SINGAPORE: A statement issued by YouTube performer Preetipls and her brother Subhas Nair contained "a mock, insincere apology" spoofing an earlier apology issued by Havas Worldwide for the E-Pay advertisement, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday evening (Aug 2).
"This spoofing is a pretence of an apology, and in fact shows contempt for the many Singaporeans who expressed concern at their blatantly racist rap video," said the ministry in a press release.
The siblings had, earlier on Friday, posted a statement on Instagram saying they were "sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused". This was over a rap video they created to criticise a controversial NETS E-Pay advertisement.
READ: Preetipls, Subhas Nair "sorry for any hurt" over controversial video criticising NETS E-Pay ad
Their statement read: "The message behind this music video is that opportunities must be for everyone. For that reason, K Muthusamy, well known for his ability to address privilege, power and censorship in a single production in a light-hearted way, was selected as the face of this music video.
"He speaks to characters from all walks of life in Singapore, bringing home the point that only some people truly pay.
"We're sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused. Behind the music video is an initiative to provide greater consciousness to consumers, corporations and the many faces of Singapore."
This closely followed the wording of a statement by creative agency Havas, first issued last Saturday, which said: "The message behind this advertising campaign is that e-payment is for everyone.
"For that reason, Dennis Chew, well-known for his ability to portray multiple characters in a single production in a light-hearted way, was selected as the face of the campaign. He appears as characters from different walks of life in Singapore, bringing home the point that everyone can e-pay.
"We’re sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused. Behind the ad is an initiative to provide greater convenience to consumers, merchants and small food businesses.”
In the E-Pay advertisement, actor and deejay Chew, who is Chinese, was dressed up as four characters, including a Malay woman and an Indian man. To portray these characters, Chew’s skin was made up to look darker.
NOT THE FIRST TIME SIBLINGS HAVE EXPRESSED RACIST SENTIMENTS: MHA
MHA pointed out that the rap video, which was laced with profanity targeting the Chinese, "is not the first time Ms and Mr Nair have expressed racist sentiments".
"About a year ago, Ms Nair published a video where she acted as a Chinese and mocked the Chinese community’s practices, culture and traditions. She portrayed Chinese as money-minded gamblers," said the ministry.
"Mr Nair wrote a song recently that says that Singapore condones systemic discrimination," it added.
The song was written for Mediacorp as part of a musical documentary on CNA featuring musicians and their music for National Day.
"Among the lyrics in the song: 'We live in a system that has normalised us ... to walk oblivious to a brown man stopped and ID checked'. This is blatantly false," said MHA.
MHA said it takes action whenever there are offensive statements which breach the law, regardless of the race of the offender.
"In 2018, a 36-year-old Indian lady published comments that made racial insinuations. The police investigated and, in consultation with AGC, issued her a stern warning.
"In January this year, the police charged a Chinese man in court under the Penal Code for deliberate intent to wound the racial feelings of the Malay population. The man had scrawled racist messages about Malays on walls in void decks and sheltered walkways.
"His messages had been seen by far fewer people than the videos issued by Ms and Mr Nair," said the ministry.
MHA said the police will continue their investigations, taking advice from the Attorney-General's Chambers.
SIBLINGS' STATEMENT RISKS "INFLAMING SITUATION FURTHER": SINDA
Speaking to CNA, Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) CEO Anbarasu Rajendran said that the siblings' statement was "not only insincere", but also risked "inflaming the situation further".
Noting that there had been several apologies over the week, he said that there was a "need to calm down, and not let things get out of hand".
"This can only be possible if everyone is sincere about it," he added.
"Unfortunately, the so-called apology by the video creators spoofed the apology by the ad creators. This is not only insincere but risks inflaming the situation further."
While the E-Pay ad was "very insensitive and distasteful", the rap video "had very offensive content towards the Chinese community", Mr Anbarasu said.
"Both are unacceptable. But the video crossed the line because it was deliberately denigratory and whipped up ill-feeling against another race," he said.
The SINDA CEO added that he hoped the siblings would reflect on what they were doing and "avoid further actions that can cause further ill will between our communities".
"As a society, we can and must do better. But we must do so in ways that are constructive and positive, and not words and deeds that are recklessly provocative and destructive," he said.
Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect updates to the statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs.