Hard to detect fake Datuks without national registry

By Joseph Loh, The Star

PETALING JAYA: It is easy to get away with a fake Datuk title as there is no national registry to verify the authenticity of datukships.

With thousands of Datuks in Malaysia, Sunday Star found that a person would have to check with multiple sources to find out if a Datuk is a genuine title holder.

Recently, one of the main suspects in the murder of millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya was purported to be a Datuk.

However, police enquiries in all states to trace who conferred the datukship drew a blank. The suspect had allegedly “bought” the title for the princely sum of RM180,000.

There are 15 different sources of Datuk titles – from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, all states and the Federal Terri­tories. Currently, the official channels for authentication are the respective state secretaries of the states that confer the title.

The most easily accessible avenue is the Internet, but a check revealed that the information available online is often sketchy. There are piecemeal sources such as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Sultan of Selangor’s websites, but not a single, comprehensive source.

An attempt to find all the titles given out in 2009 – without referring to the respective states departments – did not result in a comprehensive list.

While the media publishes the head of states’ honours lists, not all states are covered.

Some reports specify the honorific title that comes with the award, and the number of awards given, but not a full list of names.

On the other hand, some reports only carry a list of recipients.

Rembau MP and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said a central, publicly-accessible database was prudent.

“It will be good to have a centralised database to check for instances of fraud, but not the decision to award the title – it is the right and prerogative of the state rulers.”

Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Paul Low said that most people would not know if a datukship was genuine or not.

The former president of the Penang Datuks Council, Datuk Seri Nazir Ariff, said authentication of titles was difficult.

“There is no way to verify if what they (certain Datuks) say is true. Normally, they do not say which state they got their title from.”