When a Datuk dishonours his title

By Mariam Mokhtar

When a Datuk is found to have committed a crime, he should be stripped of the title. Perhaps Parliament should debate a motion seeking a law to provide for this.

We are told that the title is awarded to people who have been involved in charitable causes or given excellent services to the nation. It is conceivable that a selection committee vets a person’s character as soon as he is nominated.

So what happens to the Datuk who is involved in corruption? He shames the Datuk fraternity, embarrasses his family, dishonours the sultan who gave him the title and brings into disrepute his profession or the government department he works for if he is a civil servant.

It is known that a Datukship opens many doors to the person who is given the title. Some Datuks know how to milk the title for all it is worth.

Many Datuks are implicated in the recent spate of MACC arrests of senior civil servants and bank officials.

Last March, MACC officers arrested a senior civil servant from her home in an operation code-named “Ops Tiris”. The woman, a Datuk, was allegedly involved in a scheme that allowed certain companies to escape the government’s tender procedures. These companies were subsequently able to operate more than 40 retail outlets at government hospitals.

The Datuk’s alleged accomplice, a former government officer, was also arrested for his involvement in the scheme, which netted about RM20 million worth of bribes.

A few months later, the MACC arrested three more Datuks, all of whom were civil servants in their 50s. They were allegedly involved in corruption, abuse of power and money laundering. The MACC froze around RM13 million in their bank accounts.

These Datuks were working in a government department, a local authority and a government-linked company. It is alleged that their ill-gotten gains were used to purchase several condominiums, a bungalow, and Maseratis, BMWs and Audis.

Last month, the MACC questioned four Tourism Ministry workers regarding a ministry official who is a Datuk Seri. The allegations involve abuses of power.

Worse was to follow when “Ops Water” exposed another shocking scandal early this month. The Director and Deputy Director of the Sabah Water Department were allegedly involved in a multimillion-ringgit scandal linked to the award of construction contracts.

Around RM115 million were recovered, together with jewellery, designer bags, luxury vehicles and land titles. The Deputy Director’s brother, who is a businessman and a Datuk, was also arrested.

These Datuks may well turn out to be innocent, but history tells us that there’s no guarantee that one with a Datukship won’t bring disrepute to the nation. MPs need to demand that corrupt officials and businessmen be stripped of the title.

The board that awards these titles need to polish up its act and scrutinise each nomination. The members of the board have failed the people because so many Datuks are perceived to be corrupt. They have also brought disrepute to the sultans who give these titles.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

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