jobs are advertised which say mandarin essential when it is quite plain that mandarin actually isn't essential, but it's a way of ensuring that ethnic chinese people get the job.
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that happens. you live in singapore. you know it happens. let me explain to you. let me tell you, first of all, no—one will deny that racism exists in singapore, just like it exists in most other societies which are multiracial. the question is how systemic it is and how much does it happen? and if you want an extended discussion on that, i'm happy to do it. but my own experience as a minority in singapore, and the experience of many others is, on the whole, compared with many other societies, it's much less in singapore. and, you know, this thing about housing is interesting. 93% of singaporeans live in their own housing. so what you're talking about are foreigners who are seeking housing in singapore. so, you know, people get their facts confused and mixed up. well, i suppose the biggest test of all of this, if i may say so, the biggest test of all of this would be what happens at the very top.
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now, the current prime minister has just made it plain who his successor is going to be. it's going to be lawrence wong, the current finance minister. that will mean that the four leaders of independent singapore in the modern era have all been ethnic chinese. you're a very senior minister yourself, you perhaps could isn't the reality that you, with your indian heritage, are never going to be able to be prime minister of singapore? and that is a great shame, is it not? leaving me aside, i don't think it is accurate to say an indian cannot be a prime minister, or a malay cannot be a prime minister. how many non—white prime ministers have there been in the united kingdom? so let's get real. race does matter in politics. survey after survey shows that each race, whether it's the chinese or the malay or the indians, there is a substantial preference for a person of their own race to be the prime minister.
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so a malay or an indian starts with...if i remember my numbers right, about a 20% gap. but it's not unbridgeable. a good candidate, in my view, a malay or indian candidate can bridge it, as long as the mps have the confidence that he can lead them and win the elections. i think it's entirely possible, so i would not rule it out and i don't refer to myself. does it worry you, again as home affairs minister, that the foreign interference countermeasures act, fica, which has been introduced, which allows your government to order social media sites, internet providers, to disclose user information and block content that they deem to be hostile on the basis that it comes from malign foreign interests, does it worry you that that has been described by reporters without borders, an independent ngo, as a legal monstrosity
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with totalitarian leanings? you say your government isn't about control. what on earth are you doing passing this fica legislation? well, you might want to look at the legislation. the reporters without borders, i'm... it's an interesting organisation. they rank us, you know, in the annual rankings below... last year, they ranked us 160 out of 180, below gambia. guinea, afghanistan, philippines, south sudan, myanmar. south sudan has been described as having one of the most serious refugee crises. myanmar had a coup. i don't see journalists queuing up to go to south sudan, philippines, and myanmar, as opposed to singapore. take a young female bbc journalist, do you think she will feel safer or freer to report from any of these countries compared to singapore? i dismiss reporters without borders — completely nonsensical. let's quickly, because we don't have much time left, move on to the geopolitical
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situation you find yourselves in in singapore. you've traditionally tried to maintain very good relations with the great powers in your region. that is, of course, china, but also the united states. that's becoming increasingly difficult as hostility grows between washington and beijing. you're going to have to pick sides. which side will you pick? no, we will not pick sides. i think, you know, for us, it's important that we deal and navigate in the environment. but picking sides is not the right way to go. i mean, the us and china... ..everyone can see the tensions are deep. 0n the side of the us, there is a bipartisan thinking, that consensus that china poses a direct threat. it's as though an us—versus—them mentality. in china, there is a growing perception that the east is rising, the west is declining, and that the us is seeking to contain china, constrain china's growth. so the tense relations
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continue this way. more bifurcation of technology and supply chains, or worse. but singapore, like many other countries in this region, will want to maintain good relations with both washington and beijing. that may not be possible, and it may be that it isn't just about us—china, it's about authoritarians and democratic systems increasingly polarised around the world. you've made a stand on ukraine. you're one of the few asian countries that has imposed sanctions on russia. your pm called the putin invasion an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country. that suggests to me that right now, in terms of values and worldview, you are actually closer to washington than you are to beijing. we also opposed the us invasion in grenada. so it's a matter of principle. it's not choosing one over the other. as a small country with a very keen eye towards survival,
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sovereignty, the international law is extremely important. when one country invades another without proper justification, whether it's us invading grenada or russia invading ukraine, we take a stand. right, but this is interesting about values. if democracies and authoritarian systems are increasingly at loggerheads around the world, which camp are you instinctively in? the way we would look at it, i think it is, you know, these labels are sometimes used... how come that's not an easy answerfor you to give me? it's not, it's not, because these labels are sometimes used really in a hypocritical way. i think the real issue is, what is a country's interest? how does it work within the context of values? and how do you think the international system is going to play out? you've got to look at all of these things. look at the people the us deals with. are they all democratic? so let's, let's,
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let's get real. 0k, you're not going to give me a straight answer, so a final question, and it's based on words... my answer is that we will not choose sides. we will go with what we think is right. kishore mahbubani, a former singaporean diplomat, i'm sure you know him well. i do. he says singapore is the most globalised country in the world. how is singapore going to survive a world where globalisation is in retreat? it's a tough one. you know, it's not going to be easy. but at the same time, there are some advantages to... i mean, the situation, the picture about china—us, we have spoken about, it's going to become much more difficult, much more difficult to navigate. but at the same time, the pandemic and, you know, the situation in ukraine and so on has shown the importance of governance. so if you look at it the last few years, the way covid has been handled,
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you know, we have rational health care policies, rational economic policies. we have continued growing, we have managed our economy. so there's been a flight to quality. people look around, they say, which countries are safe? which countries are safe to be physically in? which countries are safe to put your money in? and there has been a flight to quality, there has been a movement to singapore, money as well as people. and i think there is an appreciation that singapore is one of the good places to do business in. sadly, minister k shanmugam, we have to end there, but i do thank you very much indeed forjoining me on hardtalk. hello there.
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on tuesday, we saw a definite east—west divide across the country. eastern areas saw the best of the sunshine and the warmth. further north and west, it was windy with outbreaks of rain and felt fairly cool for the time of year. now, for today, it's going to be one of sunshine and showers and it'll be less windy as well. the reason for it — the centre of this low pressure system will be just pulling away slightly from the northwest of the uk, so we'll have fewer isobars across the charts, but still some weather fronts which will bring outbreaks of rain. the overnight band of rain will be slowly clearing away from eastern england and eastern scotland. it will do by around mid—morning, and then we're all into the regime of sunshine and showers, and into the afternoon, some of these showers could turn out to be heavy and thundery across some northern and western areas. probably the best of the sunshine across the southeast. winds will be lighter — these are mean wind speeds — much lighter than what we had on tuesday. i think with lighter winds and in the sunshine, it'll feel a touch warmer.
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temperatures range from around 18—23 degrees across the southeast. many of the showers will tend to fade away during wednesday night. just watching this area of heavy, perhaps thundery rain, just scrape the far southeast of the near continent there. that'll push in towards the north sea, perhaps affecting northeast scotland during the morning. but for most, it's clear spells, one or two showers and mild, with temperatures in double figures for most. you can see that weather front bringing heavy rainfall across the eastern parts of the uk as we head through thursday. 0therwise, low pressure, again, close enough to bring another day of sunshine and showers. so, this rain could get close, again, to the southeast of england during thursday afternoon. could be some heavy rain as well across the far northeast of scotland. otherwise, for most, sunshine and showers again, some of them will be quite heavy, and because the winds are light, these showers will be fairly slow—moving. temperatures reaching highs of 18—21 degrees. friday, similar story. we've got low pressure to the west of the uk, so again, it's generally light winds, sunny spells, scattered showers and some of them could be quite heavy in places, and those temperatures
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around just a little below the seasonal norm of, say, 18—21 celsius. now, as we head into the weekend, we'll hold onto the sunshine and showers theme, but i think from sunday and into the following week, it looks like high pressure will build in from the west, and that should settle things down and turn warmer in the south.
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this is bbc news. i'm sally bundock with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. nato members meet in madrid: the war in ukraine and the future direction of the alliance are on the agenda as turkey drops its opposition to sweden and finland joining. welcoming to sweden and finland joining. finland and sweder into welcoming finland and sweden into the alliance will make them safer, nato is stronger and the area more secure. this is vital as we face the biggest security crisis in decades. damning testimony about donald trump: a former white house aide tells a congressional committee the former president wanted to join the capitol hill rioters.
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bowel cancer campaigner dame deborah james,


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