Joke about MH370 by comedian sparks protest outside US embassy in KL
KUALA LUMPUR – Around 100 people gathered outside the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, protesting against comedian Jocelyn Chia’s remarks about Malaysia and the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 aircraft during a show in the US.
The protesters were members of Umno Youth, Barisan Nasional’s (BN) component party Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) Youth, and BN’s former component party People’s Progressive Party (MyPPP).
A lawyer-turned-comedian, Chia posted an 89-second video clip of her set on Instagram this week, poking fun at the rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia, and making expletive-laden snipes at Malaysians in the audience.
Chia was born in the US and raised in Singapore.
The protesters marched to the embassy from a nearby mosque after Friday afternoon prayers, shouting “Go! Go, Go, Go, long live youth chief, God is great”.
Around 80 police officers monitored the protest. An area in front of the embassy was cordoned off. The protest started at about 2.30pm and ended 45 minutes later.
Many Malaysians took offence at Chia’s remarks, as she had turned the MH370 tragedy into a joke.
Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing in March 2014 but never arrived. To date, the plane with 227 passengers and 12 crew has not been located.
Umno Youth chief Muhamad Akmal Saleh, who was the main speaker during the protest, condemned her joke, saying that freedom of speech must not be at the expense of issues deemed sensitive by Malaysians.
“We urge the government to ban Ms Jocelyn (from entering) Malaysia,” he told reporters on Friday.
Individuals like Chia, he added, should not stir trouble between Malaysia and Singapore, as both countries have a relationship where they understand each other’s sensitivities.
Umno Youth submitted a protest letter to the embassy.
The letter, seen by The Straits Times, urges the US Embassy in Malaysia to convey the memorandum to the relevant authorities within the US government to “ensure a thorough investigation into the incident and appropriate measures to rectify the situation”.
It added: “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.
“I trust that the US Embassy will take the necessary steps to address this incident, foster cultural sensitivity, and uphold the values of mutual respect and understanding that are essential to the relationship between our two nations.”
MyPPP youth chief Sathiah Sudakaran told ST that Chia is disturbing the peace and harmony between Malaysia and Singapore.
Meanwhile, MCA Youth chief Nicole Wong Siaw Ting, who was present at the protest, said her children were also irked by Chia’s joke.
“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 told reporters on Friday. “I hope she learns from this lesson and be more sensitive.”
On Thursday, Dr Akmal said Chia’s act is an insult that cannot be accepted by Umno Youth and Malaysians.
“I have directed an Umno Youth exco member to lodge a police report against her,” he added, addressing delegates at the youth wing’s meeting earlier on Thursday.
Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi said the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission will conduct any investigation deemed fit into Chia’s disparaging remarks.
Mr Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, a Malaysian politician, earlier said Chia’s act of turning a tragedy into a source of entertainment was “just in bad taste”.
She has since been criticised by Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and the Republic’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mr Vanu Gopala Menon.
In a Twitter post on Thursday, Dr Balakrishnan said: “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.”