Vivian Balakrishnan 'appalled' by S'pore comedian's MH370 jibe, apologises to M'sians

Chia has deactived her Instagram and Facebook but a clip of her performance is still available on her TikTok.

Fiona Tan | June 08, 2023, 11:56 AM

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Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan has apologised to Malaysians for a joke made by comedian Jocelyn Chia.

Former Malaysian minister Syed Saddiq commented on incident

Chia, a comedian from Singapore (but is "no longer Singaporean"), drew flak for using the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as a punchline during her standup performance at Comedy Cellar, a renowned comedy club in New York, U.S.

She has become a naturalised United States citizen, according to The Straits Times.

Former Malaysian Youth and Sport Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman picked up on the incident, retweeting Malaysian broadcaster Kudsia Kahar's viral tweet, where the user shared a clip of Chia's performance on the social media platform.

He described Chia's attempt in "turning a tragedy into a source of entertainment" was done "in bad taste".

Despite this, he said he has "good faith" in his "fellow Singaporean friends" and added that "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," Syed Saddiq said.

Syed Saddiq urged the public to look past the incident and instead "take it as a lesson to never take lightly of other people's misfortunes".

Singapore Minister for Foreign Affair Vivian Balakrishnan apologises

Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia, Vanu Gopala Menon, apologised in an early morning statement on Jun. 8.

He also clarified that Chia is no longer a Singaporean and stressed that Chia's statement "does not in any way" reflect Singaporeans' views.

Vivian Balakrishnan replied to Syed Saddiq and issued a statement on Twitter on Jun. 8, saying he was "appalled" by Chia's "horrendous statements" and that the comedian "does not speak for Singaporeans".

He apologised for the incident, saying "We treasure our ties with family and friends in Malaysia, and are sorry for the offence and hurt caused to all Malaysians."

Syed Saddiq thanked Vivian for his "gracious response" and reiterated his earlier tweet, saying "the action of an individual will not weaken the unbreakable-friendship between our countries."

He also agreed with Vivian's point, "Half of my Family members are from Singapore & none of them share her insensitive view."

He repeated his call to members of public to move forward from the incident, "We are united in Happiness & in grief. Let’s move forward together, stronger."

Limited comments, but defended MH370 joke

Following the incident, numerous individuals who identified themselves as Malaysians have criticised Chia for her insensitivity.

While Comedy Cellar USA removed the clip of Chia's performance from its Instagram and TikTok pages, Chia did not take down the post of the clip from her personal Instagram and TikTok account, as of 3pm on Jun. 7.

A few hours later at 11pm on the same day, she appeared to have limited comments on the Instagram post.

However, she appeared unfazed by the overwhelming negative response to MH370 joke and even defended her statement when responding to a negative comment on her Instagram post.

A commenter said, "From twitter. Tragedy is not a jokes. By the way, post this comment without internet, maybe use magic."

He was referencing another jab that Chia threw at Malaysia during her Comedy Cellar performance.

"A bad Yelp review from the Malaysians, that's okay, they don't have internet," said Chia back then, seemingly hitting back after an audience member said she was going to get a bad review on Yelp, an online rating service, for her MH370 joke.

Chia responded to the Instagram commenter, "Tragedy plus time = comedy. It's been long enough man."

Image screenshot from now defunct @chiacomedy/Instagram.

Gone off most socials

As of 11am on Jun. 8, Chia has deactivated her Instagram account, as well as what appears to be her website.

However, the clip of her performance remains on her TikTok, which is still running, at the time of writing.

Image screenshot from TikTok.

About MH370

MH370 was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing before it disappeared on Mar. 8, 2014.

More than nine years on, the Boeing 737 and the 12 cabin crew and 227 passengers on board have yet to be found.

The incident remains an emotional and sensitive one for bereaved family and friends.

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Top image from Vivian Balakrishnan/Facebook and @joycelynchiacomedy/TikTok