Singapore police investigating rap video for ‘offensive’ content

The 'brownface' ad featured actor Dennis Chew playing four characters. — Facebook screenshot
The 'brownface' ad featured actor Dennis Chew playing four characters. — Facebook screenshot

SINGAPORE, July 30 — Singapore police are investigating an “offensive” rap video made in response to a controversial advertisement in which a Chinese actor’s skin was darkened to portray another race.

The video, which was made by local comedian and Youtube performer Preeti Nair, showed her ranting against the advert. It later disappeared from her Facebook page and Youtube channel.

The controversial “brownface” ad Nair was responding to had featured actor Dennis Chew from broadcaster Mediacorp as four characters.

Chew’s skin was darkened to depict an Indian man, he put on a headscarf to act the part of a Muslim woman, and he also portrayed a Chinese man and a Chinese woman. 

In her video, Nair is seen rapping with her brother Subhas in front of the advert in a shirt saying: “Yes it’s because you’re Chinese”.

She raps a stream of obscenities about Chinese people, riffing on a recently-released track by Australian rapper Iggy Azalea.

Nair often posts parodies and music videos on her Youtube and Facebook accounts under the name Preetipls. 

Police said in a statement a report has been lodged against the video for “offensive content”.

“The police will not tolerate any offensive content that causes ill-will between races,” police said.

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told the local media the video “crosses the line” and was “not acceptable”.

Singapore has strict laws to curb hate speech, including the sedition act, which punishes those who “promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes” with a jail term of up to three years and a fine.

Race is a sensitive issue in Singapore, home to ethnic Chinese, ethnic Indians and Muslim Malays, as well as a large number of expatriates from all over the world.

Despite government efforts to promote racial harmony, there have been complaints that the ethnic Chinese majority enjoy privileges over minority groups.

Mediacorp apologised yesterday following an online backlash against the ad, centred around how it used just one actor from the main ethnic group rather than getting other performers to play the different roles.

The ad was part of a government-initiated campaign for cashless transactions in the tech-savvy city-state.

Nair did not immediately respond to an emailed AFP request for comment.  — AFP

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