KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 – Pakatan Harapan lawmakers claim they have a right to receive awards despite being in a government that has been in power for less than a year.
They were voicing their disapproval of a proposal by veteran journalist A. Kadir Jasin, who is a close confidante of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for the ruling coalition to make an official policy that elected representatives cannot accept awards that carry the title “Datuk” or “Datuk Seri” while in office, Malaysiakini reported.
Last week, Kadir had come out strongly against the five ministers who accepted Melaka state awards which carried the title “Datuk Seri”.
Writing in his blog, Kadir had expressed his dissatisfaction with the actions of the ministers, saying that the people are judging these party leaders based on their performance as Pakatan Harapan ministers.
“It gives a picture that there is no difference between Pakatan Harapan ministers and Barisan Nasional leaders who are obsessed with titles and riches.
“The people are annoyed. Debate on social media shows the majority do not agree and are even sickened by their acceptance of the awards,” he said.
Kadir had also accused PH ministers of “sabotaging the government out of their ignorance, greed for power and lack of focus”.
He praised DAP for its policy on its elected representatives not accepting any awards while in office, and suggested it be adopted by the PH government at federal and state levels.
The five ministers who received the Darjah Gemilang Seri Melaka award, which carries the title of “Datuk Seri”, on Oct 13 were Rural and Regional Development Minister Rina Harun, Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Domestic Trade, Consumerism and Cooperatives Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.
It is worth noting that in 2012, Dr Mujahid had previously received Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri from Penang and Saifuddin Nasution received Darjah Dato’ Setia DiRaja Kedah. Both titles give them the honor of carrying the title Dato’ however neither have used the titles in their capacity as MP or party leaders.
Difference of opinion among PH parties
In response Sungai Buloh MP Sivarasa Rasiah said that the time was not right to impose such a ruling as there were differences in opinion among the four PH component parties on the issue of accepting awards and the honorary title which come with it.
“There are four parties in PH and it’s quite obvious that on this issue, there are different opinions, therefore resulting in different practices.
“At this stage, I do not think it is viable to have a policy on this because of the clear range of views on the subject,” PKR’s Sivarasa was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.
He then pointed to a precedent already set with Selangor, Kedah and Penang having been under PKR and DAP for the past 10 years and where such a policy did not exist.
Sivarasa was referring to honorary titles awarded to ruling state government leaders.
“See what has happened in the past. So, if someone from either Penang, Selangor or Kedah has accepted a title five years ago, it also reflects your position on the issue,” Sivarasa told Malaysiakini.
He added that it was a “complicated” issue and should be discussed by all parties.
Inform heads of states on any policy
Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin, who is Melaka PKR chairman, dismissed the idea of a common PH policy saying it was not viable because it was the prerogative of the head of states to give out awards and titles.
“If you are saying that there must be a ruling, then it must correspondingly be communicated as well to the heads of states because they are the ones giving the awards.
“For me, it is very difficult. For example, there are calls for PH ministers and state excos to give the titles back. It is very difficult. Of course, in the case of Melaka when the Tuan Yang Terutama offers, there must be a way to say ‘no’ – but we don’t have experience with that,” he was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.
Amanah ministers contributed previously, says party leader
Amanah vice-president Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus defended the two ministers from his party – Dzulkefly and Mujahid – for accepting the Melaka awards, saying that they had previously contributed while being part of the opposition coalition.
“Amanah has no clear guidelines on this matter because we leave it to our members to show respect to the people who honour them.
“And when they want to receive a title, they need to self-reflect on whether they truly deserve it or otherwise,” the Hulu Langat MP Hasanuddin told the news portal.