Thursday, 1 August 2019

Racial, religious harmony improving in Singapore: IPS-OnePeople.sg study - July 2019

IPS-OnePeople.sg Indicators of Racial and Religious Harmony: Comparing results from 2018 and 2013
It finds most respondents embrace racial diversity, adopt colour-blindness in social interaction and employment
By Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 31 July 2019

More Singaporeans now have close friends of another race compared with five years ago, and are also more trusting of those from different races or religions.

Interracial and inter-religious harmony in Singapore is improving, based on a survey of citizens and permanent residents last year.

But the survey also revealed an uptick in minority groups perceiving workplace discrimination, like when applying for jobs.

Researchers say this may be due to greater awareness of the presence of discriminatory behaviour in the workplace and how this might have affected some minorities.

The survey findings from a study of race, religion and language carried out by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and racial harmony advocacy group OnePeople.sg were released yesterday.

The results, in general, show Singapore is "faring well" with regard to interracial and inter-religious relations, the researchers said.

"The majority of respondents embrace racial diversity and adopt colour-blindness in the case of social interaction and employment," they noted.

In addition, most, including minorities, perceive little to no discrimination and social exclusion in public spaces here - an important sign of racial and religious harmony, they said.



Researchers polled 4,015 people between August last year and January this year, asking for their views about race and religion in 10 areas. A similar study was done in 2013.

In the 2018 study, researchers found that a higher proportion of Singaporeans have close friends of another race compared with 2013.

Thirty per cent of Chinese respondents had a close Malay friend in 2018, up from 23 per cent in 2013 - an indication of higher levels of racial harmony and interracial interaction, the researchers noted.

Likewise, 77.2 per cent of Indian respondents said they had a close Chinese friend in 2018, up from 63 per cent in 2013.


Fewer people also stereotyped a person based on race, the study found. In 2013, 46.8 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that race is indicative of another person's views or behaviour. This has dropped to 35.2 per cent.

When asked whether people from a different race or religion could be trusted to help in a national crisis such as a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, more said yes.

The study found that between the 2013 and 2018 surveys, trust in all races increased. For instance, 61.3 per cent of respondents trust "all or mostly all", or "more than half" of, Singapore Malays to help in a crisis, up from 52.7 per cent previously. In a similar vein, 63.1 per cent of respondents said they could trust Singapore Indians to help in a crisis, up from 54.1 per cent.

In a crisis, trust in those from other religions - Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism - or those without religion was also higher in the latest poll.

More than 59 per cent of respondents said they could trust either "more than half" of, or "all or mostly all", people from a different faith, compared with more than 51 per cent before.

On the whole, Singaporeans were positive about the level of racial and religious harmony here, with more than nine in 10 saying it was either moderate, high or very high.

Researchers said the changes could be the result of "increased discourse on interracial and religious relations over the last few years".

This was through discussion and media reports of other surveys conducted, such as on race relations, ethnic identity and community relations amid the threat of terror.

Stories posted online by Singaporeans who experienced racial discrimination have also paved the way for more discussion, they said.

And the national SGSecure movement has also highlighted the need for Singaporeans to stay united in the face of terror threats.

Researchers also flagged older Singaporeans who were slightly more likely to have "lower levels of interracial trust and less racially diverse social networks".

This could potentially stem from older people having fewer opportunities to interact with people of other races, they said, noting that younger people may benefit more from the focus on interracial understanding and mixing in schools today, as well as in ground-up exchanges and community activities.

For example, if faced with a national crisis, two-thirds of respondents aged between 18 and 25 would trust "all or mostly all", or "more than half" of, Singapore Malays or Singapore Indians to help. But the corresponding proportion of those aged 56 and above who would trust Malays or Indians to help ranged from 54.3 per cent to 56.6 per cent.















Slight increase in racial minorities perceiving workplace discrimination: IPS-OnePeople.sg survey
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 31 July 2019

While there were improvements in relations between the different groups, researchers found an area of concern - almost 60 per cent of Malays and 56 per cent of Indians perceived discriminatory treatment at work.

This was a slight increase from 58.7 per cent of Malays and 52.6 per cent of Indians five years ago, according to the latest Institute of Policy Studies-OnePeople.sg survey on racial and religious harmony released yesterday.


Minority groups indicated in the survey that they felt discriminated against when applying for jobs or seeking a promotion.

For example, 51.6 per cent of Malays last year said they "sometimes" or "often/very often or always" felt discriminated against when applying for a job, an increase from 47.2 per cent in 2013. The survey showed 47 per cent of Indians felt the same way, as did about 12 per cent of Chinese respondents.

When it came to job promotions, almost 14 per cent of Chinese "sometimes" or "often/very often or always" perceived discrimination, but the figure was higher for Malays and Indians, around 51 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively.

Almost 32 per cent of all respondents said Malays had to work harder or much harder than someone of another race to reach the top spot in their company.

For Indians, the figure was about 27 per cent, compared with about 14 per cent of Chinese.

But discrimination can be hard to prove. Workplace racial discrimination complaints accounted for only 5 per cent of all complaints received by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) and the Ministry of Manpower from 2014 to last year.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said hiring and promotion processes need to be objective and transparent, by using measurable criteria and racially diverse interview panels, for example.

"There is room for people to attribute their failure to get a job or promotion to race," he observed.

"In a situation where jobs are hard to come by, for instance in a recession, there could be a higher probability of job seekers blaming their failure to get a job to non-meritocratic reasons."



TAFEP said that race requirements in job advertisements and inappropriate remarks made during interviews have been cited as examples of discriminatory behaviour.

"In most cases, the employers were not aware their actions could offend others," said its spokesman.

"Therefore, it is crucial that employers abide by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, and treat all employees fairly and with respect." The guidelines set out good practices in areas such as selection and hiring, as well as salaries and promotions.

Nanyang Technological University associate provost and sociologist Kwok Kian Woon noted that members of the Chinese majority tend to have fewer chances of experiencing discrimination.

"Chinese Singaporeans should not take for granted their majority status and should consciously and constantly make an effort to reach out to fellow citizens."















Loud events at void decks, burning of religious items could lead to tensions among neighbours: IPS-OnePeople.sg survey
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 31 July 2019

Neighbourhoods are a potential setting for tensions to arise, and they can be over issues like the burning of incense and loud events at void decks.

In the latest Institute of Policy Studies-OnePeople.sg survey, at least four in 10 Singaporeans indicated that they sometimes, or more often, encountered and were upset by the burning of religious items in their estate.

Other top peeves included loud events at void decks or common areas, religious chanting or praying, and neighbours cooking ethnic food.

When broken down to race, the survey found that 67.4 per cent of Malays, 57.6 per cent of Indians and 35.7 per cent of Chinese were at least "sometimes" upset by the burning of religious items.

"This indicates the need for management of these issues to reduce the possibility of ill will between communities," said the researchers behind the survey.

Mr Alvin Tan, chair of the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC), said that deliberate and sustained efforts are critical to minimise interracial and religious tensions.

"We have community ambassadors present to help explain the practices, and encourage everyone to dress in one another's traditional costumes.

"We also visit different places of worship around Chinatown to help our members get a feel of the place and culture."



The IRCC also helps arbitrate the use of common spaces, such as when religious organisations like mosques or temples need to use them.

One example is when a fire-walking festival uses the area outside a Hindu temple.

"We come in as interlocutors very early in the process and find ways to minimise disruption to residents and businesses," he said.

On the proportion of racial minorities upset with the burning of incense, National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said it could be due to the nature of certain religious practices, which are louder, more smoky and conducted more often.

"It could also simply be demographics in the sense that minorities are more likely to encounter the majority, and less so in the case of the majority encountering minorities."

National Institute of Education research scientist Teng Siao See said young people want more dialogue on race and religion.

"Some students have raised with us their desire to have more opportunities to talk about issues of inclusion and exclusion.

"They told us they rarely do that with their teachers or parents," she said.

Ultimately, Professor Tan said it is important for Singaporeans to proactively mingle with one another.

"Once residents interact with one another or even do things together, they would tend to be more understanding and considerate," he said.
















* Rap video by local YouTube star Preetipls on 'brownface' ad crosses the line, not acceptable: Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam
Minister has asked police to investigate, says clip insults Chinese Singaporeans
By Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 31 July 2019

A rap video by a local YouTuber in response to a recent "brownface" advertisement "crosses the line" and is not acceptable, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

"This rap video insults Chinese Singaporeans, uses four-letter words on Chinese Singaporeans, vulgar gestures, pointing of middle finger, to make minorities angry with Chinese Singaporeans," he said of the video featuring YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother, rapper Subhas Nair.

"When you use four-letter words, vulgar language, attack another race, put it out in public, we have to draw the line and say 'not acceptable'," he told reporters yesterday.

Noting that he takes a "zero tolerance" approach to such matters, Mr Shanmugam said if "speech, songs like this are allowed, slowly but surely, it will get worse".

The minister said he has asked the police to investigate the matter.

In a statement last night, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said it issued a notice to the video's publishers to take down the clip, and they have complied.

IMDA said it assessed that the video is prohibited content under the Internet Code of Practice, and objectionable on grounds of public interest and national harmony.



The 2 min 50 sec video was taken down from Facebook and other social media platforms yesterday afternoon. Ms Nair, who is also known as Preetipls, and her brother could not be reached for comment.

The video was uploaded on Monday in response to a recent ad by e-payments website epaysg.com featuring Mediacorp actor and DJ Dennis Chew. Mr Chew portrayed characters such as a woman in a tudung and a man with visibly darker skin.

Broadcaster Mediacorp later apologised for the controversial ad and the epaysg.com website has also removed it.

Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam said it is "not a defence" to say that the rap video had been put up in response to the ad. "If (it was) something you didn't like, then you ask for an apology. If you think it is criminal, you make a police report. You don't cross the line yourself."



He said people may ask why the Government is taking this so seriously - that one video is not going to lead to violence, and people will laugh this off. This may be the case, but if this one rap video is allowed, then hundreds of others have to be allowed too, Mr Shanmugam said.

"What do you think will happen to our racial harmony? Social fabric? How will people look at each other?" he asked.

"And suppose you allow this video? Let's say a Chinese now does a video attacking Indians, Malays using four-letter words, vulgar gestures... And let's say there are hundreds or thousands of such videos. How do you think the Indians and Malays will feel?

"Would people feel safe? Will the minorities feel safe? There are good reasons why Singapore is different, why there is racial harmony here, why all races feel safe, why minorities feel safe. And we must maintain that," he added. Similarly, if vulgarities were used to describe another person's religion, this will also not be allowed, he said.

On the epaysg.com ad, the minister noted that 30 years ago, people would have said it was in "poor taste" and "passe". Today, it will be met with a lot of distaste, he said.



Other politicians also weighed in on the incident yesterday, criticising both the ad and the rap video, while stressing the importance of maintaining racial harmony.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Transport Janil Puthucheary said he found both the ad and video unacceptable, adding that "two wrongs don't make a right".

Mr Shanmugam also said he had asked lawyers to look into the epaysg.com ad, and their view was that it is not an offence.

Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Mathew Mathews said some people, including millennials and Ms Nair's fans, may be upset by the Government's tough approach towards the video.

Going by the comments on the video before it was taken down, people do not seem to be offended and are aware that it is targeted at those who are racist, he said.

"But for an audience which does not know all the context, may not be a fan, and doesn't understand all your good intentions, they could see it as being very insulting," Dr Mathews added.

The video also talks about the entire Chinese community, rather than just being a critical commentary of those responsible for the "brownface" ad, he said.

"The video is a racist way of addressing racism, which I think is done in very poor taste."





















Rapper Subhas Nair removed from CNA musical documentary over 'offensive' rap video
Channel NewsAsia, 31 Jul 2019

Rapper Subhas Nair has been removed from an upcoming musical documentary on CNA titled ROAR because of his involvement in an “offensive” rap video targeting Chinese Singaporeans, which is being investigated by Singapore police, the news organisation said on Wednesday (Jul 31).

The three-minute rap video, which was fronted by Subhas and his sister and YouTube performer Preeti Nair – known online as Preetipls – features the pair rapping a stream of four-letter words and using vulgar gestures targeted at Chinese Singaporeans. According to Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, the rap video was meant “to make minorities angry with Chinese Singaporeans”.

The video was posted on Facebook, uploaded on YouTube and a portion of it on Instagram. Singapore authorities on Tuesday asked the online platforms to take down the video.



Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr Shanmugam said: "When you use four-letter words, vulgar language, attack another race, put it out in public, we have to draw the line and say not acceptable.”

According to Section 298 of the Singapore Penal Code, it is an offence to “utter words with deliberate intent to wound the religious or racial feelings of any person”.

In a statement, CNA said that it “strongly objects to all such offensive content which threatens racial harmony and will not associate with individuals who intentionally create such content. As a result, CNA has removed Mr Nair from its upcoming musical documentary ROAR and taken down the articles related to his involvement in this programme".



The ROAR documentary was going to feature four Singapore musicians, including the 27-year-old Subhas, writing some new music for National Day. The documentary featuring the other three musicians – Benjamin Kheng, Aisyah Aziz and Wang Weiliang – will continue with its planned premiere on Aug 3 and 4.

The offensive rap video which Subhas fronted was a response to a controversial advertisement by NETS promoting E-Pay. The advertisement sparked a backlash online because Chinese actor Dennis Chew 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.









































**  Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) slams YouTuber Preetipls and brother behind rap video for ‘mock, insincere apology’
It is a spoof of earlier apology by ad producers and shows contempt for Singaporeans who expressed concern: MHA
By Rei Kurohi and Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2019

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has slammed the statement put out by YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother for their controversial rap video, saying it contained a "mock, insincere apology".

"It is a spoof of an earlier apology issued by Havas Worldwide for the e-pay advertisement," the ministry said yesterday evening.

"This spoofing is a pretence of an apology, and in fact shows contempt for the many Singaporeans who have expressed concern at their blatantly racist rap video," it added.



Yesterday afternoon, the siblings had issued a statement on social media ostensibly apologising "for any hurt that was unintentionally caused" by the online rap video they created which was alleged to contain offensive content.

It closely followed the wording of an apology statement issued at the weekend by creative agency Havas and Mediacorp's celebrity management arm, The Celebrity Agency, which were involved in producing an ad that featured a Chinese actor, Dennis Chew, in "brownface". They said the ad was to show that e-payment is for everyone. E-payment firm Nets, which was also involved in the campaign, has apologised as well.

To call out the racism, the Nair siblings made a rap video called K. Muthusamy - one of the characters Mr Chew portrayed in the ad, a man with visibly darker skin. Mr Chew also portrayed a woman in a tudung.

Both the ad and rap video have whipped up a furore over racial sensitivity in Singapore and were criticised by politicians as being offensive and unacceptable. Police reports have been made against both.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on Tuesday that the video "crosses the line", uses vulgarities and aims to make minorities angry with Chinese Singaporeans.



Yesterday afternoon, the Nair siblings made their first public statement since the controversy broke.

Responding to the siblings' "apology" last night, MHA said "this is not the first time Ms (Preeti Nair) and Mr (Subhas) 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," it said.

"Mr Nair wrote a song recently that says that Singapore condones systemic discrimination," it added.

The song was written for Mediacorp as part of this year's National Day celebrations and had the lyrics, "We live in a system that has normalised us... to walk oblivious to a brown man stopped and ID checked", the ministry said.

"This is blatantly false," it added.

MHA also said that it takes action whenever there are offensive statements which breach the law, regardless of the race of the offender.

It cited two instances.

Last year, an Indian woman was investigated by the police after she published comments that made racial insinuations.

Police investigated her, and she was given a stern warning.

In January, a Chinese man who scrawled racist messages about Malays on walls in void decks and sheltered walkways was charged with deliberate intent to wound the racial feelings of the Malay population.

MHA said the man's messages had been seen by far fewer people than the videos published by the Nair siblings. It added that police are continuing their investigations and taking advice from the Attorney-General's Chambers.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority said earlier this week that it issued a notice to the publishers to take down the video, and they complied.

The 2min 50sec video was posted on Facebook and YouTube on Monday, but was taken down from the social media platforms on Tuesday afternoon.

Ms Nair did not respond to a request for comment.









How the statements are similar
The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2019

The siblings said: "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 are sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused. Behind this music video is an initiative to provide greater consciousness to consumers, corporations and the many faces of Singapore."

The statement by Havas and The Celebrity Agency on Sunday had 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 are 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."











***  Rap siblings Preeti and Subhas Nair issue unconditional apology after MHA criticism
By Ng Huiwen, The Sunday Times, 4 Aug 2019

A day after they were criticised for a "mock, insincere apology", YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother Subhas offered a fresh "unconditional" apology for their controversial rap video.

In a lengthy statement on their social media accounts yesterday, the Nair siblings said: "We have apologised but we understand that more needs to be said and done."

They added: "We unconditionally apologise for the tone, aggression, vulgarities and gestures used in the K. Muthusamy music video."



The siblings were referring to the video they created last week in response to a "brownface" advertisement featuring Chinese actor Dennis Chew. They titled the rap K. Muthusamy - one of the characters Mr Chew portrayed in the ad, a man with visibly darker skin tone.

Both the ad and rap video stoked a controversy over racial sensitivity in Singapore with many people, including politicians, describing them as being offensive and unacceptable. Police reports have been made against both.

The earlier "apology" by the Nair siblings on Friday closely followed the wording of a statement issued by the creative agency and management company involved in producing the e-payment ad.

Shortly after it was posted online, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) slammed the statement by the brother-sister team, saying it contained a "mock, insincere apology".

"This spoofing is a pretence of an apology, and in fact shows contempt for the many Singaporeans who have expressed concern at their blatantly racist rap video," the ministry said.



Yesterday, the siblings acknowledged that people were offended and said they "sincerely" apologised for it. "If we could do it over again, we would change the manner in which we approached this issue, and would have worded our thoughts better," they said, claiming that they "only wanted to spark a conversation" on the portrayal of minority races in Singapore.

They said: "The KM video was born from a place where we felt there weren't enough safeguards for minorities in terms of how we are portrayed in the national media. It was born from a place of frustration and pain, and creating was part of our healing process."

Separately, in the statement, Ms Nair also addressed public discussions about past videos that she created, particularly a Chinese New Year video in 2018.

MHA had cited the video to show that it was not the first time the siblings expressed racist sentiments.

The ministry's statement said: "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."

Ms Nair insisted yesterday that her videos were always parodies, satire and discussions on social causes in unconventional ways.

She said: "If you watch the video in its entirety, you would understand the jokes made and the self-deprecating, ridiculousness that is Preetipls."

Mr Nair also sought to defend his song Utopia, which was called out by MHA for saying that Singapore condones systemic discrimination.

He said his song was about justice in Singapore for migrant workers and that he unequivocally stood behind it. "My only wish is to bring to light the stories on the sidelines and that are invisible in the Singapore narrative," Mr Nair said.

The siblings concluded their statement by apologising yet again for the hurt they caused, and Ms Nair urged members of the public to refrain from circulating the video as requested by the police.











Preetipls video incident: Racism exists in Singapore, but situation has improved over the years, says Shanmugam
Discuss race issues openly, work to make things better; Law Minister agrees racism should be discussed, but rap duo did it in wrong way
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 5 Aug 2019

There is racism in all societies, including Singapore, but the situation here has improved over the years and is much better now than before, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

The issue is discussed openly here and studied by academics, he noted, pointing to a study released last week by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and racial harmony group OnePeople.sg on racial and religious harmony.

YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother Subhas, like everyone else, had every right to discuss racism, he said, but the manner in which they did so was wrong.

Mr Shanmugam spoke to reporters at an event at Sri Siva Krishna Temple in Marsiling yesterday, a day after the siblings issued a second apology over a controversial rap video made in response to a "brownface" advertisement featuring Chinese actor Dennis Chew.

"There is racism in every multiracial society that we know of. And there is, in Singapore," Mr Shanmugam said, adding that the issue is a key concern for the Government.

"We want to build a cohesive society, but racism corrodes and deepens the fault lines in society. We do a lot to counter it, and we have set out what we do," he added.



While Mr Shanmugam agreed that Ms Nair - who is also known as Preetipls - and her brother had the right to raise the issue of racism, he questioned the way it was done.

"If everyone starts discussing race and religion in the way they did, then you will in fact get more racism, not less.

"That is our key concern. They have used the language of resistance in America, but we thankfully are in a very different situation."

The Nair siblings had made a rap video called K. Muthusamy, who is one of the characters Mr Chew portrayed in the ad, a man with visibly darker skin. Mr Chew had also portrayed a woman wearing a tudung.

Both the ad and rap video raised concerns about racial sensitivity in Singapore and were criticised by politicians as being offensive and unacceptable. Police reports have been made against both.



In their second apology on Saturday, the Nairs said they "unconditionally apologise for the tone, aggression, vulgarities and gestures used" in their video.

They had first issued an apology last Friday "for any hurt that was unintentionally caused" by the video.

That initial apology was criticised by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which said it was a "mock, insincere" apology and that it closely followed the wording of a statement issued by the creative agency and management company involved in producing the "brownface" ad for e-payments website epaysg.com.



Mr Shanmugam went on to add that in any multiracial society, there is always a need to frankly discuss issues like how to deal with casual racism.

There are regular conferences, symposiums and dialogues held by government agencies, non-governmental organisations and other groups on such matters, he added.

Singapore, he said, has made progress from when it gained independence on Aug 9, 1965, when founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew said: "We are not a Malay nation, we are not a Chinese nation, we are not an Indian nation. This is a country for all Singaporeans."

The country has progressed by having clear government policies, and with Singaporeans generally accepting multiracial values, Mr Shanmugam said.

"We are not in the American situation. And we must see how we can progress further, because as many of us recognise, there continue to be racial fault lines and religious fault lines. It is always a work in progress," he added.

Turning to the ad, he said it was in poor taste. "Many disapprove of it, and the people behind the ad and others need to learn from that - be much more sensitive," he added.

As the country approaches its 54th birthday, he said there is much that Singaporeans can be positive about.

Pointing to headlines that made the news from around the world, he cited the ongoing clashes between police and protesters in Hong Kong, the mass shooting in Texas and militant attacks in Kashmir.

"I am not saying the governments were right or wrong in those countries. They face different issues. But we in Singapore can be thankful that we have avoided headlines like these. And we must focus on getting things better, discuss issues openly and work on them."



Commentators contacted by The Straits Times said the recent episode, and the controversy it sparked, had helped by raising a "sensitive issue" for discussion.

Senior lecturer Nazry Bahrawi from the Singapore University of Technology and Design said that race relations have developed differently in Singapore and in the US, and that Singaporeans will need to "develop their own vocabulary to outline our experiences of race relations here".

Said IPS senior research fellow Mathew Mathews: "Sizeable portions of the public prefer that such concerns be discussed behind closed doors and not brought out to the public.

"Because we don't talk about race much, many people don't have the vocabulary or the sensitivity to deal with these issues."

But he added that Singapore does not have a history of severe oppression or ongoing discrimination like police brutality similar to the US, to warrant the "in your face", confrontational methods used in some societies like America.

Such methods might be acceptable in those contexts, but often are seen even there as a last resort.

"Race and religious relations in Singapore won't do well with such antagonistic approaches," he said.





















I feel terrible: Actor Dennis Chew apologises for e-pay 'brownface' advertisement
By Malavika Menon, The Straits Times, 8 Aug 2019

Actor and DJ Dennis Chew has apologised for his role in the e-pay "brownface" advertisement, which was described as racially insensitive.

The ad featured the ethnic Chinese actor as four characters, including a Malay woman in a tudung and an Indian man with visibly darkened skin.

In an Instagram post yesterday, Mr Chew said: "My role in a recent ad has caused much disappointment. For many days I held back what I have to say, afraid of making things worse. I feel terrible about how things turned out."

Mr Chew, adding that he "could not undo things", and went on to say: "We live in a harmonious multiracial society and we must never take it for granted. I will set higher expectations of myself. I will do better by my family, friends, colleagues and most importantly, all of you."



The ad polarised opinions for its representation of racial minorities in Singapore.

A rap video, by local YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother, rapper Subhas Nair, posted on Facebook and YouTube on July 29 in response to the ad, contained offensive language. The clip was taken down from Facebook and other social media channels, and a police report was made against it.

Mr Chew's post is the latest in a string of apologies after the two incidents, including those by e-payment firm Nets and creative agency Havas Worldwide Singapore.

The Nair siblings also apologised for their video.



Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the video crossed the line and was unacceptable. "When you use four-letter words, vulgar language, attack another race, put it out in public, we have to draw the line and say 'not acceptable'," he said.

He also said the siblings had every right to discuss racism, but the manner in which they did so was wrong.

"We want to build a cohesive society, but racism corrodes and deepens the fault lines in society. We do a lot to counter it, and we have set out what we do," he added.











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