When hungry Malaysians take to Twitter

Since MITI’s latest SOPs for businesses were introduced, many find it difficult to grab food on time as the closing time for restaurants is at 8pm


WAS it a mere coincidence, or did an ordinary Malaysian girl’s tweet actually lead to the government reviewing one of its Movement Control Order (MCO) standard operating procedures (SOPs)?

Since the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) released the SOPs for the reinstated MCO, many expressed their concerns regarding the closing time of businesses, especially restaurants, at 8pm.

For MCO 2.0, many people are back out for work, unlike last year’s where the majority of us worked from home.

To make up for the unproductive 2020, it would be understandable if employees are needed at the workplaces until past 5pm, apart from those that practise shifts and finish work just before the 8pm cut-off time.

While some may have the flexibility to step out for a few minutes to grab dinner, others may not.

There are also working parents who have to rush out to pick up their children from day-care cen- tres without enough time to “tapau” dinner and are too tired to cook.

Many may be able to get their orders via food delivery services, but there are others whose orders could be rejected due to over-whelming requests nearing dinnertime.

As not all of us cook at home due to various personal reasons, these eateries are probably the only way to ensure that one gets a piping hot meal to end a long day.

On Jan 15, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman tweeted that prohibiting dine-ins is understandable, but people should be given the chance to take away food until 10pm, at least.

“People finish work at 7pm, they will not make it (to eateries) in time. Businesses, food delivery services and customers are all affected. This SOP is not right,” he said.

That, however, was a mere comment which the government paid no mind to.

Not until Twitter user @farhanazahan shared that he went two nights without dinner.

“There were problems with my food order although I ordered at 5pm, and there is no time to look for other options now,” he said.

Another Twitter user, @puterirajaawan, however, said @farhanazahan was just making a fuss and blaming the government for everything.

“Next time order (your food) earlier. Foodpanda and Grab Food will only start declining orders after 7pm. If you finish work late, order a day earlier and keep the food in your fridge, and reheat it the next day. If there’s a will, there’s a way, bro,” she said.

This triggered @yarafaee_who, in defending @farhanazahan and others who are in the same boat, unintentionally started a trend on Twitter.

Her opening statement: “Si bodoh, kau dengar sini (Listen here, idiot),” became one of the most powerful hashtags in the country — #sibodohdengarsini.

She said with everybody ordering between 11am and 8pm, the food delivery apps would crash while restaurants were over-whelmed with orders and may have to turn some away.

She further argued that she could hardly drive herself home after work, let alone be bothered with cooking dinner, and would have to leave to work again early the next day.

Between 9.32pm on Jan 17 and Jan 19, there were about 48,400 tweets with the #sibodohdengarsini hashtag. As of 3pm yesterday, @yara- faee_’s savage response was retweeted 14,600 times, quoted 2,900 times and received 25,300 likes.

Not only was it an impactful hashtag, but a versatile one as well, as many have also used it to express frustrations beyond the topic of dinner.

For example, it was used to criticise a deputy minister’s suggestion for heavier penalties on lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders at a time when the rest of the population fear for their livelihood; as well as the privileged few flexing their “home quarantining” on a beach while poor families squeezed in small homes afraid to go out during the MCO, just to name a few.

And of course, trust Malaysian netizens to quickly come up with posters and memes of the hashtag, including with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s “idiot sandwich” image.

The person who started the ball rolling, however, had not used the hashtag herself as she admitted that her tweet was made in anger and that it had gone out of control.

Nevertheless, people including some politicians have continued to use it, with some not even knowing the origins of #sibodohdengarsini.

Many have even linked it to Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s announcement on Tuesday that the government is dis- cussing with interested parties whether to extend business hours to end at 10pm, instead of the current 8pm.

The announcement followed complaints from businesses and consumers that the short business hours were driving restaurants into the red due to lost sales and inconvenience.

It may or may not have anything to do with @yarafaee_’s Twitter drama, but if it did, ordinary Malaysians might just have found the perfect catchphrase to get the politicians’ attention.

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.