Realising the seriousness of state awards being abused, PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called on those responsible for nominating candidates for state honours to scrutinise the process to ensure that the recipients are really qualified.
The prime minister, however, acknowledged that the award of state honours is the prerogative of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the rulers.
"We must ensure that those we propose to the Agong or the rulers are those who have really contributed their service, have done something good for which they should be honoured," he told a news conference here.
Asked to comment on a report on the abundance of award recipients of awards, especially the datuks, he said: "Those making the recommendations must scrutinise when considering the matter."
He also criticised individuals who lobbied for state awards when they had not done anything for any state.
"That's what makes it difficult sometimes," he said.
MASSA, a sister publication of Mingguan Malaysia, which tallied that a total of 6,314 titles were given away by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the 13 states in Malaysia last year, out of which 531 were Datuks.
Drilling down, Pahang was most generous in dishing out datukship (93), followed by Melaka (79), Pulau Pinang (56), Perak (53) and Sabah (51). Johor was the least with new Datuks, only two were award in 2002.
If we are all serious about protecting the awards from being given to undeserving individuals, probably the time has come to review on all the existing Datuks. Check the past and present records, activities and background to determine if they are realy qualify, or still qualify, for those titles.
Datukship must never be a permanent title once it is awarded to any individual. If the Selangor state government could withdraw the titles from two datuks, the other states should also review their datuks.
The public has a choice as which datuk to be respected. We will not pay respect to crooks, gangsters, thieves, robbers, drugs pushers and others who were involved in illegal activities but given the titles. If certain people thought that they could fool the general public or to hide their illegal activities behind those state titles and awards, they are making a big mistake. Some titles are only 'money recognition' because they are bought. They will never get the recognition of the public, who see better.
If these titles are not reviewed and mass production of datuks continues, do not surprise that one day no one will appreciate these awards and no one will show any respect. No one would even lobby or pay for it anymore!