Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sir Datuk Seri

Yesterday, I got my daily automobile news update and I saw an article that Carlos Ghosn has been appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE). Below are some excerpts from that article:

Carlos Ghosn is the celebrity CEO of both Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, and is revered in Japan as the auto industry's turnaround king, having rescued Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy in 1999 and turning it into one of the world's most profitable carmakers.

"I am deeply honored by this recognition from the United Kingdom," Ghosn was quoted as saying in a statement released by Nissan. "This honor is dedicated to the hard work and achievements of our 5,500 employees and 220 dealers that support the Nissan business in the United Kingdom," he said.

The Brazil-born Frenchman of Lebanese descent cannot use the title "Sir" -- an honor only subjects of the British queen enjoy -- but can call himself Carlos Ghosn, KBE. Past recipients of the title in the business world include Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and Sony Corp. co-founder Akio Morita.
Cool, Britain sure has some distinguished people in their awards lists. So, what awards does the UK give out each year? Here's the Guide to the Honours on BBC.
Guide to the Honours

British honours are awarded on merit, for exceptional achievement or service. Anybody can recommend a British national for an honour, which consist of life peerages, knighthoods, appointments to the Order of the British Empire and gallantry awards to servicemen and women and civilians.

The Queen chooses the recipients on the advice of the Prime Minister, to whom recommendations are sent either by government ministers or by members of the public. The honours are published in the official Crown newspaper, the London Gazette. Private nominations, made by individuals or by representatives of organisations to the Prime Ministers' Office, make up around a quarter of all recommendations. Honorary awards for foreign nationals are recommended by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. A number of these orders for chivalry are made after a personal decision made by the Queen.

Life Peers

Life peerages are the only form of peerages regularly created by the Sovereign. A life peer becomes a baron and sits in the House of Lords on conferment of peerage. These are titles which they hold only during their lifetime and are not passed to their heirs.

Knights Bachelor

The honour of knighthood comes from the days of medieval chivalry, as does the method used to confer the knighthood: the accolade (the touch of a sword by the Sovereign). Although Knights Bachelor do not comprise an order of chivalry, knighthood is a dignity which has its origins in Britain in Saxon times. They are styled "Sir" (except for clergymen who do not receive the accolade) and their wives "Lady". Women receiving the honour are styled "Dame" but do not receive the accolade.

The Order of the Bath

The Order of the Bath is an order of chivalry and was founded in 1725 for service of the highest calibre. The order has a civil and military division and is awarded in the following ranks: Knight Grand Cross (GCB), Knight Commander (KCB) and Companion (CB). The Order takes its name from the symbolic bathing which in former times was often part of the preparation of a candidate for knighthood.

Order of St Michael and St George

This Order was founded by King George III in 1818 and is awarded to British subjects who have rendered extraordinary and important services abroad or in the Commonwealth. Ranks in the Order are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG), Knight or Dame Commander (KCMG or DCMG) and Companion (CMG).

Order of the Companions Honour

This is awarded for service of conspicuous national importance and is limited to 65 people. Recipients wear the initials CH after their name. Orders of the British Empire King George V in 1917 created these honours during World War 1 to reward services to the war effort by civilians at home and servicemen in support positions. The orders are now awarded mainly to civilians and service personnel for public service or other distinctions and has a military and a civil division. Ranks in the Order are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight or Dame Commander (KBE or DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE) and Member (MBE).

Royal Victorian Order

By 1896, prime ministers and governments had increased their influence over the distribution of awards and had gained almost total control of the system. Therefore, Queen Victoria instituted The Royal Victorian Order as a personal award for services performed on her behalf. Today this honour is still awarded in recognition of services to the royal family. The ranks are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GCVO), Knight or Dame Commander (KCVO or DCVO), Commander (CVO), Lieutenant (LVO) and Member (MVO).

Royal Victorian Medal

Associated with the Royal Victorial Order is the Royal Victorian Medal which has three grades: gold, silver and bronze. The circular medal is attached to the ribbon of the Order. More than one grade may be held by the same person and the medal may be worn along with the insignia of the Order itself.

Royal Red Cross

Founded in 1883 by Queen Victoria, The award is confined to the Nursing Services. Those awarded the First Class are designated "Members" (RRC): those awarded the Second Class are designated "Associates" (ARRC). It is said that the suggestion for the founding of this decoration was made to Queen Victoria by Miss Florence Nightingale.

Queen's Police Medal

This is awarded for distinguished service to the police force.

Queen's Fire Service Medal

This honour is given to firemen who have displayed conspicuous devotion to duty.
Wow, this is some great stuff. How about us? How about awards and honours in Malaysia? It's not all Tun, Tan Sris and Datuks, right?

Here's some information I found on about our local awards:
Malay titles

Federal titles

In Malaysia, federal awards are granted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and some may carry the following federal titles. Such titles are honorary and non-hereditary.


Tun is the most senior federal title awarded to recipients of either the SMN (Seri Maharaja Mangku Negara) or SSM (Seri Setia Mahkota). However, the SMN and SSM are not the highest federal award. The SMN ranks fourth in order of Federal Awards and the SSM ranks fifth. The highest federal award granted by the Malaysian government is the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa.

There may not be more than 25 local living holders of this award at a time. The honorific address for the wife of a Tun is Toh Puan. The most recent recipients (as of June 2005) in Malaysia are former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, who were both bestowed the title upon the former's retirement from politics and the government in October 2003.

The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may receive the award in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.

Tan Sri

Tan Sri is the second most senior federal title and a honorific used to denote recipients of the PMN (Panglima Mangku Negara) and the PSM (Panglima Setia Mahkota). the PMN and PSM rank seventh and eight respectively in the order of Malaysian Federal Awards.

There may be at any time up to a maximum of 75 PMN holders living at any one time, and a maximum of 120 PSM holders living at any one time. The wife of a Tan Sri is Puan Sri.

The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may receive the award in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.


Datuk is a federal title has been conferred since 1965 and limited to recipients of PJN (Panglima Jasa Negara) of which there may be up to 200 living at any one time, and PSD (Panglima Setia Diraja) of which there may be up to 70 living at any one time. The PJN and PSN rank 9th and 10th respectively in the rank of federal awards.

The wife of a federal Datuk is a Datin.

The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may receive the award in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.

Some states also confer awards that carry the title "Datuk". The award of these titles is determined by the individual rulers and there is no set limit on the number of state Datuks. The record on the number of Datukships given out in one year is 2004 by the Sultan of Pahang whereby 92 were awarded in conjunction with his 74th birthday.

State titles

The following titles, which roughly correspond to the British knighthood, can be granted by the Ruler or Governor of each state. They are honorary and non-hereditary.


* Dato' Seri Utama is the highest state title, below Tun but above Tan Sri. The wife of a recipent is "Datin Seri Utama" .
* Dato' Seri or Dato' Paduka ranks below the federal titles above. The wife of a Dato' Seri is a Datin Seri.
* Dato' (Datuk if conferred by Governors rather than Rulers) is the most common chivalrous title. The wife of a Dato' is a Datin, except in Terengganu where they are known as "To' Puan" (not to be confused with "Toh Puan", the wife of a non-hereditary "Tun").
* There are also hereditary Datukships from Negeri Sembilan. These are not conferred by the ruler, but passed on through the customary native laws. The wife of a hereditary Dato' is addressed by courtesy as "To' Puan".

Some state rulers grant awards which carry titles unique to that state, such as the Dato' Seri diRaja of the state of Perak, Dato' Wira of the state of Melaka (Malacca) and Datuk Amar and Datuk Patinggi of the state of Sarawak and Datuk Seri Panglima of the state of Sabah.

State awards may be revoked by the Ruler or Governor, and may be returned by the individual.

Protection of value of titles

Not all Datuks have lived exemplary lives and some have even been convicted of crimes. The various sultans have taken steps to ensure the integrity of the institution.

Tun Dr Mahathir mentioned that one of the problems with titles in Malaysia is the numbers given out. He stated in an interview "Personally, I feel if you want to give value to anything, it must be limited...if you produce a million Ferrari cars, nobody will care about buying a Ferrari.

"The Raja Muda (Prince in line of succession) of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah stated "That is my view. You degrade the award and the Ruler has the right to revoke it. In my opinion, it should be taken away." He also stated that "Sometimes, I think we give away too many dilutes and devalues the award."

In the first government following the independence of Malaya in 1957, 5 of 15 cabinet Ministers were Datuks. The finance minister at the time, Tan Siew Sin, held the title Justice of Peace. Later he was granted a Federal award which carried the title Tun. The father of Malayan independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, received no awards and carried the title "Tunku" which was inherited by him being the prince of the state of Kedah. He was honorarily referred to as "Yang Teramat Mulia". The senate held only 14 datuks and parliament held only 7.

* The datuks of Selangor attempted to set up an association of Selangor Datuks. It received approval from the registrar of societies but was shelved when the Sultan forbade any datuk from joining or risk losing the title.
* Four datuks were removed in 2003 by the Sultan of Selangor.
* In 2004 Six Datuks had their titles "suspended" by the Sultan of Selangor. The six are on trial. The palace issued a statement through the state secretary that the title would automatically be withdrawn if they were convicted or restored if they were acquitted. In the meantime they may not use the title "datuk" as issued by the Sultan of Selangor. They may still declare federal titles or titles granted by other states, the six are:

* Tan Sri Eric Chia Eng Hock who was awarded the Datuk Seri Indera Alam Diraja in 1985 which carries the title "Datuk Diraja". He is on trial for criminal breach of trust. He does not use his Selangor title since he has a higher title.
* Datuk Saidin Thambi, former Selangor state asseblyman and executive counciller, awarded the Datuk Paduka Mahkota Selangor (DPMS) in 1985 which carries the title "Datuk". On trial for corruption.
* Datuk Mohd Saberi Salleh, formerly a dean in UiTM, awarded the Datuk Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (DSSA) in 1999 which carries the title "Datuk". On trial for verifying false invoices.
* Former Tabung Haji senior general manager Datuk Mohamad Shafie, awarded the Datuk Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (DSSA) in 1999 which carries the title "Datuk". On trial for cheating.
* Datuk Mohd Shariff Jajang, former Selangor executive counciller, awarded the Datuk Paduka Mahkota Selangor (DPMS) in 1991 which carries the title "Datuk". Additionally he holds the award Setia-Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (SSA) awarded 1988. On trial for corruption.
* Datuk Chow C. K. Kenneth alias A.Wira Tjakrawinata, an Indonesian businessman, awarded the Datuk Paduka Mahkota Selangor (DPMS) in 1999. He is on trial for furnishing false information to the Securities Commission.
* Robert Chan Win Ing and Tan Hok Low had their datukships withdrawn in 2004.

* The sultan of Pahang revoked the titles of two datuks in 2004.
* Datuk Seri Koh Kim Teck, executive director of a stockbroking firm, awarded Sri Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang in 2003. He was charged with the murder of his 14 year-old nephew.
* Datuk Tee Yam lost his Pahang title for involvement in undesirable activities.
Hmmm, looks like the Malaysian honours, titles and awards are a little tainted somewhat. But as our politicians like to argue, we're not the best, but the rest are not that good either. So, let me see... do the British honours suffer from dishonourable conduct from its honourees like ours?

Indeed they do. Lim Kit Siang's blog mentions 2 articles about (1) someone refusing an OBE because it's something you give to toilet cleaners for keeping toilets spotless and (2) a political party chairman being investigated by Scotland Yard for allegedly offering peerages in return for loans.

Seems to pale in comparison to some of the shit our Datuks have their fingers in, doesn't it?

What about the number of awards? Malaysians have always suspected that too many awards are being given out each year. So is this true?

Firstly, how many awards does the Queen of England give out each year?
2006 Honours List
The 2006 list of honourees is 96 pages long with approximately 10 names per page. That means about 1000 people get honours each year from Britain.

So how about Malaysia?

A recent NST article stated that in 2006, the Sultan of Pahang will award honours to 915 people, of which 96 carry the title Datuk or Datuk Seri.
Datukship for Siti Nurhaliza
NST Online 24 Oct 2006
You can check the honour lists in other states from this Star website:
Lists of federal and state awards since 2002.
But I won't go through it one by one. Let me do a rough estimate. My calculations are by necessity simplistic (I can't be bothered), but they do indicate the potential size of our absurdity when awarding honours.

If Pahang issues 915 titles a year, and from Star's list, we have roughly 11 entities (sultans, the yang dipertuan agong and yang dipertuan negeris) giving honours each year... and if each of them give 900 awards a year, we will have 10,000 new honourees each year. And consistent with Pahang 2006, let's say 11% of the awards carry the title Datuk or better, we have over a 1,000 new Datuks a year... or better.

This means that Malaysia probably produces 10 times more honourees than the UK each year (10,000 vs 1,000), and just the number of Malaysian awards that carry titles is as many as the total number of awards in the UK (1,000 vs 1,000).

Let put things into perpective. If quantity means quality, then Malaysia boleh! But when it comes to awards, obviously exclusivity means value.

Malaysia issues 10,000 awards a year for a population of 26 million. This is a ratio of 1 award per 2600 people.

The UK issues 1,000 awards a year for a population of 60 million. The ratio is 1 award per 60,000 people.

So, are we 23 times better than the British when it comes to achievements, merit and contribution?

You tell me, Datuk (assuming that 1,000 Datukships have been issued each year since Independence, there should be roughly 49,000 Datuks today if nobody died. Therefore, there is a 1:5306 chance that the reader of this blog is a Datuk or better, and 1:531 chance that he's has at least one award). So, I better be polite. Mintak maaf ya, Datuk.

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