Criticisms and Guilt over Accepting Datukship

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Lawyers group says the ministers should have done the right thing and courteously declined to accept the titles.

  • Melaka DAP rep offers to return award
  • Guan Eng criticises DAP reps who received awards and titles from state rulers
  • Lawyers group says ministers should have declined ‘Datuk Seri’ title

Datuk Wong Fort Pin has offered to return the Darjah Mulia Seri Melaka conferred upon him during the 80th birthday of the Melaka Yang di-Pertua last week after being chastised by his party leaders for accepting the state award.

The DAP lawmaker who is also deputy Speaker in the Melaka state legislative assembly explained that he had not asked for the award, but accepted it to avoid being seen as insulting the state governor, Sinar Harian reported today.

“If the party leadership asks to return the award, I am ready to do so.

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“I’m stuck, and feel guilty. But because I respect the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, it’s not polite for me to reject the award, not because we asked for it, but it was given,” Wong was quoted saying.

The Bemban assemblyman was further reported admitting that he had not paid sufficient attention to his party’s principles.

Wong’s reported remarks come after DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng chided party members who accepted state or federal awards that confer them with titles such as ‘Datuk’, pointing out that even the Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahari did not accept the award.

He said accepting such titles was not reflective of the party’s principles and gave the people the wrong impression.

Lim, who spoke at the Perak DAP convention in Taiping yesterday, said it was important for party members to show integrity by rejecting such state awards to prove they were not after titles or positions while in public service.

He advised them to wait until retirement to accept, following in the example of former deputy prime minister, the late Tun Ghafar Baba.

He said that even DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and the late party veteran Karpal Singh had also refused any honours as all they wanted to do was to serve the people.

Though he did not specify anyone, it is believed that Lim was referring to some DAP elected representatives who were recently conferred awards by state rulers.

Specifically, they are Bandar Hilir assemblyman Tey Kok Kiew and Bemban assemblyman Wong Fort Pin, who received the Darjah Mulia Seri Melaka (DMSM), which carries the title Datuk, in conjunction with the Yang Dipertua Negri of Malacca Tun Dr Mohd Khalil Yaakob’s 80th birthday on Saturday.

Last week, two Sabah DAP leaders, Stephen Wong and Frankie Poon were conferred the Panglima Gemilang Darjah Kinabalu (PGDK), which also carries the title of Datuk.

“We should be proud just to be referred to as ‘Yang Berhormat’. We must focus on what is important now, which is to serve the people and save the economy.

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“I don’t want my words to be seen as disrespectful towards any state government but why should we receive awards during our first year in office? We must perform well first,” Lim declared.

The DAP central executive committee, its highest leadership council, is to meet on the matter this week.

Earlier, lawyers group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) called for an end to the practice of awarding politicians or ministers with honorary titles by virtue of their position.

In a statement yesterday, it said honorary titles should not simply be handed out, but rather awarded after a strenuous vetting process to those who had unquestionably contributed to society through “exceptional service beyond their call of duty”.

“Ministers who are currently still in office as well as other elected representatives generally should not receive such awards, especially solely by virtue of their office.

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“They are given the mandate by the people to administer and execute their duties for the betterment of society. Simply put, it is their job to contribute to society by virtue of their office, and that cannot be construed in any stretch as something that goes beyond their call of duty,” said LFL coordinator Zaid Malek.

He was referring to the awarding of the Darjah Gemilang Seri Melaka which carries the title of ‘Datuk Seri’ to five ministers.

The five ministers were Rural Development Minister Rina Mohd Harun, Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan MD Yusof, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religion) Dr Mujahid Yusof.

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Ministers Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof (second right), Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (left), Dzulkefly Ahmad (right) and Rina Mohd Harun (second left) after the award of the Darjah Gemilang Seri Melaka last week.

Deputy Primary Industries Minister Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin was also awarded the same title.

Zaid said the award of this title to the ministers was even more questionable considering that they had only been in office for about five months.

“(This is) too brief a period for anyone to say that any policy or action taken has brought significant improvement or contribution to society.

“These ministers should have done the right thing and courteously declined to accept the titles,” he said.