Mariam Mokhtar: When every Mat, Muthu and Mah, is made a Datuk

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There will soon be a time, when being just ordinary Joe Public will be special.

The Datuk club is getting crowded.

What’s the point of a Datukship, and perhaps, they ought to be scrapped, especially when every Mat, Muthu and Mah, is made a Datuk.

The latest Federal Territory honours list is seen by the majority of the rakyat as a sign of a government which rewards inefficient and incompetent ministers with titles.

Not just that, alleged Umno-Baru thugs, are also given awards.

Guess who the rakyat will get angry with. No, not the newly made Datuks nor the vetters. Think!

Of late, Datuks who misbehave, and Datuks who are involved in the criminal underworld, have caused a lot of public anger.

Were police checks on the criminal records of nominees for the Datukship, less than thorough? What sort of message is being passed to the rakyat, when a known criminal prides himself on being called a Datuk?

In January, we read about the Datuk from Kelantan who was involved in domestic violence. A Datuk attacked the son of another Datuk and slapped a member of the staff of a steamboat restaurant, before he was dragged away from the restaurant by his friends. A few days later, two Datuks traded punches over a helicopter parked in a porch and yesterday a Datuk was found to have dumped construction rubble in a forest reserve. Aren’t Datuks supposed to be of exemplary character?

On 1 February, which is Federal Territory Day, 14 ministers and deputies were conferred the honorific, Datuk, Datuk Seri or Datuk Seri Utama (DSU). If you are confused with the many Datuk titles, think of it as the various types of milk. There is skimmed milk with a fat content of 01.%, semi-skimmed milk (1.8 % fat) and whole or full-fat milk, which has a fat content of 3.25 %.

Were any of the new Datuks or people who received the lesser awards, medical frontliners?

Frontliners should include the support staff, such as cleaners, laboratory staff and security personnel, who risked their lives, and devoted their waking hours, to taking care of the thousands of people who had contracted Coronavirus. There are other groups of frontliners, like the bus and lorry drivers, the supermarket shelf-stockers and the vegetable farmers, without whom we would not be able to move around or who put food on our tables. Did any of them receive awards?

Other recipients of the “DSU” award in the FT list, include the Governors of Penang, Sabah and Malacca, the Pahang MB, and curiously, Ragad Kurdi, who is the wife of the Sarawak Governor, Taib Mahmud. Originally from Syria, she and her children from her previous marriage have been classified as Melanau, to the consternation of other Sarawakians who are deemed stateless, or whose foreign spouses are not accorded the same treatment as Ragad.

Most Sarawakians wonder about Ragad’s contribution to the state. How did she help to uplift the lives and well-being of the women of Sarawak? Was she aware of the latest rape of the 16-year-old in the Miri police lock-up?

Others who were conferred the Datuk title, were Umno-Baru Youth committee members, Mohd Lassim Burhan and Muhamad Muqharabbin Mokhtaruddin, and the Selangor Umno-Baru Youth chief, Rizam Ismail, who is also the Sungai Air Tawar assemblyman.

Do any of these names ring a bell? What is their contribution to society?

The Umno-Baru Youth exco member, Wan Muhammad Azri Wan Deris, who is better known as Papagomo, was awarded the Darjah Kebesaran Pangkat Keempat Johan Mahkota Wilayah (JMW), which does not come with a title.

Papagomo is better known for his controversial and violent methods than he is for promoting inclusivity. His award is totally inappropriate. Only people of good character, with years of serving the public, should receive awards.

Most people are fed-up with politicians being given honorifics. The Finance minister is now a DSU. Many wonder what he has done to save small-to-medium-sized businesses from failing. Those who are self-employed, like freelance workers, are desperate for help, but what assistance have they received? Most are probably scraping the bottom of the barrel of their savings. How will they feed their families or pay the rent or their loans? Zafrul Aziz may have forgotten that when companies go bust, they are forced to make their employees redundant, and join the list of unemployed people.

The Education Minister, Mohd Radzi Md Jidin, has not been effective, despite having two deputies to assist him. Parents and teachers are furious with Radzi for his indecision over school opening. When he delayed the announcement that schools will not reopen in January, many parents had already bought uniforms and shoes for the start of the academic year. The young children will outgrow their clothes very quickly. Did parents spend money on uniforms and shoes for nothing? They are not happy with the quality of online teaching. Those from poorer households don’t have internet coverage, or a tablet or smartphone to access online teaching.

Children are on best behaviour when they are desperate for something from their parents.

Likewise, do Datuks do a bit of play-acting, to pretend to the vetters that they are of good character? – Rebuilding Malaysia