Multi-language war of words

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 19 Oct 2003


THE art of war in the Dewan is not just fought out in Bahasa Malaysia. MPs, being multi-lingual, often lapse into other languages to outfox their opponents. 

When Deputy Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Khalid Yunus argued with Kerk Kim Hock (DAP - Kota Melaka) on Monday over what the opposition MP deemed as inadequate and inconsistent answers given by the ministry, both sides resorted to English to get their message through. 

To be more precise, they used “Manglish,” reproduced here verbatim. 

Kerk: You gave stupid answer. 

Khalid: You asked stupid question. 

Kerk had queried about the intake of non-bumiputra students into Mara Junior Science Colleges, saying there had been a contrasting stand on this. 

He said the minister had previously stated that only non-bumiputra students from national schools would be accepted into such colleges. 

However, the written criteria spelt out by Mara did not stipulate the condition that the students must come from national schools, he said. 

Likewise, Kerk alleged that the Government had given three different answers to a query on the registration of contractors with Pusat Khidmat Kontraktor. 

Khalid retorted that Kerk got three replies because he had posed the question thrice. 

“Whether the answers are different or not, it is up to your own judgment,” Khalid said. 

At one point, the DAP secretary-general told Khalid in English that “you are a joker.” 

Not to be outdone, Khalid replied: “You are a clown.” 

Although Bahasa Malaysia is the official medium of communication in the Dewan, it was quite refreshing to hear the two men snarling at one another in English.  

Kerk: What a joker-lah, you. 

Khalid: You are the biggest joker of the House. I have answered you but you are stupid. 

The deputy minister went on to defend what his minister had previously announced, saying that Kerk was merely speaking nonsense and that he refused to understand what was being told to him. 

“I am speaking in English now. You don't understand English? You want me to speak in Chinese or what?” Khalid asked. 

He became more incensed by the minute, describing Kerk as “the biggest joker and the biggest fool of the House.” 

“You know what a fool looks like? A bloody fool looks like you!” he shrieked. 

When Chow Kon Yeow (DAP - Tanjong) shot up to defend his boss, he demonstrated his own technique in quarrelling – just repeat what the enemy hollers, only louder. 

Khalid: Shut up and sit down! 


Once, Kerk waved a piece of paper to show proof of what he was saying. 

Khalid: I can't see from here! Why should I entertain you? You duduklah

At other times, Khalid reverted to Bahasa Malaysia. 

Kau hendak loyar buruk dengan aku buat apa?” he asked Kerk. (Why are you behaving like a smart aleck here?) 

“What my minister said is correct. Are you deaf?” he added. 

Khalid also questioned what the fuss was all about, since “it is a fortunate thing we let you guys into MRSM (Mara Junior Science Colleges). Don't talk so much with me.” 

Eventually, Kerk told him not to get upset. 

Khalid, chuckling, said: “Who's angry? I am not angry. I am laughing now.” 

Incidentally, even Bahasa Malaysia gets broken in the Dewan. One MP has a habit of replacing “d” with “l” thus di dalam becomes li lalam

One backbencher could not resist imitating her last week, causing much laughter around. 

On another occasion, Fong Po Kuan (DAP – Batu Gajah) switched to Cantonese to illustrate her point when she spoke against a Malaysia Airlines policy of compelling air stewardesses to retire when they reached the age of 40. 

In her usual breakneck speed, she rattled off keong yit low yit lat, prompting remarks of apa tu? (what's that?) from other MPs. 

The phrase literally means “ginger, as it grows older, has a more stinging taste.” 

What Fong wanted to say was that this group of cabin crew can still contribute to MAS because of their vast experience.  

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