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  • Writer's pictureMa Wugang

Your Offensive Jokes May not be Funny to Malaysia

Writer: Ma Wugang

Editor: Wang Runzhi

Stand-up comedy is known for its ability to entertain and stimulate ideas but occasionally gets muddy waters when it comes to cultural sensitivities. In a globalized world, it is vital to understand and respect multiculturalism. However, a Singapore-born comedian recently sparked a buzz when she blatantly mocked Malaysia in a stand-up comedy and made fun of the topic of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in 2014. The incident sparked a heated debate about the boundaries of comedy and the sensitivities surrounding tragic events.

(Chia is asking the audience from Malaysia or Singapore. Photo Source: New Straits Times)

The incident started on 6 June when a Singapore-born stand-up comedian, Jocelyn Chia posted an 89-second video clip of her stand-up comedy on one of her social media accounts, in which Jocelyn Chia joked about Malaysia being a far behind developing country that was once "abandoned" by Singapore. The video has now been removed from her social media feeds.

In addition, she joked about Malaysian planes not being able to fly, prompting gasps from the audience. Chia continued: "Why? Malaysian Airlines going missing not funny, huh? Some jokes don’t land."

It is understood that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on 8 March 2014 is still an unforgettable tragedy. The flight disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is presumed to have crashed into the Southern Indian Ocean. Despite an extensive international search, the exact location of the crashed aircraft has yet to be determined, leaving unanswered questions and unresolved grief for the families of the victims.

A Singapore’s High Commissioner, Vanu Gopala Menon, took to the Facebook pages of the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur and the Consulate General in Johor Bahru to take exception to the stand-up comedian Jocelyn Chia's comments and mentioned that she was no longer a Singaporean citizen.

“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 apologize to all Malaysians for her hurtful remarks. As our closest neighbors, Singapore and Malaysia enjoy a strong and multi-faceted relationship, with deep and cross-cutting ties. We also have unique historical and close people to people ties. Comments such as those made by Chia are unhelpful and undermine the close trust and friendship that both our countries and peoples enjoy,” said by Vanu Gopala Menon.

(Media statement released by Malaysia Foreign Ministry. Photo Source: DMedia Jabatan Penerangan Malaysia)

Meanwhile, in a media statement released by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry condemning Chia's actions. Malaysian Foreign Minister, Dr. Zambry Abdul Kadir, said: “I regret and condemn the actions of a woman named Jocelyn Chia who, through her video recording, clearly demeaned Malaysia as a country and made fun of the tragedy that had occurred in this country. Such behavior shows no sensitivity or compassion for Malaysians and the families of the victims.”

Recognizing the severity of the situation, Singapore's Foreign Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, took to Twitter on Jun 8 to apologize. He said he was shocked by Chia's "horrific remarks" and that Chia did not represent Singaporeans.

In addition, Malaysia's number one badminton player Lee Chong Wei also expressed his own views on Facebook on June 8. “Want to make such a cheap joke? Malaysians and Singaporeans have always loved each other. If you don't know how to joke, don’t need to do anything,” said Lee Chong Wei.

The disappearance of MH370 has had a profound impact not only on Malaysia but also on the international community, as evidenced by the extensive search efforts undertaken by Australia, Malaysia, China, and later, a private search by the US company Ocean Infinity. Although scattered debris found on beaches in Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean suggest a remote crash site, the exact location has yet to be determined.

This controversial act of comedy raises important questions about the limits of humor and the moral responsibility of comedians. While comedy can provide relief and catharsis, it is essential to exercise sensitivity and empathy, especially when dealing with tragedies that continue to affect so many individuals and their families. This incident reminds us that freedom of expression must be balanced with respect for the feelings and experiences of others.

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