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Nair siblings ‘had every right to raise issue of racism’, but did it the wrong way: Shanmugam

SINGAPORE — As with every multiracial society around the world, there is racism in Singapore, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Sunday (Aug 4), as he pointed out that there are public discussions on the matter with the Government doing “a lot” to counter it.

While siblings Preeti and Subash Nair had every right to raise the issue of racism here in Singapore, the way they did it was not right, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

While siblings Preeti and Subash Nair had every right to raise the issue of racism here in Singapore, the way they did it was not right, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

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SINGAPORE — As with every multiracial society around the world, there is racism in Singapore, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Sunday (Aug 4), as he pointed out that there are public discussions on the matter with the Government doing “a lot” to counter it.

But while siblings Preeti and Subash Nair had every right to raise the issue, the way they did it was not right, he said.

“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,” Mr Shanmugam said to the media on the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony of the Sri Siva Krishna Temple.

“They have used the language of resistance in America, but we thankfully are in a very different situation."

Mr Shanmugam’s comments came a day after Ms Nair, a YouTuber better known by her moniker Preetipls, and Mr Nair, a rapper, posted an “unconditional” apology for their controversial rap video.

In a statement posted on social-networking sites Facebook and Instagram on Saturday, the siblings wrote: “We unconditionally apologise for the tone, aggression, vulgarities and gestures used in the K Muthusamy music video.”

Their rap video was a response to a Nets advertisement featuring Mr Dennis Chew, a Chinese Mediacorp actor decked out as four characters, including an Indian man with a brown face and a Malay woman wearing a religious headdress.

The video, featuring the character of K Muthusamy — the name given to the Indian character in the Nets advert — contained expletives and takes on the subject of race in Singapore.

Mr Shanmugam said that while racism exists in Singapore, the situation has improved over the years.

“We discuss (racism in Singapore) openly. We study it, for example (through) the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) surveys,” he said.

These surveys are done once every two years, and Mr Shanmugam cited how the latest results published a week ago showed a slight increase in the perception of racial discrimination in the workplace.

He said that racism is a “key concern” for his ministry, and others as well.

“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 said.

He said that it is important to deal with and increase awareness about “casual racism”.

“We have regular conferences, symposiums, dialogues on these issues. Some by government agencies, some by non-governmental organisations, some by others. There are areas where the Government can do things, there are aspects where people have to become more aware, and more sensitive.”

Mr Shanmugam said that Singapore has “made much progress” since independence, “when Mr Lee Kuan Yew very powerfully said, we are not a Chinese nation, we are not a Malay nation. We are not an Indian nation. This is a country for all Singaporeans”.

“So as I said, we are not in the American situation. And we must see how we can progress further, because as many of us recognise, there continues to be racial fault lines and religious fault lines. It is always (a) work in progress.”

He reiterated that the Nets advertisement was also “in poor taste”.

“Many disapprove of it and the people behind the ad and others need to learn from that, be much more sensitive.”

Referring to the latest news headlines around the world, such as Sunday’s shooting in Texas which killed 20 people and the protests in Hong Kong and Russia, Mr Shanmugam said that people in Singapore “can be thankful that we have avoided headlines like these”.

“We must continue to focus on getting things better, discuss issues openly and work on them,” he said.

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