‘Storm in a soup bowl’


Tiong (right) visiting a booth at an exhibition run in connection with the ‘Asean Heritage Food Packaging Sustainability and Global Commercialisation Workshop’ at Universiti Putra Malaysia in Selangor. It was at this recent event where the federal minister suggested recognising ‘Bak Kut Teh’ as a traditional Malaysian heritage food. — Bernama photo

THIS week I read from the newspapers about three unrelated articles: dress code, food and a tagline.

I would not have commented on what seemed, at first glance, to be something that could be a joke, if not for the fact that four dignitaries in Malaysia were involved.

‘The nurse uniform’

An Honourable Member of Parliamentarian from Kuantan must have considered it essential that he must bring the matter to the august House for a decision.

His opinion – the current nurses’ uniforms ‘show their body shape…. They are too tight and not shariah-compliant’. For those reasons, he called for a change, suggesting an alternative dress code, by referring to what the nurses are wearing at the Hospital Universiti Sains in Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, and the Sultan Azlan Shah Hospital in Kuantan, Pahang.

There, he pointed out, the nurses would ‘have the option to dress suitably’ (The Borneo Post, June 17, 2023).

Unfortunately, I have no photograph of a nurse wearing the syariah-compliant dress to show the readers. At least, we got a few funny cartoons on the topic.

The reaction from the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) is that the current ‘nurse uniforms are practical as they do not seem to restrict movement when nurses carry out their duties… In healthcare, everyone needs to be fast on their feet and at times, ready to sprint to save lives.”

I think the MMA’s diagnosis of the controversy over the dress code does not include feeling the political pulse. For months now, the political parties in the peninsula have been canvassing for support in six states there.

The elections to the legislature of each of these states will be held before the end of the year.

The political future of many people is at stake. In Malaysia, religion and race are popular issues; winning and losing elections is a matter of life and death.

The non-shariah-compliant dress code is dragged along the campaign trail. Anything to win votes with!

The fact that the nurses can perform their duties as efficiently as their counterparts in the other government hospitals is not as important as the religious compliance of their uniforms.

‘Bak Kut Teh’

Another legislator, the former Speaker of the Malaysian Senate, Tan Sri Rais Yatim, in his Facebook post on June 15, 2023, was of the opinion that the word ‘bak’ in ‘Bak Kut Teh’ referred to pork (The Borneo Post of June 17, 2023).

Apparently, the minister in charge of tourism trade, Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, was not happy with Dr Rais’ statement.

Like Dr Rais, I would have said the same thing myself, for I have never eaten ‘Bak Kut Teh’ without pork. Other ‘kut tehs’ such as the ‘chick kut teh’ came later; on sale are ingredients for the soup with pieces of chicken.

I don’t know when the ‘teh’ came to Kuching, or was there was something similar available in the city before that.

I don’t remember.

‘Sarawak – Land Below the Wind’

The ads in an airline’s publication referring to Sarawak as the ‘Land Below the Wind’ must have irked our Deputy Premier Yang Berhormat Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, who took the trouble to point out the mistake to the public.

Very observant of him, when the editor could have spotted the mistake first.

Soon the tagline was put right. Rightly, it belongs to Sabah. Sabah is ‘below the wind’, while Sarawak has few hornbills left.

‘Where is the Dayak?’

Now it’s my turn to complain – a more serious one. Why is it so difficult for the advertisers to add the word ‘Dayak’ to ‘Selamat Gawai’?

On Thursday, I saw at the Kuching International Airport the words ‘Selamat Gawai’, with the Dayak missing!

This is a serious omission, deliberate or inadvertent, because Gawai simply means a celebration.

Whose celebration is it? It’s the celebration of the Dayaks of Sarawak.

The sentence ‘Selamat Gawai’ is not complete. Although the meaning is understood as there is no other celebration in Malaysia which is called ‘gawai’, there is no extra cost, I think, in adding the noun at the end of the sentence.

Other than that, I have no complaints worth anybody’s time to talk about this weekend.

Should the legislators make ‘Bak Kut The’ an issue again, there must be a good reason for it to be dignified as food, such as promoting it as one of the national dishes of Malaysia as part of the campaign to lure foreign tourists to the country.

Even then, I think no food should be ennobled or promoted as the ‘National Malaysia Dish’, nor should any lawmaker get entangled with what the nurses are wearing.

The legislators have other more important work to do than to address the dress code or the composition in a bowl of soup.

There are people who will go hungry tonight.

The politicians in power should think of ways and means about how their government can reach out to the poor: give them basic food – rice, salt, sugar, clean water.

They do not need ‘Bak Kut Teh’!

Plough back into the economy the dollars earned by the country from the purchases of goods and services by the tourists. That will benefit the poor more than the dignifying of a soup of pork or chicken.

It’s a storm in a soup bowl!