Musician Subhas Nair denies trying to create ill will between races and religious groups in S'pore

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The Straits Times
March 21, 2023

Local musician Subhas Nair admitted in court on Tuesday he had posted messages which the prosecution described as inflammatory comments on race and religion.

But he denied he had done so in an attempt to promote ill will between different racial and religious groups in Singapore.

Among other things, a rap video featuring Nair was posted on YouTube on July 29, 2019, containing lyrics that allegedly attacked Chinese people in general.

On the first day of his trial on Tuesday, Nair testified that the video was done in response to an advertisement which featured actor Dennis Chew playing multiple roles, including that of an Indian man and a Malay woman.

The 31-year-old told District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan he wanted his rap video to convey the message that the advertisement was blatantly racist.

He added that the rap video was directed towards some Chinese people, who he said are racist.

Stressing that not all Chinese are racist, Nair said he wanted to end instances of “brownface” in Singapore.

Brownface is a social phenomenon, usually involving a light-skinned person pretending to be somebody of a different ethnicity who has a darker complexion.

On Tuesday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Suhas Malhotra said in his opening statement: “Had the accused displayed his offence to the advertisement in a temperate and dignified manner, no criminal offence would have been committed. Instead, the accused resorted to insulting and ridiculing Chinese people in general.”

Nair is claiming trial to four counts of attempting to promote feelings of ill will between different racial and religious groups in Singapore.

On July 25, 2020, he posted a message on Instagram alleging that Malay Muslims who made hateful comments will be treated differently by the authorities compared with Chinese Christians.

Nair testified in court he did this in response to a video involving the founder of a church and a social media influencer, who had linked the gay pride movement to Satan.

DPP Malhotra said: “(Nair’s) post creates feelings of ill will between Chinese Christians and Malay Muslims in Singapore.”

On Tuesday, Nair told the court the video by the church founder and the influencer contained hate speech, adding: “We need to admonish statements like these.”

He also said his Instagram post did not intend to convey the message that the authorities were biased and preferential.

On or around Oct 15, 2020, Nair posted another message on Instagram, this time following a court case involving Mr Chan Jia Xing, then 27.

Mr Chan was initially accused of murdering Mr Satheesh Noel Gobidass, 31, at Orchard Towers in July 2019.

Mr Chan’s murder charge was later reduced to that of consorting with a person carrying an offensive weapon in a public place, and he was given a conditional warning in October 2020.

Nair had stated in his Instagram post: “Calling out racism and Chinese privilege, two-year conditional warning and smear campaign in the media.”

On Tuesday, DPP Malhotra said: “This post creates feelings of ill will between Chinese and Indians in Singapore... the accused’s post implied that the law enforcement authorities treat Indians far more severely than Chinese.”

But Nair testified he did not intend to create enmity among the different races.

He told the court he was instead commenting on the state of journalism here after an unnamed news platform asked Mr Chan questions about his baby following his conditional warning.

Nair had stated on his Instagram post: “Do you actually think a brown person would get asked these type of questions?”

Nair is represented by lawyer Suang Wijaya. The trial resumes on Wednesday and Nair will be cross-examined by the prosecution.

The Straits Times

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