Malaysia police to seek Interpol help over controversial comedian

Jocelyn Chia’s joke about MH370 has already prompted apologies from Singapore’s foreign minister and its top diplomat in Malaysia.

Comedian Jocelyn Chia in New York. She's wearing a colourful outfit and smiling
Jocelyn Chia joked about the plane as part of her set at a New York comedy club [File: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images via AFP]

Malaysia’s police chief has said he will seek Interpol’s help to track down New York-based Singapore-born comedian Jocelyn Chia, whose joke about the disappearance of MH370 has already led to diplomatic apologies from the city-state that was briefly part of Malaysia.

Inspector-General of Police Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani told Malaysian media that the police would file the request for Interpol’s assistance for their investigation on Wednesday.

Malaysian police are investigating Chia, a former lawyer who is thought to have become a citizen of the United States, under laws relating to intentional insult, provocation and incitement.

The furore over Chia began after she posted a clip to her social media account from a stand-up routine where she made MH370 the punchline to a joke.

The Boeing 777 went missing on its way to Beijing in 2014 with 239 passengers and crew on board. It is thought to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean but while pieces of debris have washed up on beaches in the Indian Ocean and eastern Africa, the plane has never been found.

Many in Malaysia were shocked at the joke with Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir saying Chia had shown a “total lack of sensitivity and empathy towards Malaysians and victims’ families”.

His Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan said he was “appalled” at Chia’s “horrendous statements” while High Commissioner Vanu Gopala Menon described the routine at New York’s Comedy Cellar as “gratuitously offensive”, and said Singapore did “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”.

Chia, who previously worked as a lawyer, told US broadcaster CNN on Sunday that she stood by her stand-up, claiming the clip had been taken “out of context”.

Comedians from Malaysia and Singapore, which became independent in 1965, often poke fun at each other’s countries and foibles.

Source: Al Jazeera