Until sometime ago, Datukship was a joke for many Malaysians – and I believe still is for many others.
The reason? Mismatch. Many datukships go to those who don’t deserve them, and many who deserve them have never been considered.
Things change after March 8. Will the control of five states in the federal opposition’s hand, you now see some datukship at least going to long-serving opposition politicians. And there are now even competition to confer the title on distinguished Malaysians like sport personalities. So Chung Wei will get his from Penang. And Kit Siang from Selangor.
Hei, wait a minute, what about other deserving Malaysians who are not politicians or are not wooed by politicians, let alone going after politicians for good causes?
I am talking about recognition coming from civil society to outstanding citizens. We have had the human rights awards of Suaram and the Chinese Education Awards from LLG Cultural Foundation. Added on to that list is now the Civil Society Award from the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH).
For Chinese activists only? Of course not. KLSCAH is perhaps more Malaysian than many organizations that carry the word Malaysian in their names. It is open to all qualifying Malaysian individuals and groups. The selection will also be done by a multi-ethnic, multi-sectoral panel: Ser Choon Ing (KLSCAH), Maria Chin (Empower), Yeo Yang Poh (Ex-president, Bar), P Ramakrishnan (Aliran), Ragunath Kesavan (Bar), Dr Toh Kin Woon (Ex-Exco, Penang) and Hishamuddin Rais the writer-artist-activist.
Who – which three individuals or organizations – will be conferred the first Civil Right Award this year? Witness yourself this coming Thursday (August 28) at KLSCAH.
One more reason to go: you will get to listen to Lee Ban Chen and Haris Ibrahim on their views on civil society and ethnic politics in Malaysia.