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Liddat also kena accused of foreign interference ah

This week: Subhas Nair is sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment and MCI gets shitty about what they claim is foreign interference.

I didn’t add this in last week’s newsletter, but I was on the Asian Centuries podcast talking about the death penalty in Singapore. Admittedly I haven’t listened to this episode myself—I usually don’t like to watch or listen to myself in videos or podcasts—but check it out!

Subhas gets six weeks in prison

In an unsurprising but outrageous development, the rapper Subhas Nair has been sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment for attempting to “promote ill will” between different racial groups in Singapore. He intends to appeal both conviction and sentence.

Subhas got in trouble first over a parody rap video that he’d made with his sister Preetipls, in which they called out a brownface ad and pointed out that racist Chinese Singaporeans are always “fucking it up”. He received a conditional warning for it, but landed in hot water again after the authorities took issue with subsequent social media posts that pointed to differences in responses when wrongdoing occurs, depending on the race of the perpetrator. They charged him with four counts of attempting to promote ill will between different races. He was found guilty in July.

You should read this TIME piece in its entirety, but I want to highlight this quote from linguistics researcher Vincent Pak:

“Powerful institutions are able to impose certain meanings on what citizens say. And of course, those serve particular interests, such as maintaining the racial order in Singapore,” Pak adds. “What Subhas and Preeti intended back then was a form of anti-racism … but it's been interpreted as racism itself because it upsets a certain racial order or upsets certain communities.”

Apart from six weeks’ imprisonment being absolute overkill—Subhas shouldn’t have been investigated or charged in the first place—the ludicrous thing about this whole prosecution, conviction and sentence is that it’s not going to do a single thing to improve or bolster public confidence in law enforcement. People who are already upset about systemic racism and discrimination within the Singapore system, whether in law enforcement or elsewhere, will not be reassured with such an outcome. If anything, it will further reinforce the notion that the law is being used to quash dissent and minority efforts to talk about double standards and structural racism in Singapore. Sending Subhas to prison will do nothing to address valid criticism of racism and prejudice in our country, nor will it convince or persuade anyone who is unhappy with the status quo. All it might achieve is scare people into silence, where the frustration and disillusionment will continue to build. How is that good for Singapore?

This also call foreign interference

While many of us are all stiff and achy, the Ministry of Communications and Information is demonstrating that it’s top-notch when it comes to stretching exercises. This week they’ve stretched the notion of foreign interference so far I’m surprised they haven’t pulled a muscle.

They’ve issued a warning—what sort of warning? What legality or impact does this warning have?—to Dominic Ziegler, the Singapore bureau chief of The Economist, accusing him of trying to interfere in Singapore’s domestic politics. “Ziegler’s action clearly crossed the line from reporting on Singapore to participating in Singapore’s domestic affairs,” MCI’s statement read in huffy Singaporean bureaucrat English. “Ziegler has exploited his status in Singapore as a journalist in a prestigious international publication to advocate to Singaporeans for his viewpoint on domestic politics in Singapore, a country which he is not a citizen of.”

Read the full MCI statement in the tweet below:

What did he do that was so naughty? He publicly endorsed Jom, praising it for publishing "deeper truths about the way Singapore is run and about the culture that runs through all Singaporeans than you will ever find in the state-supported press." He also noted that "in illiberal states around the world independent media need supporters." (You can read the full endorsement, which I received in the Jom newsletter some time back, below.)

This is clearly Ziegler’s opinion, and praise that he’s doling out as a reader to a publication that he enjoys. But to MCI, it’s foreign interference. Bizarre, because the Singapore government didn’t seem to think that Chinese Communist Party officials publishing commentaries in Lianhe Zaobao without declaring their CCP affiliations was as much of a problem… 🤔🤨🧐

The MCI statement also insisted on the narrative that Singapore is an open place for journalism and the media, and that the government “does not prevent foreign correspondents from engaging anyone they wish here and reporting on Singapore in any way they think fit.” Ok bro, I’m sure this press statement really showed us all.

Got some more…

🧑🏻‍⚖️ K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan want to sue Lee Hsien Yang for defamation. But Lee isn’t in Singapore at the moment, so how should they serve the papers on him? They’ve got permission from the courts to serve the papers out of jurisdiction to Lee, but they are now applying to serve the papers on him via *checks notes* Facebook Messenger. FACEBOOK. MESSENGER.

💵 Hazel Poa of the Progress Singapore Party has filed a motion calling for Minister for Transport S Iswaran to be suspended as an MP, so that he won’t be able to claim his generous MP allowance while being investigated in a corruption probe. The guy’s not doing MP work right now, anyway.

After far too long, I’ll finally be running a democracy classroom again, part of a series of events related to my book. We’ll be discussing Singapore and history at Book Bar on 30 September from 7pm–9pm. You heard it here first! I’m sharing the registration link with subscribers of this newsletter before it’s open to the public. Click here to register!

On the radar

I’m super solid at procrastinating. So are my friends. The three of us got together and launched a newsletter specifically to be a container for our procrastination. The newsletter is called Passion Procrastination and we’ll be writing about things that we like, as and when inspiration strikes us. If you like things like k drama and c drama, Bollywood and K-pop, you might like this.

As of 4 September 2023, my book is on Kinokuniya's weekly best seller list! YAY! YAY! YAY! You can get the book at Kinokuniya, directly from Ethos Books, or from Book Bar, City Book Room, Grassroots Bookroom, Epigram Bookshop or Wormhole.

Thank you for reading! As always, feel free to forward this weekly wrap to anyone you like, and spread the word about this newsletter!