ALSO BY

By Lau Bing

Bak kut teh and the kind way to deal with Alvivi

Malaysians are surprised and bemused to know that the judge had sent the two bloggers namely; Alvin Tan Jye Yee and Vivian Lee May Ling, to 37 days in jail before they were proven guilty of their actions.  

Why so odd, sending them for 37 days in jail, what has this number 37 to do with the two jokers?  

Largely there are other ways to deal with both these controversial bloggers, but instead the judge is making a mockery of the law, using the law unfairly, inhumanely, unjustifiably, to send off the two to jail without trial or rather before they are found guilty for their actions.  

What happens if both of them are released eventually due to insufficient proof or availability of concrete evidence or grounds to charge them? Does this mean the public will soon see another million ringgit lawsuit against the government for wrongful detention?  

Some quarters see the wrong use of the law to send people straight to jail before they are  found guilty for the offence, and particularly for this ‘bak kut teh’ case, it is indeed outrageous and against the practice of human rights and freedom of speech.  

Look, I believe you have seen on TV over time that even US President Barrack Obama, the British Queen and other top guns have been ridiculed, intimidated and criticised on air but yet no one comes forward to charge the TV station or the TV host for allowing such contents to come on air. This is true freedom of speech.  

Okay, let’s first try to decipher the words ‘bak kut teh’ one by one.  In the old days, coolies, and businessmen liked going out at dusk with their work mates to spend time out to chit-chat over a bowl of bak kut teh because there was hardly a place where they could sit down especially in the open air to eat, drink and talk after a hard day’s work for just one or two dollars (now ringgit).  And, they are sold until the wee hours of the night, because business starts from 7pm onwards until everything is sold out.  

For those who wee affluent, they would go to the cabarets to listen to music and songs, to dine and unwind alone or with friends in Bukit Bintang, in the Eastern Hotel, or Federal Hotel. Of course they could also dance too to the live band played there with their lady companion or dance hostesses for less than a dollar. But not the poor.

Well, bak kut teh has been associated from the very beginning with people from the Hokkien community and it is a Hokkien name for the dish that comes with the first word ‘bak’ for meat, ‘kut’ for bones or rather for spare ribs and ‘teh’ for Chinese tea.   

So when a customer orders for a bowl of bak kut teh, he or she does not need to pay for Chinese tea because it comes as a set of three items in the old days.  That means he or she will get meat, bones (spare ribs) and Chinese tea.  

That brings us to the specifics for the word  ‘bak’, since it means meat, then, ‘bak’ could be any meat such as beef, mutton, chicken or pork. However, it’s a matter of preference and choices and its servings depending on where you go for your bowl.  

So as long both the controversial bloggers did not shout, ‘pork’ in public places then their acts cannot be offensive in nature though they have uttered the words, bak kut teh, in that one could have any kind of meat in his or her bowl of bak kut teh.

Anyway, not everybody goes online to read Alvivi’s postings. I am one of those who don’t and I will not try to go online to see it.  

I am urging the relevant government body to release the couple, as what they can do instead is to temporarily confiscate their passports and have them report to the nearest police station once every two weeks for good behaviour for say six months, thereafter, their passports would be returned to them and they can also stop going to the police station.


The writer is a community activist from Subang Jaya.