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Of fake titles and entitlement


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Honorific titles are a common facet of Malaysia’s public life, the presence of which is felt through investiture ceremonies and the high-profile activities of award recipients. 

Over the years, the number of titles has grown to the extent cynics have described the titled cohort as a dime a dozen.

Titles, if they are to be valued and respected by all, should be given to those who deserve them while strictly adhering to the award criteria.

For example, an excellent academic who, say, has found a cure for a certain disease or developed a profound theory in the social sciences deserves due recognition compared to those who have merely performed basic tasks prescribed in their job specifications.

A person should not be awarded a title simply because of ‘political connections’, ie he or she is a friend of people in high places.

In principle, honorifics are bestowed on individuals in recognition of their contributions and services to the nation – in industry, education, the arts, sports and science.

Titles such as Datuk and Tan Sri accord the recipients a sense of public importance and accomplishment. This is apart from the consequent deference given to the titled by sections of our society.

However, certain recipients have over the years developed a delusion of grandeur to the extent that they expect their supposed badges of honour ‘to open doors’ to business opportunities and other forms of pecuniary possibilities.

Such a sense of entitlement has crept in among some of these recipients, making them presumptuous and obnoxious.

At the same time, the rise of fake titles has become a cause for concern for the Council of Datuk Dato’ Malaysia.

READ MORE:  Auditing professorial integrity

Here we are talking about, as reported by The Malaysian Insight recently, people, such as company directors or CEOs, who deceive members of the public by falsely claiming to be Datuk.

The perks that come with genuine titles are envied by con artists. To be sure, a Datuk receives more than just the clout to jump queues.

It was reported that dubious titles that are put up for sale range between RM60,000 (for ‘Datuk’) and RM100,000 (for ‘Datuk Seri’).

Soliciting for awards or selling fake awards is punishable with a fine of up to RM500,000 or 20 years’ jail. But that, apparently, has not deterred culprits. 

Certain people’s obsession with obtaining titles, particularly fake ones, may be partly stirred by the misconduct of, say, certain Datuks and Datuk Seris who have been successful in amassing wealth through devious means.

These latter people may have genuine titles, but they are fakes to the core to the point of devaluing the worth of the titles they wear on their sleeves.

Such misconduct is an affront to the notion of the titled being individuals of moral uprightness, integrity and high social standing.

Be that as it may, these genuine titles have a role in society.

However, we should also acknowledge that beyond these titles, there are everyday people with high integrity, diligence and loyalty to the country who deserve our appreciation. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Mustafa K Anuar
Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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