There are only 26 constitutional monarchs in the world today and our own DYMM Yang di-Pertuan Agong is one of them. All of these sovereigns confer an assortment of awards of which some are titled ones. One such well known award is the Knight of the British Empire (KBE) which carries the title of “Sir”. A few illustrious Malayans of the past have received this very prestigious and limited British award such as Dato Onn bin Ja'afar, Tun Dato Sir Tan Cheng Lock and Dato' Sir E.E.C. Thuraisingham. They received the awards based on merits for truly illustrious services to the country.
In Malaysia, federal awards are granted by DYMM Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Some of these titled federal awards are limited though thus adding some exclusivity to them. For instance, there may not be more than 35 local living holders of each of the Tun title and 250 for the Tan Sri title. However, there is no such limit for federal datukships and other state titled awards.
The nine state rulers have been awarding their own titled awards besides those conferred by the Heads of the other states such as Sabah, Sarawak and Melaka. Therefore, there are about fifteen sources for titled awards in Malaysia. In recent times the number of titled and untitled awards awarded by the states has increased by leaps and bounds compared to much earlier times. This increase is not at all proportionate to the increase of the Malaysian population.
Besides limiting the number of titled awards, putting an age limit of fifty would also be a good idea. It is also not a good idea to give such titled awards to very young people. Some may end up with a bad reputation or even be jailed for serious offences. It has happened before. Some of these ex-convict Datuks have returned to society with their titles intact. On another note, any posthumous award should be given only to those who died valliantly in combat or in the line of official duty only.
Given the growing number of people receiving such titled awards these days, it would be prudent to limit the number of such titled awards. Otherwise, these awards will lose their inherent value and prestige that goes along with them. The awe and respect Malaysians used to have for titled people is fast dwindling these days.