ROYAL awards are meant for those who have shown loyalty, gallantry, and service to the sultan, king or country. On occasions, they have been hung round the wrong necks. Or pinned on undeserving lapels. Happily, this may not happen again. The discerning are at it. Rules and criteria are getting strict and the vetting process more robust. And committees are going sharp ears and keen eyes, as a 14th century Chinese idiom would put it.
The number of awards is being reduced too. Selangor has made a good start. Of the 958 nominated for the royal honours, only 19 were conferred awards by Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah at an investiture yesterday to mark his 74th birthday. A drop from 25 awards of last year. Other states are similarly making sure that titles do go to the honourable. Only thus can the distinguished, eminent, noble and venerable be assured the honours.
The police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Malaysian Insolvency Department, too, are casting the nets wide. This is to avoid the undeserving — such as those with criminal records — being conferred the awards for which the nominations are made. The police and MACC should go further often as they have done in the past. They should investigate awardees who are involved in criminal activities and recommend revocation of the titles. And fake awardees, too. There are two reasons for this. One, it will preserve the dignity of the royal awards. Two, such a move will put an end to criminals and fake titleholders from stealing the dignity away from the deserving.
Criminals with titles and fake “Datuk” are not uncommon. Perhaps the most famous of the “titled” criminal was a 32-year-old “Datuk” reported to be the head of a notorious gang shot dead by his bodyguard on Dec 6, 2016. We are not short of peddlers of make-believe either. Last year, a Sessions Court sentenced two individuals — a “Datuk Seri” and a single mother — to 15 months’ jail and fined RM24,000 after being found guilty of eight counts of deceiving eight people into buying fake “Datuk” title from Kelantan. The eight were said to have lost RM735,000 in the title chase. There have been other peddlers before. On Nov 16, 2017, a news portal reported the arrest of two men by the Johor police for hawking fake “Datuk” and “Datuk Seri” titles to 40 businessmen. They were said to have lost millions. Things people do to purchase fame. Let’s be brutal. Our sympathy is not with such pseudos.
Some Malaysians are really title chasers. Real or fake, it doesn’t seem to matter. To them we say this: honours are earned for loyalty, gallantry and service. “Earned” doesn’t mean “bought”. Not everything can be purchased. A royal title is one of them. If one really wants this royal award, one should work for it. Be loyal and serve the state or country. Or display valour. Do not try buying them from peddlers. Honours are not street goods to be bought and sold. Besides, people can easily spot a fake title. By the fake who adorns it. Instead, go for the real thing.