I REFER to the report “Penang Hill cleaner gets award from governor” (The Star, July 16; online at bit.ly/star_cleaner).
Kudos to The Star for highlighting the conferment of the Pingat Jasa Masyarakat (PJM) to Penang Island City Council (MBPP) staffer P. Sanmuggam at the investiture ceremony to mark the birthday of Penang’s Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas.
I am sure coverage about the award and Sanmuggam’s long and excellent service with the MBPP will be a source of pride to him and his family.
I would also like to commend the Penang state government for conferring the PJM on six other workers from the MBPP as well as three staffers from the Seberang Prai Municipal Council.
More often than not, we tend to focus on awards conferred on ministers, elected representatives, judges and senior civil servants, including police and military officers, as well as corporate figures. In most instances, this category of recipients already have titles bestowed on them by the federal administration and state governments.
At the same time, the many unsung heroes who receive awards, either at the federal or state levels, and who humbly served their organisations and society diligently, are largely “nameless” and receive minimal media coverage.
Perhaps in the new Malaysia we should adopt a more egalitarian approach in the way that the powers-that-be manage the nomination process. Probably at the federal level, we could emulate the system adopted by the British government by having a formal mechanism whereby members of the public can nominate individuals who they consider worthy of receiving honours or awards from the state.
According to the relevant British government website, the public send their nominations to an honours committee based in the Cabinet Office. The committee’s recommendations are duly extended to the Prime Minister, and then to the Queen, who bestows the honours.
Under this system, the public could nominate individuals who have made a difference in their community, contributed long-term voluntary service and engaged in innovation and entrepreneurship as well as improved life for other people. The nominations could cover fields such as community and voluntary services, arts and media, sports, education and civil or political service.
All nominees will be screened by government agencies to ensure their suitability. Hence, under this system, the state provides an opportunity for citizens to have a role and some sense of ownership over the country’s honours and awards system.
Such a mechanism would make the nomination process less elitist and more transparent.
HUSSAIN ABU BAKAR
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