On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Duty and decorum come with honorific titles

Barely 24 hours later, a developer from Malacca, who was
appointed a Justice of the Peace last month, allegedly brandished his pistol at
a motorist after a minor misunderstanding.

The case of the two businessmen should serve as an
eye-opener to other title-holders, reminding them of the need to behave
properly, in accordance with the dignity of the title.

It is hoped that the Sultan of Selangor's decision will
be emulated by his fellow rulers as only the Sultan or Yang di-Pertua Negri can
revoke a title, award or medal conferred on an individual.

Honours and awards must be taken seriously because these
decorations are a part of our rich tradition. These awards, which date back to
the Malacca Sultanate period, are only bestowed on the official birthday of the
King or state rulers.

The investiture is conducted by the King or the rulers in
person in the presence of the Prime Minister or Mentri Besar, reflecting the
importance of the occasion. These awards are conferred on Malaysians who are
deemed to have contributed to the state or country.

But over the years, many Malaysians have felt that the
Conference of Rulers should give greater thought to the awarding of these
titles to protect their prestige.

Any person who has been convicted, for example, should
not be allowed to keep his Datukship. It makes a mockery of the system when a
person is still referred to as Yang Berbahagia or addressed as Datuk when he is
behind bars or had been jailed.

Similarly, those who have fled the country because they
are being sought by police should have their titles revoked. After all, if
these Datuks have nothing to hide, there is no reason for them to run from the

In fact, the police and Official Assignee should screen
the background of those nominated for Datukship, JPs and other awards.

There should also be a limit to the number of Datukship
given out each year to maintain its prestige as well as an age limit for

The general sentiment among Malaysians is that there are
too many Datuks, especially titled businessmen whose contributions may just be
their financial commitment to charities.

Lately, we have read of impatient businessmen who
allegedly buy their Datukship from dubious rulers from Mindanao
in the Philippines.
The conferment of these titles is held at hotel function rooms and there
appears to be no shortage of businessmen who are prepared to pay for these
medals, although they are not recognised officially.

As it is not an offence to put a Datuk honorific on their
business cards, these businessmen are ready to be thick-faced about it. After
all, not everyone would check the authenticity of these titles.

The Sultan of Selangor is also angry with motorists who
display fraudulent state crests and has asked the Road Transport Department to
check on this.

It is a timely move as we now see motorists displaying
all kinds of crests and emblems, from so-called shooting clubs to youth clubs,
on their vehicles. Some of these clubs could be non-existent.

In the past, only members of the Bar Council, Members of
Parliament, assemblymen and Datuks are allowed to display these crests, which
are registered by the various organisations. The state councils of Datuks keep
a register of the various vehicles approved to use these crests.

If that's not enough, it is now a norm to see stickers on
most cars, supposedly representing Bukit Aman or the Ex-Policemen's
Association. Perhaps these people assume that the police will not summon them
if they commit a traffic offence.

While the Sultan of Selangor did not address the position
of JPs, many Malaysians have questioned the basis of awarding this title, which
is recognised in all Commonwealth countries.

The JPs, who have the authority of second-class
magistrates, are expected to be noble people with some standing – and education
– in the community.

Age and financial standing alone should no longer be the
main criteria. We expect our JPs to have a sound education, preferably a
university degree, so they can perform their duties effectively.

The Sultan of Selangor may be the newest ruler but he has
shown he is responsive to the people's feelings.