Attaining Datukship In Malaysia May Not Be As Impossible As You Think
Back in the day, the title of Datuk was bestowed only to select individuals. This included aging high-ranking civil servants, ministers in the cabinet, and judges in the High Court and above. In some cases, super rich towkays were granted the honorific as well.
It’s also worth noting that the group was so elite, even Malaysia’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman never became one.
What is Datuk anyway?
Being granted the title of Datuk meant that you were acknowledged as someone important in Malaysia.
Here is a quick guide on the titles available in Malaysia:
- Tun — the most senior federal title
- Tan Sri — the second most senior federal title
- Datuk — the third most senior federal title
Do note that these are just the federal titles by the Malaysian Government. State Sultans also also able to award state awards such as Dato’ Seri Utama, Dato’ Seri and Dato’ but for simplicity’s sake, let’s just focus on Datuk. For the sake of convenience, we’ll also be referring the various Datuk titles as just Datuk.
Currently, the number of Datuk is controlled in Johor. However, the title is “just an honorific”, and one must be awarded a pingat, for long service or an amazing feat performed on behalf of the state. The only way to receive an award now, is if a living “Datuk” has passed away.
That being said, gone are the days when being awarded Datuk was Malaysia’s equivalent of British knighthood. The title has since become a symbol of status in the culture of instant gratification.
How can I be a Datuk?
If you’ve always wanted to give it a try, you’re in luck because Malaysia’s status-obsessed society had caused the awarding of the title to get kinda out of hand. This has led to an abundance of people carrying the royal title which includes Singapore-born actor Aaron Aziz — otherwise known as Vincent Ng’s sidekick in Mediacorp’s Heartlanders.
Turns out, it’s actually not that difficult to be granted the title now. In fact, check out what the Sultan of Johor said:
It has come to a point that if you throw a stone, it will hit a Datuk and when the stone rebounds, it will hit another Datuk.
So what exactly does it take to be granted the title of Datuk? And if you plan on becoming one, what are some ways or things you can do to achieve that in Malaysia? Fret not, because we here at MustShareNews have got your back.
Here are seven ways to become a Datuk in Malaysia:
1. Be prominent in the entertainment industry
Having moved across the causeway in 2005, Mr Aziz has more than made a name for himself as one of the top actors in Malaysia. In fact, he was even dubbed Malaysia’s Andy Lau by the local press.
Starring in 18 films since 2008, he was recently granted to title of Datuk during the monarch of Pahang’s birthday on Saturday (16 Dec).
Another well-known celebrity that was given the title is Jackie Chan.
In conjunction with Federal Territories Day in February 2015, the Hong Kong actor and director was among the 71 recipients who were conferred at Istana Negara.
In case you’re wondering what he has anything to do with Malaysia, we invite you to check out Police Story 3 — which last scene was filmed in the country and also starred Malaysia’s own Tan Sri Dato’ Michelle Yeoh.
In that aspect, Mr Chan definitely put a lot of eyes on Malaysia.
2. Contribute to Malaysia’s tourism
Speaking of introducing Malaysia to the rest of the world, another way to gain Datukship is by contributing to Malaysia’s tourism.
King of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan was awarded the title in 2008 in conjunction with the Malacca Governor’s 70th birthday for having shot the movie “One 2 Ka 4” at the A Famosa Resort in 2001.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam explained his decision for doing so:
[The filming of the movie] resulted in many people visiting Malacca since then. The award is given in recognition of this.
Another example is then-Ferrari CEO Jean Todt – who has been dating Michelle Yeoh since 2004 – received Datukship in 2006.
While netizens speculated the decision was because of an investment Mr Todt made in Pulau Duyung, a possible factor could be his involving of Malaysia’s tourism during Formula One seasons. It was reported that Malaysia had experienced a 351% increase in the amount of international tourists since first hosting the race in 1999.
3. Be good at sports
Alternatively, another surefire way to be given Datukship is to excel at sports.
Just take a look at Nicol David – who was ranked world number 1 in squash for a record-breaking 108 months – and Lee Chong Wei — who won the silver medal for badminton during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
In fact, the impact of sports has been so significant in Malaysia that you don’t even need to be an athlete to stand a chance at the title. Mr Lee’s coach Misbun Sidek, and his father Sidek Abdullah Kamar were both granted Datukship for their contributions in shaping the career of the Olympic silver medalist.
Looks like family can play a part when being awarded titles.
4. Being related to one
Speaking of family, it is apparently possible to receive the title by simply being related to one.
That’s right, you can automatically gain Datukship via heredity — talk about being born with a silver spoon, eh?
In Negeri Sembilan, there are inherited Datukships which are held for life by the head of certain families. It can then be passed on to the next generation via customary native law. Likewise in Pahang, PM Najib’s family holds the hereditary title, which automatically allows him to be addressed as Datuk even if all his other titles are revoked.
Guess genes aren’t the only thing that can be passed on.
5. Marrying someone important
Apart from sports and entertainment, another indirect way of attaining Datukship would be to simply marry someone important.
For example, Jeanne Adbullah – who’s the wife of former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – was conferred with the Darja Utama Negeri Meleka, which basically carries the title of Datin. Furthermore, Seri Rosmah Mansor – also known as PM Najib’s wife – was also given Datukship.
6. Accomplishing an outlandish feat
Perhaps you’re not the best at sports. Maybe you aren’t even closely related to a Datuk and marriage is out of the question. How so, can you attain Datukship now?
By accomplishing an extraordinary feat, that’s how.
Just ask Sheikh Muszaphar Skuhor, Malaysia’s first astronaut. In fact, he was almost immediately granted the title after his trip from space.
Or Azhar Mansor, who in 1999 became the first Malaysian to sail solo all around the world. Using a ship named Jalur Gemilang, he achieved this feat in 190 days, 6 hours and 57 minutes.
Want another example? Take a look at Abdul Malik Mydin, who was the first Southeast Asian to swim across the English Channel in 2003.
What crazy and impossible feat will be done next in the name of Datukship? Only you have the answer to that.
7. Paying for it
What happens then, if you’ve nothing of the above six mentioned? Does this mean that you can give up on your dreams of becoming a Datuk?
Of course not — if all else fails, you can simply pay for the title.
Much like how you can purchase groceries off the shelves in supermarkets, Datukships can also be bought too.
Take Datuk Ong Teik Kwong, who was the head of the notorious “Gang 24” – who also got murdered by his own bodyguard in Penang – for example. His conferment raised many questions — primarily whether he was vetted before being awarded the title and whether a comprehensive background check was done prior.
A quick Google search reveals his brutal and murderous past — on Page One nonetheless.
Obsession with getting a Datukship
According to Says.com, being a Datuk not only showcases your social status but allows you to rub shoulders with important people and gain businesses as well.
It’s stated that the perks begin with an official crest for a Datuk’s car to show that “money is rolling by”.
By having special badges on your expensive cars, one is allowed to overtake others on the road and not wait in queues. Datukship also protects bearers from presecution and grants them access to policy-makers — it’s no wonder it’s so highly sought after in Malaysia.
Do you still want one?
With its diminishing significance and rise of fake “store-bought” Datukships, do you still want to be awarded one?
The good news is that the titles aren’t permanent and can be revoked — just ask People’s Justice Party leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Perhaps there is hope for the title to rise in prestige once again?