THERE is no shortage of Malaysians who are willing to pay for a title. You must have heard stories of how rich but insecure businessmen who supposedly paid for their titles from certain royalties of one or two states.
While we will never know the truth of these allegations, they make interesting gossip at social functions.
Then there were the desperados who, in craving for recognition and attention, turned to the so-called sultanates of Mindanao and Solo for their titles.
Although the Prime Minister's Department and the rulers of most states have declared that these titles would not be recognised, we should not be surprised if these people continue using these honorific.
Another group is made up of people who barely passed their lower secondary school examinations but shamelessly pay for honorary doctorates from some Pacific island universities, which regularly advertise the sale of these worthless papers in newspapers and on the Internet.
The presumption to these people is that these titles will lend them an air of respectability, prestige and authority. If they cannot or refuse to work for these titles, the simple way is to buy them. As a result, the shine from these titles slowly disappears over recent years.
Many Malaysians, I believe, were hardly surprised by news reports that a high-ranking ministry official was among those who had joined the so-called Federal Special Forces of Malaysia (FSFM).
They had joined believing that it was a bona fide security or civil defence movement with links to the government. With the smartly-cut uniform, resembling the one worn by police officers, many must have been tempted.
In one instance, a member said his hospital registration fee was waived after he produced the FSFM authority card, said to bear the Prime Minister's Department logo, while a policeman who stopped him for committing a traffic offence let him off after looking at the card.
At last count, over 2,000 people were said to have reported to the police that they had joined the FSFM and they had willingly paid between RM5,000 and RM25,00 for various ranks.
It may sound costly because the cynics among many of us would say that these gullible people probably believed they would have to fork out more money to get Datukships.
For these people, who included many professionals, buying a military rank is probably a natural progression. But it is also a malaise and a symptom of our deplorable culture where some section of our society appears to believe, in a rather arrogant manner, that everything can be bought.
It is, in many ways, another blow to the integrity and credibility of our institutions.
This “shortcut to success” sickness, which seems to believe in “connection and cable-pulling,” is probably one reason why these people have been conned into the buy-a-rank scam. Quite possibly, they could even be willing participants in this fantasy.
As the Prime Minister said, these people “might have been deceived by offers of promotion, to hold certain posts, and they may have felt good wearing the medals.”
The group's founder, Nor Azami, as it turned out, is not a Datuk nor a Tengku, does not hold a doctorate, and is not a religious leader. According to a relative, he is actually a car-wash man.
But he had greater illusions of grandeur. He believed – or rather his followers believed – that he would be the next Prime Minister, based on the “Rahman succession” theory.
According to the theory, the first six prime ministers were predestined, and that the first letter of their names corresponds to the name of the first prime minister. Thus, R is for Rahman, A is for Abdul Razak, H is for Hussein Onn, M is for Mahathir, A is for Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and N – is not for Najib Tun Razak but for Nor Azami Ahmad Ghazali.
To get ready for the big time, Nor Azami awarded himself a Datukship and the rank of general. To put his wacky plan in action, he started building an army. The exception is that the army seems to have more generals than soldiers.
The fact that there is a large number of non-Malays in his organisation also suggests that the Chinese, especially, are not averse to joining the army, so long as they get to be in the top ranks.
In an interview with Singapore's Straits Times, political commentator Shamsul Amri Baharuddin correctly described the Rahman theory as “an intellectual amulet for some people.”
Some people, he said, like to cling onto pseudo-magical ideas but “that gives room for others with ridiculous ideas to emerge.”
Greed, as they say, is the root of all evil and, in this case, Malaysians joined the FSFM because they believed they would have authority and power. With that, doors will be open to them.
On a micro scale, that also explains why many motorists put stickers bearing the Bukit Aman logo on the windshields, believing that traffic police would not stop them.
They also want to show off that they know some officers who work in Bukit Aman. But not all of us are gullible.