DAP calls for Royal Commission of Inquiry into the abuses and corruption of the honours sytem to restore dignity and public respect to the honours system
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): For the past week, the abuses and corruption of the honours system are again in the news, sparked off by last Sunday’s comment by Awang Selamat in Mingguan Malaysia entitled “Datuk sana, Datuk sini”.
This is not the first time that the abuses and corruption of the honours system had been in the news. The question is whether this time it would lead to any effective action to end such a rot or whether the fuss would die down as in the past without any follow-up action to surface later for another short-lived public outrage.
During the Gaya by-election in Sabah in October last year, I had narrated what the Sabah State Assembly had been told in 2001 of a joke going around the peninsula that “if you throw a stone into a crowd in Sabah, not only will it hit a datuk but it will ricochet off him and hit another datuk”.
It would appear that this Sabah disease has spread to some states in peninsular Malaysia, with a variation of the “stone-throwing” story, “If you throw stones at any group of Malaysians, probably half of of those hit will be datuks”!
It was reported last year that 650 individuals were conferred Datukships all over the country in 2001. The most number of newly-minted Datuks came from Pahang (105) and the least Johore (1). Selangor (90), Malaccca and Perak (60 each), Penang (59) and Negri Sembilan (55) were described by one commentator as “normally the most generous states giving out the titles”, repeating another columnist’s cynical prediction that “one day, there would be more Datuks than Enciks”. (New Straits Times 22.12.02).
Last Sunday, Awang Selamat referred to the latest updates last year – 6,314 were conferred honours country-wide, 531 of them given Datukships, led by Pahang (93), Malacca (79), Penang (56), Perak (53) and Sabah (51).
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Rais Yatim, had said that only three states were not involved in the datukship-for-sale racket, with the market price for the award ranging from RM50,000 to RM200,000.
New Sunday Times, in its editorial “Correcting a national disgrace”, said “Current state leaders should not feign ignorance” of the datukship-for-sale racket and called for the prosecution of the buyers and sellers and the stripping of the awards from these errant recipients.
As New Sunday Times did not call on Rais to lodge a formal police report with the Anti-Corruption Agency so that actions could be taken, nobody expects any prosecution or stripping of titles to take place for the honours-for-sale racket.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had described this state of affairs as “embarrassing”. It would be a national tragedy making a total mockery of the start of Abdullah’s new premiership and his pledge for a “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” administration if this comment is the only government response, without any follow-up action whatsoever, to the adverse publicity about the titles-for-sale racket.
Even if there is to be no prosecutions or award-stripping for past abuses and corruption of the honours system, there must be a totally new start to restore dignity and public respect to the honours system.
This issue should top the agenda of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, and the least it should do is to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the nominations for the national and state awards to restore dignity and public respect to the honours system, giving a detailed state-by-state as well as national report on the titles-for-sale racket with recommendations to root out all abuses and corruption of the system.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman