Singaporean rapper Subhas Nair on trial for allegedly attempting to promote ill will among racial and religious groups

Singaporean rapper Subhas Nair on trial for allegedly attempting to promote ill will among racial and religious groups

Singaporean rapper Subhas Nair, 31, went on trial on Tuesday (21 Mar) over allegations of attempting to promote ill will among racial and religious groups through a video and comments on social media.

Nair, whose full name is Subhas Govin Prabhakar Nair, is contesting four charges arising from incidents between July 2019 and March 2021. He is represented by lawyer Suang Wijaya from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP.

The first incident took place in 2019 when Nair posted a YouTube video with his sister Preeti Nair, performing a remixed song containing the lyrics, “Chinese people always out here f***ing it up.” For this, Nair was given a two-year conditional warning by the police. The warning indicated that if he reoffended, he could be prosecuted for this incident on top of any fresh offences.

The second incident involved an Instagram post where Nair commented, “If two Malay Muslims made a video promoting Islam and saying the kinds of hateful things these Chinese Christians said, ISD would have been at the door before they even hit ‘upload’.” He was referring to a viral video by two Christians who linked the gay pride movement to Satan.

The third incident involved Nair’s Instagram post where he claimed that “calling out racism and Chinese privilege” would lead to a two-year conditional warning and “smear campaign in the media,” while “actually conspiring to murder an Indian man” would result in half the sentence and the question “you’re having a baby soon right? Boy or girl” from the media.

Nair made this post in response to the case of Chan Jia Xing, who was given a conditional warning for a reduced charge of consorting with a person who had a weapon. He was one of the seven originally charged with murdering a man at Orchard Towers.

The fourth incident took place during a stage play at The Substation, where Nair displayed a cartoon repeating the same words pertaining to Chan Jia Xing.

The prosecution argued that Nair’s comments and posts attempted to promote feelings of ill will between racial or religious groups, and that he knew his words would have this effect.

The prosecution called two investigation officers to the stand, who testified about the statements they had taken from Nair.

During the trial, the prosecution emphasized that while ordinary citizens have the right to comment and criticize racist behavior, it is crucial that such matters are dealt with maturely and sensitively, especially on social media, where a single post can be disseminated to thousands of people in an instant.

They further argued that there is “nothing wrong” with calling out racism as long as the criticism is “temperate and dignified.”

In his defence, Nair took the stand and explained his intentions behind each post.

He said it was not his intention to promote ill will between racial or religious groups. He claimed that the aim of the video was to end “brownface” in Singapore, referring to the practice of a lighter-skinned person applying make-up to imitate the appearance of a person from an ethnicity with darker skin.

He argued that the term “fxxxing it up” in the context of the sentence does not mean that Chinese people are “fxxxed up,” but rather, it refers to a mistake, something that was done that was wrong, and brownface in his opinion is categorically wrong and racist.

Nair said that he specifically referred to Chinese people because he wanted to be specific about the kind of racism he was seeing. He intended to “call out the racist Chinese folks who think that this is OK,” but at the same time “call in Chinese allies” so that the Chinese community would call such racist behavior to account.

Regarding his comments on the Orchard Towers case, Nair explained that he was not trying to create enmity between groups. Instead, he was trying to convey a message about the state of journalism in Singapore, specifically, media bias and how certain people and cases were reported.

He said he felt personally vilified in the media. At the same time, Chan Jia Xing was asked questions that highlighted his humanity and were positive and favourable— a treatment not accorded to him and his sister.

Nair said that the biased treatment of his case was why he made the statement about the media’s bias in reporting these cases.

On the comments he made in response to the Christian video about gay pride, Nair said that he felt their comments linking the community to Satan were in the category of hate speech and caused enmity.

He argued that at the time of his posts, there was no action taken against the people who made the video or those behind the brownface advertisement.

The trial will resume on Wednesday morning, with the prosecution cross-examining Nair on the stand.

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.


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