Although we know about people who get the titles ‘Dato’’ or ‘Datuk’, we do not know much about the process of how it happens or even what the titles mean. Many distinguished and notable academics, businesspeople and politicians have honorary titles conferred on them by the King of Malaysia or the Sultan of their State. You can think of these titles such as Dato’ or Datuk as equivalent to the British ‘sir’ but of course, things are slightly more complicated in Malaysia.
Let’s dig a little deeper and learn more about this!
Here Are 5 Interesting Things To Know About Datukship In Malaysia
1. Datuk VS Dato’: What is the difference?
The most confusing of all the titles are probably the Dato’ and Datuk titles as they have similar pronunciations but they are quite different. The titles are different as there are federal and state award versions as well as variations according to the state they were conferred in. The confusion continues because a Dato’ title can be passed down from father to son. 😐
Yes, that’s right. A Dato’ title can be both hereditary and non-hereditary! A good example of this is our former Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Abdul Razak. As a member of the Orang Kaya Indera Shahbandar family of Pahang, one of the four elite families in the state, Najib inherited his Dato’ship from his father.
Moving back to the differences between the titles Dato’ and Datuk – the easiest way to remember the difference is a Datuk (or Datuk Seri) is a federal title bestowed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or the King of Malaysia, while a Dato’ is a state title bestowed by sultans.
2. How does one get the title?
The preceding Yang di-Pertuan Agong, sultans, and heads of state established each of these awards throughout their reigns to honor those who had made significant contributions to the country. The nominees are based on recommendations received from the federal or state government. In 1886, Johor became the first state to establish such awards; shortly after, the other Malay states followed suit. Today, titles are awarded on the day of the official birthday of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan, or Governor (depending on the state).
These honors are open to both men and women, and when a man receives a title, his wife will also gain a title to match. For example, the wife of a Datuk receives the title of Datin. On the contrary, when a woman earns a title, her husband does not gain a title.
3. Why can foreigners or non-Malaysian citizens get the title?
Did you know that there is a quota to the amount of people that can hold the titles in Malaysia? For example, there cannot be more than 25 or 35 Malaysian living Tun holders at any one time depending on the type of award they received. FYI a Tunship is the highest federal title that can be conferred in Malaysia.
But… this doesn’t apply to foreigners! Foreigners may get titles up to that of Tun without affecting the allotted number for each category. They are permitted to receive the title and use it locally in a supernumerary and honorary capacity. Some famous non-Malaysians who have received Datukships in Malaysia are Shah Rukh Khan and Jackie Chan.
4. How to check if someone is a real ‘Datuk’?
There was a time last year where there was news about the increase of fake Datuks who gained their titles by buying them online. Datuk paraphernalia such as credentials, medals, and car emblems were also being sold online. Such things would mislead people into thinking that they are real Datuks. Not only that, pretending to be a Datuk is illegal!
The best way to verify is by checking on the Ceremonial and International Conference Secretariat Division’s official website. The website is run by the Prime Minister’s Department where the public can examine and confirm the winners of titles given by the Agong, sultans, or governors in Malaysia. To check if someone is on the list, you can either type their name into the “Carian” search box or choose their State (Peringkat), Title (Anugerah), and Year Awarded (Tahun Kurniaan).
5. Did you know that Datukship uniforms vary by state?
First of all, yes. There’s a uniform one has to don when one receives the title. And if you thought you could get away with just one uniform, it actually varies from state to state. Take for example the D.I.M.P, which is also known as the Darjah Indera Mahkota Pahang. An Honorary Title given to those who have given excellent service to the state and the royal family of Pahang, the chosen ones are summoned to wear a special uniform to honor the proceedings. This uniform, which can only be tailor-made, is a symbol to show that the title (Datukship) is from the state of Pahang, consisting of:
- A unique off-white jacket with red and gold sleeves in velvet and black edging at the front and back of the jacket.
- A unique pair of dinner trousers without belt loops and gold lining at the side of the trousers.
- A customized songkok.
The uniforms for other states such as Malacca, Penang, and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur are different from Pahang and all the other states, but they all have to be tailor-made.
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Jason’s Men Shop (M) Sdn Bhd, formerly known as King’s Men Shop, has been around for the past 50 years. Being a pioneer tailor in KL which specializes in bespoke clothing, Jason’s Men Shop has all the expertise and experience required to pull off the detailed workmanship for special outfits such as the Datukship uniforms. Not just for Pahang but for all the other states as well! In fact, they have been providing this service since the 70s and are very proud to be continuing this legacy today. Whether or not you’re being awarded a Datukship, you’ll be able to find something suitable to make you look and feel your best!
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