New York-based comedian Jocelyn Chia remains under fire for a recent stand-up performance, during which she made light of the MH370 tragedy and made provocative comments about the Malaysian audience.
Despite international criticism, Chia continues to reject demands for an apology and is instead using the controversy to further her fame.
Chia posted on Twitter on 18 June, refusing to offer an apology.
She tweeted, “Some Malaysians have been browbeating and harassing me, my friends, my family, my colleagues, while at the same time demanding an apology. I will NOT be bullied into giving an apology. An apology needs to come from the heart, and should not be coerced.”
Some Malaysians have been brow beating and harassing me, my friends, my family, my colleagues, while at the same time demanding an apology. Do they really think I would feel like apologizing after getting all this shit from them? I will NOT be bullied into giving an apology. An…
— Jocelyn Chia (@JocelynChia) June 18, 2023
The following day, Chia posted another tweet in response to a protest outside the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur, in which she seemed to find the situation humorous. She pointed out an error in an article’s reporting of her birthplace, clarifying that she was born in the United States, not Singapore.
Amid the controversy, Chia seems to be revelling in the increased publicity, remarking in a tweet, “I’m on the front page of BBC.com now. Interviewed by @CNN, @nytimes, @BBCWorld and going to be on @FoxNews this Sat. So actually, Malaysia, you can keep going.”
In another tweet, she thanked Malaysia, cheekily noting that her Netflix special was “writing itself.”
In a BBC interview on 15 June, Chia continued her controversial stance. She expressed amusement at the idea of Interpol escalating the situation, saying, “Honestly, if Interpol did something about this request and things escalated, can you imagine how famous it is going to make me? I just wish I could have seen the face of the Interpol officer who received the request.”
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani had said on 13 June that the Malaysian police were seeking Interpol’s help to find out Chia’s full identity and her current whereabouts.
Chia also pushed back against the criticism in the BBC interview, arguing that her jokes had been taken out of context on social media.
She suggested that her routine should be seen in its entirety in a comedy club setting, adding that roasting or poking fun at the audience is part of comedy club culture in New York.
On 9 June, approximately 100 individuals, comprising members of Umno Youth, Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) Youth, and People’s Progressive Party (MyPPP), gathered outside the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, staging a protest against the controversial remarks by Chia.
Umno Youth chief Muhamad Akmal Saleh, addressing the protesters, condemned Chia’s insensitive joke, emphasizing that the freedom of speech should not disregard the sensitivities of Malaysians.
“We urge the government to ban Ms Jocelyn (from entering) Malaysia,” he stated.
In the midst of the uproar, a protest letter was submitted to the embassy, urging the US authorities to investigate the incident and take appropriate measures to resolve the situation.
The letter reads: “As an embassy representing the United States, a country known for its commitment to diplomacy and inclusiveness, it is imperative to address this issue promptly and take appropriate action.”
MyPPP youth chief Sathiah Sudakaran and MCA Youth chief Nicole Wong Siaw Ting both echoed the sentiment that Chia’s comments had disrupted the peace and harmony between Malaysia and Singapore.
Wong added that Chia’s joke had even upset her children. “We understand that it was a stand-up comedy, but it is not funny if you attack MH370 as families are still mourning for their loved ones,” she said.
Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi has stated that any necessary investigations into Chia’s remarks would be conducted by the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
Meanwhile, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and the Republic’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mr Vanu Gopala Menon, also expressed their disapproval of Chia’s comments, emphasizing that she does not represent the views of Singaporeans.
Memon posted on social media to sincerely apologise to all Malaysians for Chia’s hurtful remarks.
“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.”
He reiterated that as closest neighbour, 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,” Menon added.
Despite the international uproar, Chia remains defiant. As she navigates the stormy waters of controversy, the comedian appears to be using the scandal to keep herself in the public eye, though at the potential cost of damaging relations between Singapore, Malaysia, and her own U.S. audience.