To be a Datuk: – Debunking the Myths of the Conventional Approach of Attaining such Titles.
Posted by Oscar the Grouch on October 18, 2008
Datuk Oscar the Grouch. Admittedly, it does have a pleasant buzz to it, the title brings a rather regal tone to my otherwise uninteresting identity. It would be almost salaciously exhilarating to eaves-drop on my secretary’s pompous retort on the phone, “Well, Datuk Oscar is extremely busy at the moment, you have to call back to fix an appointment.” My, I may even need to change my coffee mug, in line with the majestic designation. Perhaps a cup in the mould of gold ornamented chalice, with corresponding lettering announcing “I am a Datuk”.
How do I get to be a Datuk, I’ve always thought? Well, Nicol David is one, so is Lee Chong Wei. Vinod Sekhar (of the Petra Foundation) got his at the age of 26. And recently, Shahrukh Khan was awarded one. Surely, it mustn’t be that hard to be honoured, considering the current development in the traditional approach of attaining such titles.
The Datukship Awards
Broadly speaking, there exist two categories of awards: – federal awards and state awards. Federal awards are granted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The following titles are awarded by the Agong: –
· Tun – the most senior federal title. There may not be more than 35 local living holders at any one time. The wife of a Tun is called a Toh Puan.
· Tan Sri – the second most senior federal title. There a 2 types of recipients – the Panglima Mangku Negara (PMN) and the Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM). There may be at any one time up to a maximum of 75 PMN holders and a maximum of 250 PSM holders. The wife of a Tan Sri is a Puan Sri.
· Datuk – also 2 types of recipients – the Panglima Jasa Negara (PJN) and the Panglima Setia Diraja (PSD). There may be not more than up to 200 each of PJN and PSM holders respectively. The wife of a Datuk is a Datin.
State awards, conversely, is awarded by the state Sultans. The following titles are awarded: –
Dato’ – this is different from the federal Datuk, although pronounced in similar manner. There is no limit to the number of Datoship to be awarded. There are many variants to the Dato’: –
· Dato’ Seri Utama – this title is regarded above the Tan Sri. The wife is called Datin Seri Utama.
· Dato’ Seri / Dato’ Paduka – the wife is called Datin Seri.
· Dato’ – the wife is called a Datin (except in Terengganu, where they are known as To’ Puan [* not to be confused with Toh Puan, the wife of a Tun]). There are variation to the Dato’ in certain states, for example in Malacca and Kedah, there is the Datuk Wira; in Sarawak, there is the Datuk Amar and the Datuk Patinggi; whereas in Sabah, there is the Datuk Seri Panglima.
Some states, as we know, do not have a Sultan, but rather, the Governor: namely Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak. These rulers are appointed by the Agong, and hence their award are not the Dato’, but rather, the Datuk, in line with its federal standing.
To add to the chaotic confusion of it all, there are hereditary Dato’s (as opposed to those by conferment). For example in Negeri Sembilan, inherited Datoship are held for life by the head of certain families and can be passed on through customary native law. Such is also the situation in Pahang, where notably, Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak’s family holds the hereditary Orang Kaya Indera Syahbandar, which apparently, automatically allows Najib to be addressed as Dato’, even if all other his titles are revoked.
The conventional approach for Datukship
In the old days, such honorary awards were bestowed to aging (or perhaps dying) high-ranking civil servants, politicians (limited to those serving as ministers in the cabinet), judges (High Court and above only) and mega-super-rich towkays. It was recorded that in 1957 (Malaya’s independence), only 5 of the 15 cabinet ministers were made Datuks. The finance minister at that time, Tan Siew Sin, only held the title Justice of Peace. It is also pertinent to note that Tunku Abdul Rahman was never awarded. He carried the title “Tunku” which was inherited by him being the prince of Kedah.
The new approach for Datukship
But of recent, a new trend appears to be emerging. The Datuks of today are unlike those of yesteryears. Gone are the days where only the old, distinguished and affluent reach the mark. There is a revolutionary development in the conventional methodology to attain such awards. There have been new contemporary and innovative approaches to get notice as a potential recipient for Datukship. Sporting capabilities is a sure way: Nicol David (squash) and Lee Chong Wei (badminton) comes to mind. In fact, the sphere of sports has been so significant that even if you have a hand in moulding an individual to be a champion sportsman, you stand a chance: for example, Datuk Misbun Sidek, presumably for his contributions as coach to Lee Chong Wei; and his father, Datuk Sidek Abdullah Kamar, for his contributions in shaping the sporting careers of the Sidek brothers.
Of course, to be the first in accomplishing an outlandish feat for the country seems to yield immediate results. Datuk Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, the country’s first astronaut, was awarded almost immediately after his trip from space. So did Dato’ Azhar Mansor, the first Malaysian solo sailor to sail around the world using a sailing ship called Jalur Gemilang; and Dato’ Abdul Malik Mydin, the first Malaysian to swim across the English Channel.
Recently, Datuk Shahrukh Khan was awarded, on the basis of his contribution to tourism to the state of Malacca. This brings to mind another entertainer, Datuk Shake, a popular singer whose albums reached gold and platinum sales status in France, and put Malaysia on the map of the French people and presumably thereafter, attracted the French to Malaysia. (* it may be interesting to note that Datuk Shake is uncle to Datuk Azalina Othman Said, Minister of Youth and Sport). The entertainment circle is now amply occupied by Datuks: we have Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, the darling diva of Malay tunes; and her arch-nemesis, Datuk Sharifah Aini. In the movie/tv segment, the Datuks are represented by local movie-king Datuk Yusof Haslam; and Dato’ Jins Samsuddin (now Tan Sri). Of course, one cannot forget our own Bond girl, Datuk Michelle Yeoh.
Apart from sports, accomplishment and entertainment, there appears to be another indirect approach for Datukship: marrying someone terribly important. This perhaps applies to the ladies, where feminism dictates that a Datinship may not be good enough. Case on point would be the Prime Minister’s new wife, Jeanne Abdullah, who was recently conferred with the Darjah Utama Negeri Melaka, which carries the title Datuk Seri Utama. In fact, the Deputy Minister’s wife is Datuk Seri Rosmah Mansor, as opposed to Datin Seri.
Datuk today, gone tomorrow
Apart from the new trend in Datukship, it is important to understand that a Datukship can be revocable. Of late, there is an inclination for removal of these Datukship, as compared to the old days, where such things are almost unheard of. The late Tan Sri Eric Chia got his Selangor Datukship suspended while on trial for CBT (but he has other higher titles from various states). Similarly, Datuk Saidin Thambi, the former Selangor state assemblyman and executive councillor, was suspended of his Datukship during the midst of his corruption trial. In Pahang, two Datukship were withdrawn: Datuk Seri Koh Kim Teck, who was charged with the murder of his 14 year old nephew; and Datuk Tee Yam, the timber tycoon, for his involvement in undesirable activities. Recently, the debacle of the appointment of the Terengganu Menteri Besar saw the withdrawal of Datukship of Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, the former Menteri Besar; Datuk Rosol Wahid and Datuk Din Adam.
What are the chances of a Datuk Oscar? I am brightened by the achievements of my fellow Malaysian in getting their Datukship, some of them half my age. I’m a tad bit too old for sporting achievements now; swimming and going to space seems quite cumbersome. I can’t sing, nor can I act. I’m not very sure marrying Chew Mei Fun or Teresa Kok may work, but I’m not attempting to try. I’m waiting for the day bloggers get awarded with Datukship for their contribution for change to the country. Or perhaps I can just write a darn good novel and win a Pulitzer or something.
Until then, my coffee mug remains unchanged.