Datuk Shah Rukh Khan
Yesterday in Malaysiakini, Stephen Ng penned Time to clean up the registry of Datuks? in which he wrote about some datuks including red-shirt leader Jamal Mohd Yunos who all misbehaved in worrying manners. He said:
It does not really matter whether the culprit is a Datuk or a Datuk Seri; even if he is without a title, the assault case involving a trucker in Ampang recently is still setting tongues wagging even one week after the incident.
Even until today, the person’s identity has not been revealed yet. As the employer, we would have expected him or her to stop the bodyguards from further injuring the truck driver. [...]
The other set of questions people are now asking are: “Who is the Datuk Seri who was caught on video carrying a bolt cutter, seemingly ready to attack the security guard at a condominium in Penang?”
Has he been charged over his act of aggression? What is happening after he was released on police bail?
In this post I will paste some of the material I had written in the two preceding posts on subject.
Datuk is the title that comes with an honorary knighthood awarded by the Malaysian King (Yang di-Pertuan Agong), or the sultan of a Malaysian state, or the Yang di-Pertuan Negeri (YDN) (ceremonial governor) of a Malaysian non-sultanate state, namely Penang, Malacca, Sabah and Sarawak.
In every society there are humorous stories and also jokes about virtually every facet of life, but the jokes associated with Malaysian honours award system have been unfortunately cruel, laced with cynical sneers and/or disdainful contempt.
The one currently in notorious vogue is that a Chinese or Indian in possession of a datukship could well be a crook or gangster who had shelled out plenty of moola to obtain the title, wakakaka. This joke seems to ring true of we consider the behaviour of some datuks who have behaved more like thugs.
[Oh, last year there was one shot dead in Penang].
Well, the Malaysiakini article has just proven the veracity of the joke. Some heads ought to roll, specifically those who had recommended datukships to people who behaved like gangsters.
Incidentally, are there Malay gangsters other than Mat Rempits, some 'uniformed people', or allegedly an UMNO minister? Think Red Shirts, wakakaka.
Another Malaysian joke about datukship is that if one were to spit in a crowded place, there is a high probability that one's expectoration would hit at least three datuks, wakakaka.
My uncle told me that this particular joke would be akin to the old English joke/sneer about the multitude of Italian counts - unlike Malaysian datuks, counts were/are hereditary titles - with some even working as waiters serving cappuccinos at cafes. Such was the snobbery of the English but then, such was the proliferation of Italian counts.
There is a state in Malaysia which has been reputed to churn out datukships like nobody's business, wakakaka, but alas, there is a market for the title so the datukship factory springs into action willingly to meet market requirements.
But in contrast to European nobility, we Malaysians certainly live up or, rather, down to our favourite national cry of Malaysia Boleh, in honouring even criminal hoodlums with knighthoods, wakakaka.
And guess who should we blame for this?
It's may be worthwhile following Dr Mahathir's example by blaming, as a start, foreigners specifically the British, wakakaka, or if we can't, then the local Chinese.
I want to remind my readers that there is a marked distinction, virtually a Grand Canyon-ish gulf between gallantry awards like the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP) or the Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) which are based on valiant and courageous actions for the nation and the honour awards like datukships. This post only covers the latter.
The allure of a knighthood, perhaps the glamour and recognition associated with it, has been irresistible for many Malaysians.
But some business-people (of all races) particular want such a title because it 'opens doors' to exclusive business circles for them, in the same way those business-people apply desperately for memberships to some very exclusive expensive 'elite' social-entertainment-sports (golfing-horse riding) clubs.
They want to be in the 'correct' crowd for business deals, contracts, the sort of money-making stuff which in Malaysia would be easier to secure when in the right company - not necessarily at the very top level but just where a datukship title could make some decent social impact and acceptability, and thus be useful to their business enterprise, wakakaka.
Thus there is also a practical element to being a datuk. It's not just for syiok-ness alone.
Given above, we shouldn't be surprised that the associated glitz, glitter, glamour (and business profit) of being a datuk have even motivated some people to foolishly pay for one from a so-called Sultan Kudarat of Mindanao, wakakaka.
The point I want to make is that many (though obviously not all) Malaysians would like to be a datuk, no matter how much they may profess republican proclivities or pretend they aren't interested.
The other and far more important aspect of the datukship story is the political-ethnic-social-cultural and judicious necessity for some Chinese and Indian politicians (specifically those in the DAP) to accept one when so honoured by a ruler, and not to emulate, in the case of the British system, author HG Wells, playwright George Bernard Shaw, actor Paul Scofield, and many more who declined the knighthood awards.
While it's okay to decline a knighthood in Britain or other Western Commonwealth countries, it's unwise to do so in our 'skin-coloured' and ampun-tuanku' conscious society.
By deferentially accepting the sultan's honours, the recipient would be sending a message that he or she (like republican Sean Connery) is not disrespectful of royalty.
This point was raised by the DAP ADUN for Sekinchan Selangor, Ng Suee Lim, as he was deeply concerned that DAP politician, in not accepting datukships as per now-cancelled party policy, could be maliciously mis-portrayed by the other side of politics (specifically UMNO) as being anti royalty and thus, anti Malay.
Ng Suee Lim
Our honours award system is highly prone to corruption where I have early mentioned that at times, unfortunately, money passes hands to get one.
There is also another unpleasant factor. For this one, it's not so much corruption per se but look, when a datukship is awarded willy nilly to some people, the effect could, would be and has been seen as grossly unfair or abused. Virtually every senior civil servant and senior police/military officer are likely to get one sooner or later.
Stupidly we Malaysians have followed this annual honouring of civil servants and armed service officers to the extreme where now it would be the rare senior civil servant, police senior officer or military general who is NOT a datuk of some sort, awarded at federal or state level.
Unlike the UK, we forget that we have 14 award systems to Britain's one, and a 30 million population to Britain's 60 million.
And far far worse than its willy nilly excesses, where we heard just last year a 19-year old was made a datuk.
Equally culpable, the BN government had even allowed Tan-Sri-ships, which are supposedly of a higher order than datukships, to be awarded to people of highly questionable reputations or/and character, even those of alleged ill repute or associated with lamentable incidents.
I can easily count three such cases which would have undeniably caused HM the Agong to squirm in embarrassment and, probably in private, curse the various PMs for forcing his high office into the lamentable situation of handing the awards to such people.
On the honour awards, the rulers and YDN have only a minor role, to consent to the list of to-be datuks, Tan Sris and Tuns.
In the case of a state ruler, yes, there is a slim possibility that he could well be difficult and either tell the PM or Menteri Besar to f* off with the list or more politely, declare he won't award a datukship to, say, kaytee, wakakaka. But this would be very rare and only if the state ruler is very headstrong, wakakaka again.
So, the politicians are to be blamed for making gangsters, crooks and a 19-year old into datuks, for they (and their cohorts) would be the ones recommending candidates for awards, and vetting and approving the final list for the Agong, ruler or YDP to accept. Thus it's down at the lil' Napoleons' level where corruption takes place.
But I think it's time to consider the necessity of stripping a Datuk (or Tan Sri or even Tun, wakakaka) of his or her title when he/she has been found guilty of committing a crime or a disgraceful act.
I came across stories of Datuks who committed crimes of one sort or another and who went into prison but emerged still as datuks, with their awards totally intact. I wonder how the wardens addressed those datuks?
OK, some examples - naturally first on the list by virtue of his so-called fame (or notoriety) would be Anwar Ibrahim. Should he be stripped of his title?
Apart from that, I wonder how he could still make political statements from behind bars?
I can hear tumultuous shouts of outraged protests from his adorers and supporters because they believe he has been framed for his crime of sodomy, a felon in Malaysia.
Then there was Datuk Harun Idris, a former MB of Selangor, who was once touted as a potential PM of Malaysia. Whether he had a direct inciting role in the May 13 riot remains an area of intense debate until today. Some Chinese called him a saint while others (Chinese) saw/see him as a devil. He left us for a better place. Al Fatihah.
There was another Datuk from Seremban who was sentenced to death for murdering another UMNO man for bonking his sister, but he was eventually pardoned. What about his Datukship?
Shouldn't they all be stripped of their datukships as Khir Toyo was of his when he went to prison for corruption?
Then there are still those who have been awarded Tan Sri's despite either committing a seditious act or low class crime when they should have been imprisoned - 'nuff said about the respectability of the federal awards.
Now, Najib Razak, Azmin Ali and Mahathir Mohamad have royal awarded titles. Say (hypothetically of course) if any of the three were to be arrested and imprisoned, then we wonder whether our society or royalty will act dunno again (except in the case of Khir Toyo, who incidentally, like the rumours about Moody, has remarried after being released, but to a Chinese sweetie - Congratulations, ex-Datuk).
But apart from instituting a remedying system to maintain the dignity of the honours award system, it's not just a matter of by stripping criminals of their datukship but far more importantly, also limiting the annual conferment of datuks.
HRH of states of course will exercise their royal prerogatives to award datukships to whoever they want, but the Royal Council of Rulers should consider this issue, in the same way the federal award of Tun-ship is limited to only 35 (or is it 50?).
All past PM with the sole exception of our first PM, our beloved Tunku Abdul Rahman, was conferred the title of Tun. I wonder when Ah Jib Gor will get his, wakakaka.
One final point, with all respect to their HRHs, ampun tuanku's, I wonder why on each state's annual awards, HRH of each state would confer very high honours to the members of their own family or to fellow royalty? This has always puzzled me!