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Police investigating 'offensive' rap video directed at e-payment ad

SINGAPORE — A police report has been lodged against a rap video for its “offensive content” directed at an e-payment advertisement, the Singapore Police Force on Tuesday (July 30).

Police investigating 'offensive' rap video directed at e-payment ad

A rap video posted on Facebook by Preeti Nair (left) featuring rapper Subhas Nair (right) was directed against an e-payment advertisement (in the background).

SINGAPORE — A police report has been lodged against a rap video for its “offensive content” directed at an e-payment advertisement, said the Singapore Police Force on Tuesday (July 30).

In the three-minute video, Singapore rapper Subhas Nair and YouTuber Preeti Nair — who goes by the username Preetipls — criticise an advertisement for the government e-payment initiative, E-Pay, which featured Mediacorp actor Dennis Chew dressed up as four characters, including a Malay woman wearing a traditional headdress and an Indian man with “browned” skin. 

The video, which was posted on Monday morning on Facebook, shows Mr Subhas and Ms Preeti taking turns to criticise the ad for its alleged racial stereotypes and the use of "brownface". They also raise issues of racial discrimination and lack of minority representation. 

The vulgarities-laced video has garnered 1,100 likes and 640 shares on Facebook as of Tuesday afternoon.

In its statement, the police said that they are “aware of an online video that is directed against the E-Pay advertisement".

“A police report has been lodged against the online video for its offensive content and police investigations are ongoing,” they added. “The police will not tolerate any offensive content that causes ill will between races.”  

TODAY understands that the police is investigating the case under Section 298 of the Penal Code, which covers uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious or racial feelings of any individual. It carries a punishment of up to three years in prison, or a fine, or both.

The controversy was sparked by an advertisement for Singapore electronic payments provider Nets, which had engaged Havas Worldwide as its creative agency for a publicity campaign for E-Pay. Havas, in turn, engaged Mediacorp’s celebrity management arm The Celebrity Agency artiste Dennis Chew as the face of the campaign. In the campaign, Mr Chew is dressed up as four characters, including a Malay woman wearing a traditional headdress and an Indian man. To portray these characters, Mr Chew’s skin was made up to look darker.  

The backlash over the advertisement prompted Havas and The Celebrity Agency to issue a joint statement on Sunday explaining why Chew had been picked for the job. 

"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,” the statement said. 

“We’re 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.”

Mediacorp said in a statement on Tuesday that “the portrayal of some races in the advertisement was done in an insensitive fashion".

It said: "We take full responsibility and apologise unreservedly. We will have more stringent safeguards in place to prevent a repeat of such a mistake." 

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