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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Proud of dubious titles: Datukship award ...

Abdul Latif presenting an award to Koh at an investiture ceremony at the ‘balai rasmi’ in Simpang Ampat, Malacca, on Feb 16, 2013

PETALING JAYA: Scores of recipients of questionable awards from territorial chieftains are shamelessly displaying their dubious titles of “Datuk”, “Datuk Paduka” and “Datuk Seri” online.

A website lists a number of people with Datukships conferred by Malacca’s Undang Luak of Naning, Dato’ Seri Raja Merah Dato’ Abdul Latif Hashim.

The website also contains a full list of awards conferred by the chieftain, compri­sing 60 awards under 11 categories.

Awards in the first 10 categories come with different titles while the last category – with three awards – does not come with a title.

The categories range from Anugerah Darjat Kerabat Gelaran, which lists the highest award as the Darjah Kerabat Undang Naning, to the Anugerah Kehormat Gelaran, which carries the title Datuk.

The Star reported recently that Abdul Latif handed out scores of unrecognised Datuk­ships and other titles to those who had “contributed” to the Naning Territory.

Another self-claimed “Malacca-Perak Sul­tan” Ahmad Shah Raja Noor Jan Shah had also awarded titles to over 90 people.

Awards conferred by territorial heads and self-styled traditional leaders are not recognised anywhere in the country, unlike those conferred by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and heads of state.

As of yesterday, two people had been identified on the website as recipients of the highest award, the Darjah Kerabat Undang Naning, which carries the title Datuk Seri Diraja.

Twenty-three others carry the title “Datuk”, of whom 17 were awarded the Darjah Kehormat Undang Naning while the rest were conferred the Darjah Kehormat Wilayah Naning.

Other titled recipients are Datuk Paduka Seri and Datuk Jaksa (six recipients each), Datuk Seri (one recipient), Datuk Paduka (nine recipients) and Datuk Panglima (five recipients).

The website also contains background information on Naning Territory, photographs of the Naning flag and those of its divisions, the current chieftain of Naning and pictures of his birthday in 2010.

‘I was told to pay RM90,000 for award’

KUALA LUMPUR: A week after his face appeared in the newspaper, a recipient of the unrecognised Dato Kehormat Undang Naning award has claimed that he was led to believe the award was genuine and he almost paid RM90,000 for it.

Sebestian Koh, 49, said there were over 100 recipients that day receiving one of three titles – Datuk Seri, Datuk Paduka and Datuk.

Koh also refuted a statement by Malacca’s Undang Luak of Naning, Dato’ Seri Raja Merah Dato’ Abdul Latif Hashim, that he did not confer the title.

Showing photographs of him receiving the award at the “balai rasmi” in Simpang Ampat, Malacca, on Feb 16, Koh said: “I think the confusion must have arisen because there were so many people being awarded titles that day, so he (Abdul Latif) might not have remembered me.

“I was told by a friend, who also received the award, that it was recognised by the Government. He said I could even include the title in my MyKad and passport.

“Although I had never heard of the award, I decided to accept it since they were conferring it on me anyway.”

Koh was speaking to reporters at the MCA Public Service and Com­plaints Department yesterday.

The Star had front-paged the issue of questionable titles conferred by Naning chieftains and interviewed Abdul Latif and Ahmad Shah Raja Noor Jan Shah, who claimed to be the “Malacca-Perak Sultan”.

Abdul Latif had said that the investiture ceremony to confer titles was purely customary and the awards were merely customary titles with no connection to those bestowed by the Malacca Government.

In November last year, Koh said his friend, a certain “Datuk” Teoh, had called to inform him about the Datukship and handed over a “surat watikah”.

He said he was also informed about the RM90,000 “standard donation” for the title, which would be “contributed” to the Naning territory.

Before the investiture ceremony, Koh said he paid RM6,000 for a yellow sash with red stripes, a medal with the words “Dato Kehormat” and a card identifying him as a title holder.

When asked if he knew that the award was dubious, Koh admitted that he did know that the historical state had no sultan.

“The one conferring the title claimed to be a descendant of the Malacca sultanate and I asked around to check if this was true,” he said, confessing however that this was not done thoroughly as whatever information he had, coupled with Teoh’s persuasion, made everything “look very real”.

A few months after he accepted the award, Koh said his friends asked if they could advertise their congratulatory messages, to which he agreed.

“Only after The Star article on the Datuks of Naning was published did I realise that I had received an unrecognised award. My friends are laughing at me for being a recipient of a fake award. It is very embarrassing.”

When asked about his next move, Koh said he would not lodge a police report but had set aside the award and moved on.

On whether the award might be revoked if he did not settle the “standard donation”, Koh waved it off as a non-issue, adding that “it was not recognised anyway”.

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