AN investigative officer and another three police officers were interrogating a criminal to find out the whereabouts of his accomplices.
The policemen, all non-Chinese, were not speaking Bahasa Malaysia or English but Hokkien instead.
“Lu ai kong mai kong (are you going to tell us or not)?
“Lu siao kua, lu eh pa, lu eh mak, lu eh boh kia (think of your parents, your wife and your children),” they told the suspect.
The suspect had allegedly robbed a jewellery shop with two accomplices in Prangin Mall, Penang, but later decided to give himself up to the police.
The five were actually acting in a sketch by police personnel. They were putting into practice their knowledge of Hokkien which they learned from a three-month Hokkien class course in Penang.
The plot started off with three police officers, who acted as robbers, speaking to each other on their plan to rob a jewellery shop .
They pledged not to reveal the plan, should anyone get caught.
There was a scene when the trio tried to attack a security guard and held the jewellery shop owner as captive.
The audience burst into laughter when the policeman, who was playing the role of the shop owner, said in his not-so-fluent Hokkien: “Ho ka chai bo si (Luckily I’m not dead).”
One of the ‘culprits’ was later captured by the police and brought back to the police station for questioning.
The group of 20 police officers, who had recently completed their third Hokkien class, later tried out their skills by walking to the Chowrasta Market and communicated with the traders in Hokkien.
Market traders, who were surprised by their visit, were more astonished when they heard them speaking in Hokkien.
Among them were nutmeg stall owner Ch’ng Lai Huat and his wife Teoh Soek Hoon.
“It is definitely easier for us to communicate with the police in Hokkien than in Bahasa Malaysia.
“We feel closer to them and find it more comfortable to provide them with information,” Ch’ng said.
Che Wan Faiza Che Wan Salleh, 34, managed to start off the conversation with Ch’ng by asking him: “Taukeh, kin jit seng li hoe bo (boss, how is your business today)?”
Che Wan said she would usually practise the dialect with her husband, friends and even her one-year-old daughter.
Sarjan S. Neelawati, 42, said she found the dialect useful and easy to understand but required a lot of practice.
Emmanuel Dhesen, 24, from Kuching, who has been serving the police force in Penang for four years, said he initially found learning the dialect a great challenge but began lo-ving it soon after.
“I had to make notes and sometimes, I just look like a mad man speaking to myself and practising,” he said.
He added that he was also teaching his sister the dialect.