Malaysia and Singapore have reacted strongly to a New York comedian’s joke about the safety of Malaysian planes in apparent reference to flight MH370’s disappearance.
After a brief clip of Jocelyn Chia’s stand-up performance at Manhattan’s Comedy Cellar was posted online earlier this week, controversy erupted over the joke.
Chia’s segment had focused on the contentious past between Malaysia and Singapore, which were once part of the same nation. She began by suggesting that Singapore had become a first-world nation since the two countries split up in 1965, whereas Malaysia had allegedly remained a “developing” nation.
She then said that Malaysian planes “can’t fly” and took aim at them before referring to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the Beijing-bound flight that went missing with 239 passengers and crew on March 8, 2014, after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.
Although pieces of debris that have been hypothesized to belong to the flight have occasionally been discovered, no definitive answers have been provided regarding the flight’s fate.
“What? Malaysia Aircrafts disappearing not amusing, huh?” Before delivering her punchline, she made a joke that made everyone laugh: Some jokes fail to resonate.
The joke has caused a rush of contention in both Malaysia and Singapore. On Friday, the youth wing of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), one of the largest political parties in Malaysia, marched to the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur to express their displeasure with what they perceive as an insult.
According to Dr. Muhamad Akmal Saleh, the head of the youth group, a memorandum was presented to the US diplomatic outpost by about 100 protesters and representatives.
“This is the kind of thing that is unsuitable for the entire country and we are here,” he said, adding, “the right to speak freely of discourse should accompany awareness.”
In the meantime, Singapore has distanced itself from Chia and apologized to Malaysia. According to her website, Chia is originally from the Asian city state.
In an online statement, Vanu Gopala Menon, Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, stated, “The Singapore government does not condone words or actions that cause harm or hurt to others and Chia.” He continued, “(Chia) in no way reflects our views.”
Menon added, “I sincerely apologize to all Malaysians for her hurtful remarks,” stating that Chia’s joke contained “gratuitously offensive comments.”
In a tweet, Singapore’s Unfamiliar Priest Vivian Balakrishnan said Chia “unquestionably doesn’t represent Singaporeans” and he was “shocked by her unpleasant explanations.”
“We treasure our binds with loved ones in Malaysia, and are upset for the offense and hurt caused to all Malaysians,” he added.
His Malaysian partner, Dr Zambry Abd Kadir, blamed the comic for lacking awareness and sympathy toward Malaysians and the groups of the people in question.
According to the state-run news agency Bernama, he stated, “This video also clearly depicts behavior that is contrary to the values of an Asian country that is known for its manners and morals.”
For comment, CNN has contacted Jocelyn Chia, her agent, and the Comedy Cellar.
As of Sunday, Chia’s Facebook and Instagram accounts were presently not accessible to see.