The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has slammed the statement put out by YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother for their controversial rap video, saying it contained a "mock, insincere apology".
"It is a spoof of an earlier apology issued by Havas Worldwide for the e-pay advertisement," the ministry said yesterday evening.
"This spoofing is a pretence of an apology, and in fact shows contempt for the many Singaporeans who have expressed concern at their blatantly racist rap video," it added.
Yesterday afternoon, the siblings had issued a statement on social media ostensibly apologising "for any hurt that was unintentionally caused" by the online rap video they created which was alleged to contain offensive content.
It closely followed the wording of an apology statement issued at the weekend by creative agency Havas and Mediacorp's celebrity management arm, The Celebrity Agency, which were involved in producing an ad that featured a Chinese actor, Dennis Chew, in "brownface". They said the ad was to show that e-payment is for everyone. E-payment firm Nets, which was also involved in the campaign, has apologised as well.
To call out the racism, the Nair siblings made a rap video called K. Muthusamy - one of the characters Mr Chew portrayed in the ad, a man with visibly darker skin. Mr Chew also portrayed a woman in a tudung.
Both the ad and rap video have whipped up a furore over racial sensitivity in Singapore and were criticised by politicians as being offensive and unacceptable. Police reports have been made against both.
How the statements are similar
The siblings said: "The message behind this music video is that opportunities must be for everyone.
"For that reason, K. Muthusamy, well-known for his ability to address privilege, power and censorship in a single production in a light-hearted way, was selected as the face of this music video.
"He speaks to characters from all walks of life in Singapore, bringing home the point that only some people truly pay.
"We are sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused. Behind this music video is an initiative to provide greater consciousness to consumers, corporations and the many faces of Singapore."
The statement by Havas and The Celebrity Agency on Sunday had said: "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.
"We are 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."
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on Tuesday that the video "crosses the line", uses vulgarities and aims to make minorities angry with Chinese Singaporeans.
Yesterday afternoon, the Nair siblings made their first public statement since the controversy broke.
Responding to the siblings' "apology" last night, MHA said "this is not the first time Ms (Preeti Nair) and Mr (Subhas) Nair have expressed racist sentiments".
"About a year ago, Ms Nair published a video where she acted as a Chinese and mocked the Chinese community's practices, culture and traditions. She portrayed Chinese as money-minded gamblers," it said.
"Mr Nair wrote a song recently that says that Singapore condones systemic discrimination," it added.
The song was written for Mediacorp as part of this year's National Day celebrations and had the lyrics, "We live in a system that has normalised us... to walk oblivious to a brown man stopped and ID checked", the ministry said.
"This is blatantly false," it added.
MHA also said that it takes action whenever there are offensive statements which breach the law, regardless of the race of the offender.
It cited two instances.
Last year, an Indian woman was investigated by the police after she published comments that made racial insinuations.
Police investigated her, and she was given a stern warning.
In January, a Chinese man who scrawled racist messages about Malays on walls in void decks and sheltered walkways was charged with deliberate intent to wound the racial feelings of the Malay population.
MHA said the man's messages had been seen by far fewer people than the videos published by the Nair siblings. It added that police are continuing their investigations and taking advice from the Attorney-General's Chambers.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority said earlier this week that it issued a notice to the publishers to take down the video, and they complied.
The 2min 50sec video was posted on Facebook and YouTube on Monday, but was taken down from the social media platforms on Tuesday afternoon.
Ms Nair did not respond to a request for comment.