Rapper Subhas Nair found guilty of attempting to promote ill will between races and religions
A judge said Nair's explanations were inconsistent with his online posts, and at times even contradictory to his police statements.
SINGAPORE: Singaporean rapper Subhas Nair, 31, was on Tuesday (Jul 18) found guilty of attempting to promote ill will among racial and religious groups.
Nair, whose full name is Subhas Govin Prabhakar Nair, was convicted of four such charges over incidents that occurred between July 2019 and March 2021.
He had first posted a YouTube video of him and his sister Preeti Nair performing a song, which contained the lyrics "Chinese people always out here f***ing it up".
For this, he was given a two-year conditional warning by the police, but he reoffended by posting comments on social media.
Commenting on a viral video by two Christians who linked the gay pride movement to Satan, Nair wrote: "If two Malay Muslims made a video promoting Islam and saying the kinds of hateful things these Chinese Christians said, ISD (Internal Security Department) would have been at the door before they even hit 'upload'."
In another incident, Nair made an Instagram post referring to a media interview of one Chan Jia Xing, who was given a conditional warning for a reduced charge of consorting with a person who had a weapon. Chan was one of seven people originally charged with murdering a man at Orchard Towers.
Nair wrote that "calling out racism and Chinese privilege" equalled a two-year conditional warning and "smear campaign in the media", while "actually conspiring to murder an Indian man" equalled half the sentence and a question of "you're having a baby soon right? Boy or girl" from the media.
"Do you actually think a brown person would get asked these type of questions? This place is just not for us," he wrote.
Nair had contested the four charges and was represented by lawyer Suang Wijaya from Eugene Thuraisingam's law firm.
During his trial, Nair took the stand and explained his intentions behind each online post.
He said he intended to end "brownface" in Singapore with his video. This refers to the practice of a lighter-skinned person applying make-up to imitate the appearance of a person from an ethnicity with darker skin.
Nair also said the term "f***ing it up" referred to a person making a mistake, and did not mean that Chinese people are "f***ed up".
He added that art may offend some people - especially when it is trying to improve society - and may also make some people feel "uncomfortable".
On his comments on the Chan Jia Xing case, Nair said he was not trying to create enmity between groups. Rather, he was trying to convey a message "about the state of journalism in our country", about "media bias and how certain people and cases were reported", he said.
District Judge Shaiffuddin Saruwan on Tuesday rejected Nair's explanations as to his "actual intention and knowledge" behind his posts.
"I find that they are not consistent with the words used in the posts. In one or two instances, they are also not supported or corroborated by what he stated in his police statement. Some are even plainly in direct contradiction with the words he used in the posts," said the judge.
He said Nair's words in his posts should be given their "natural and ordinary meaning".
He also found Nair's testimony "not cogent", and did not find that he was a credible witness.
The judge said it was clear that Nair's words suggested that some communities are targeted unfairly while others get preferential treatment.
As for the YouTube video, the lyrics were "clearly offensive and insulting" and the video was targeted at the Chinese community in general, a fact that Nair himself admitted.
Nair also acknowledged that he knew the Chinese community would find it offensive.
The judge said the "irresistible inference to be drawn" was that Nair knowingly attempted to promote feelings of ill will among racial and religious groups.
He convicted the rapper of all four charges.
Nair was accompanied by a handful of supporters in court on Tuesday, including his sister.
His lawyer successfully applied for him to leave the country for Bali in August, to attend a friend's wedding and for leisure.
The judge granted the application after imposing some bail conditions, and directing that Nair provide his full travel itinerary to the investigating officer as well as surrender his passport to the IO within 48 hours of his return.
Sentencing arguments will be heard at a later date.
The penalties for attempting to promote feelings of ill will between racial or religious groups are a jail term of up to three years, a fine or both.