Singapore officials apologise for comedian’s MH370 joke in New York

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and High Commissioner to Malaysia Vanu Gopala Menon have issued apologies following a controversial joke made by Singapore-born comedian Jocelyn Chia about the disappearance of MH370. The incident occurred during Chia’s performance at the Comedy Cellar in New York, where she joked about the rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia, using the tragedy of MH370 as a punchline.

Balakrishnan expressed his disapproval on Twitter, stating that he was “appalled” by Chia’s “horrendous statements” and extending his apologies to Malaysians for the offence caused. Similarly, High Commissioner Menon denounced Chia’s “gratuitously offensive comments” and clarified that the Singapore government does not condone such actions. He also emphasised that Chia, who is no longer a Singaporean citizen, does not represent the views of the nation.

The joke sparked outrage among Malaysians, particularly those who had lost family members on the ill-fated flight. MH370 disappeared in 2014 en route to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board. Despite extensive search efforts, the plane’s wreckage has never been found, with only a few pieces of debris discovered on Indian Ocean islands and eastern African beaches.

Intan Maizura Othaman, the wife of a crew member who was on MH370, accused Chia of making a “distasteful cheap shot” for the sake of gaining popularity. Malaysian Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir also condemned the comedian’s lack of sensitivity and empathy towards the victims’ families.

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Fellow Malaysian comedian Harith Iskander weighed in on the issue, acknowledging the importance of freedom of expression in comedy but emphasising the need for sensitivity and empathy when dealing with personal or tragic topics. He said that Chia’s joke had crossed the line and caused unnecessary distress to those affected by the MH370 tragedy.

The incident has highlighted the importance of considering cultural differences and sensitivities in comedy, as well as the potential impact on those who have experienced personal loss or trauma.

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Lee Shuyi

Lee is an expat writer living in Thailand. She specialises in Southeast Asian news for the Thaiger. When she's not writing, Lee enjoys immersing herself in Thai culture and learning Thai.

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