Fake datukships, what next?
Posted on 26 November 2012 - 07:29pm
MALAYSIA likely holds the record for the most people conferred awards and medals. Most awards in other countries come in the form of medals without honorific titles. But here again, we have the most titles.
Our awards have for many years come from 14 sources – the 13 states and at the federal level on the occasion of the birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Over the last four years, awards have also been conferred in conjunction with the Federal Territory Day celebrations on Feb 1.
The jury is still out on whether we are giving too many awards especially those carrying the Datuk title. Selangor has put a cap on datukships by tightening the criteria for recipients. Johor confers the smallest number among the states, sometimes none at all, during the Sultan's birthday.
Last year, Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan had expressed deep concern and dismay that a non-governmental organisation was conferring fake datukships. The NGO's office bearers claiming to be from the Kelantan palace were charging RM150,000 for each bogus datukship.
Kelantan palace legal adviser Datuk Sukri Mohamed was reported saying that the NGO, despite being deregistered, had "sold" Kelantan "Datuk" awards to 120 people over the last two years.
"People are willing to cough up as much as RM150,000 to get the honorific. In the latest case, the NGO held an investiture for the purpose at a hotel here (Kota Baru)," he told a press conference one and a half years ago. Following this "investiture", the palace had lodged three police reports and reminded the public that only the Sultan had the authority to award datukships and other titles and it was illegal for any other party to do so.
Despite the warning by Sukri in the presence of Kelantan CID chief ACP Lai Yong Heng at that press conference, apparently more title-hungry Malaysians have fallen victim.
Last week, the Kelantan palace's ceremonial chief, Datuk Abdul Halim Hamad, revealed that the fraudsters are still at work and the going price for the "titles" had gone up to RM200,000 each.
He said several people including some from Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur had been duped although no one had been authorised by the Sultan to confer the state's awards and medals for payment.
Halim advised those who had fallen prey to hand over the fake awards and medals to the authorities.
Some friends in Sarawak told me that they know of individuals who had bought fake Kelantan datukships, especially in the timber town of Sibu.
What is amazing is that despite getting the fake datukships with their eyes wide open, the "recipients" let the public know about it by throwing lavish parties.
"And to top it up, their friends and business associates take out full-page advertisements in the local Chinese newspapers to congratulate the recipients without any sense of guilt or shame," a prominent Sibu community leader told me.
The Sarawak edition of Sin Chew Daily reported last week on one such celebration in Sibu. In this case, the individual concerned was "awarded" the title of Dato' Sri Diraja from Kelantan but checks by the newspaper found no such title existed.
More than a year has passed since the Kelantan CID chief was reported as saying that investigations had started and statements had been taken from people who staged the "investiture".
Kelantan chief police officer Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said over the weekend that police had almost completed investigations and would submit the papers to the deputy public prosecutor.
"We are in the process of gathering information from individuals who are resident in Sarawak," he said.
To me, the selling and buying of fake datukships is a serious crime that could well undermine the very institution of legitimate award-giving in the country.
It is hard to fathom what goes on in the minds of people who think nothing about buying fake titles and then telling the world about it. Of course, for the syndicates, it's just another way of making big money by cashing in on the frenzy among those craving to display titles on their name-cards.
Equally bizarre is a recent announcement by the police in Selangor that they were investigating 40 individuals, including a Tan Sri and several politicians, believed to have bought fake degrees from an education institute in Subang Jaya.
This followed police raids on two premises in Cheras and Subang Jaya where computers and other equipment believed to have been used to produce the fake scrolls were seized. The syndicates were believed to have raked in RM5 million by selling fake scrolls since 2003.
A total of 525 people, including VIPs, are believed to have "graduated" and received fake degrees without attending lectures, sitting for examinations or submitting papers. Don't ask me why someone with the title of Tan Sri would still resort to allegedly buying a fake degree.
The police should inform the public about the progress of investigations into this scam.
Hardly a day passes without the media reporting on cheating cases and scams, the latest being those run by foreigners in the country on student visas. They operate syndicates via the internet from the comfort of their rented homes.
Just how much more advice can anyone give to those among us who are still gullible? I would say, perhaps none.
Azman Ujang is a former editor-in-chief of Bernama. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org