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A food delivery rider waits at a traffic junction in front of Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers. Photo: AP

‘Listen here, you idiot’: #SiBodohKauDengarSini trends on Twitter in Malaysia amid coronavirus lockdown frustration

  • The hashtag has been the country’s top-trending topic for two days after striking a chord with hungry, angry Malaysians
  • It was triggered by difficulties ordering food, but is now being used to articulate dissatisfaction over the Muhyiddin administration’s handling of the pandemic
Never mess with a hungry Malaysian.
For the past two days, the hashtag #SiBodohKauDengarSini – which loosely translates to “listen here, you idiot” – has been the top-trending topic in the country, triggered by a woman’s frustration over shortened operating hours for restaurants during the latest Covid-19 lockdowns.
When a Twitter user complained of missing dinner for two days in a row because of problems with their delivery orders, another user’s unsympathetic response was that simply ordering earlier and not making a fuss was the best approach. Enter @yarafaee_, who in a now viral tweet fired back that delivery apps were hanging because too many people were ordering food at the same time at the end of a long day at work.

Her words have resonated with netizens disappointed by the government’s handling of the pandemic, and the resulting hashtag has since been tweeted more than 62,000 times.

“#SiBodohKauDengarSini is such a powerful hashtag,” tweeted Effi Saharudin, head of content at tech news portal Amanz.

In an interview, he said the people’s patience had snapped as they were tired of the government flip-flopping over Covid-19 policies, and said Monday’s announcement of a new US$3.7 billion aid package was not seen as adding much relief to the frustrations.

Explainer | What Malaysia’s new coronavirus lockdown and state of emergency mean for the public, and for PM Muhyiddin

“This perfect storm of incompetence resulted in this funny hashtag resonating with people,” Effi said.

Last Wednesday, amid a surge in Covid-19 cases, the administration of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin once again placed most of the country under a form of lockdown, banning interstate travel. Dining in at restaurants is also not allowed, and takeaways are only permitted from 6am to 8pm – leading to a rush on delivery orders at the end of the day.

On Tuesday, the restrictions were extended to all states except Sarawak in Malaysia’s east.

A solitary scooter proceeds down an otherwise empty street in Kuala Lumpur under a new lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. Photo: DPA

The country’s king last week also agreed to declare a state of emergency to give authorities more power to combat the pandemic, though critics said this offered a political reprieve to the embattled Muhyiddin, who is struggling to stay in power.

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, who at 28 is the country’s second youngest MP, told This Week in Asia the hashtag had taken Twitter by storm because Malaysians were looking to “vent their frustration at the incompetent and arrogant government in their handling of Covid-19”.

Quiet falls over Malaysia, with residents in lockdown after last night of travel and dining out

“#SiBodohKauDengarSini signifies deep anger and frustration,” said Saddiq, who was youth and sports minister before the political coup that saw Muhyiddin take power in March last year.

He said last year Malaysians had started the hashtag #KitaJagaKita, or “we look after each other”, to show what needed to be done when the government failed.

“Now, it’s no longer a polite hashtag,” he said. “Malaysians in general are very tolerant and polite people, but when they start cursing, you know you’ve crossed the line.”

Among the sticking points, he said, was that “big factories” were allowed to operate normally “despite being the largest contributors of Covid-19” due to housing migrant workers in cramped, dirty conditions.

“But food deliveries [for] the small guys must end at 8pm. Why?” he said. “Does Covid-19 magically disappear after 8pm?”

In November last year, more than 5,000 workers of Malaysian firm Top Glove, the world’s biggest rubber glove maker, tested positive for Covid-19 in what emerged as the country’s largest cluster of the disease.

On Saturday, Top Glove said some employees at four of its factories had recently tested positive for Covid-19, but it did not provide specific numbers. The company’s plants are among those that have been allowed to operate under the latest lockdown regulations.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said the hashtag struck a chord because many Malaysians could barely cope with the socioeconomic hardships they were facing as a result of the pandemic.

“At the very least, they have difficulties not only in affording [food] but in finding ways to efficiently put bread and rice on the table,” he said.

“This is coupled with the government’s perceived clumsiness in handling the pandemic as well as its eagerness in aggregating emergency power. So the hashtag with its underlying notion of helpless haplessness resonates widely in the Malaysian cyberspace.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Hungry Malaysians vent their frustration