KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan took to Twitter early this morning condemning Singapore-born stand-up performer Jocelyn Chia over her insensitive and expletive-laden remarks about Malaysia.
“I am appalled by her horrendous statements. She certainly does not speak for Singaporeans.
“We treasure our ties with family and friends in Malaysia, and are sorry for the offence and hurt caused to all Malaysians,” he tweeted in reply to an earlier post from Muar MP Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman.
Chia has become an overnight sensation on social media for her disparaging cracks against Malaysia in a stand-up comedy skit on the Comedy Cellar, a US-based show that was aired on the internet.
In particular, her remarks about the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with all 239 people on board presumed dead sparked a nationwide backlash here.
Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia Vanu Gopala Menon also denounced Chia and apologised to all Malaysians in a separate statement, adding that the New York-based performer is no longer a Singaporean.
“I am appalled by the gratuitously offensive comments made by stand-up performer Jocelyn Chia.
“The Singapore Government does not condone words or actions that cause harm or hurt to others and Chia, who is no longer Singaporean, does not in any way reflect our views. I sincerely apologise to all Malaysians for her hurtful remarks,” he said in a statement on the Singapore High Commission’s Facebook page.
Vanu asserted that Singapore is Malaysia’s closest neighbour with deep ties that cross all borders.
“Comments such as those made by Chia are unhelpful and undermine the close trust and friendship that both our countries and peoples enjoy,” he said.
Chia, now a naturalised US citizen according to Singapore daily The Straits Times, had posted an 89-second video clip posted on her Instagram of an act where she joked that Malaysia is “still a developing country” far behind Singapore 40 years after being “dumped” in 1965.
She then made a crack about Malaysia not visiting Singapore because its airplanes “cannot fly”, which drew audible gasps from the live audience – which appeared to include some Malaysians based on the interaction during the show.
To that, Chia said: “Why? Malaysian Airlines going missing not funny huh? Some jokes don’t land”.
She later told the audience that she would be getting a bad score on Yelp, an online review site, for her remarks, but shook it off saying Malaysians have no internet, which was met with laughter.
Many Malaysians, including high-profile individuals like popular comedian Harith Iskandar and radio personality Kudsia Kahar, have taken to social media to denounce Chia’s act.
“I respect the freedom of expression that we comedians require to do our job. But it is equally important to exercise some level of sensitivity and empathy when doing certain material, especially topics that are deeply personal or tragic.
“Comedy can be a powerful tool for social commentary but it has to be used responsibly. Comedians should strive to create a positive and inclusive comedic environment. I make fun of Singapore all the time, it's part of the friendly banter that allows us to coexist.
"While we may still be a developing nation, when it comes to kindness and thoughtfulness, we are definitely first world,” Harith said in a video response posted on Twitter.
Kudsia said even jokes have a limit and performers should be sensitive to lines that should not be crossed.
“Not acceptable. A good standup never turns tragedy and deaths into a joke,” she tweeted. Twitter.
Syed Saddiq who is also president of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance said that using tragic events into entertainment material is in bad taste, but called on Malaysians to not let one performer poison their views of Singapore.
“I have good faith in my fellow Singaporean friends, and I'm sure all of us deeply cherish our close relations as countries.
“Whatever it is, let's not allow one bad seed to tarnish our whole outlook to our neighbour. Take it as a lesson to never take lightly of other people's misfortunes,” he tweeted.
A Twitter user under the moniker BenTenz accused Chia of instigating a cross-border “war” between Malaysia and Singapore now that she is no longer Singaporean.
“Sudden turn of events. Turned out Jocelyn Chia is no longer Singaporean and is presumed to be American.
“But she didn't forget to stir a racial~ nationality [sic] war between netizens from Singapore and Malaysia,” he posted.
Another Twitter user, Michael Kong Feng Nian claimed that Chia’s facial expressions showed that she was not joking on stage, but venting her anger against Malaysia in the stand-up act.
“And from her body language and facial expression, it did not seem like a person joking at all.
“Instead, it felt like Jocelyn Chia was on stage taking the opportunity to vent her anger on Malaysia (and Malaysians) under the guise of comedy,” he said.
Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir has expressed regret and condemned the actions of Chia for disparaging Malaysia and making fun of the MH370 tragedy.
Zambry in a statement last night said the act by the woman showed a total lack of sensitivity and empathy towards Malaysians and the victims' families.
Chia’s social media accounts, including those on Instagram, no longer appear to have been removed or are no longer accessible.