Malay styles and titles
The Malay language has a complex system of styles, titles and honorifics, which are used extensively in Brunei and Malaysia. Singapore, whose Malay royalty was abolished by the British colonial government in 1891, has adopted civic titles for its leaders. The Philippines historically used Malay titles during its pre-Hispanic period (especially under Bruneian influence), as evidenced by the titles of historical figures such as Rajah Sulayman, Lakandula and Dayang Kalangitan. Malay titles are still used by the royal houses of Sulu, Maguindanao, Maranao and Iranun on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, but these are retained on a traditional basis, as the 1987 Constitution explicitly reaffirms the abolition of royal and noble titles in the republic. Indonesia, meanwhile, as a republic, does not recognize hereditary rulers and aristocratic systems. Nevertheless, their royal titles and honors are still used as courtesy titles.
Malaysia, Brunei and several provinces in Indonesia regularly award honorary and life titles. What follows in this article is specific to the Malaysian system. References to Brunei and Indonesia are given when pertinent.
In Malaysia, all non-hereditary titles can be granted to both men and women. Every title has a form which can be used by the wife of the title holder. This form is not used by the husband of a titled woman; such a woman will bear a title which is the same as a titled man.
The sequence that should be used when formally writing or addressing a person's name is: honorary style, professional rank, royal hereditary title, federal title, state title, non-royal hereditary title, Doctor (of medicine or philosophy), Haji/Hajjah (for Muslim men and women who have performed the Hajj), name.
For instance in the Brunei, the title for one of Bruneian traditional ministers (Pehin-Pehin Cheteria) whose honorary title would be Yang Berhormat, profession rank is Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Lela, state title is Dato Seri Setia, traditional Bruneian Malay prefix title for non-royalty is Awang.
- Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Lela Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Dato Setia Haji Mohamed Taib
When in the home state, the state title may precede the federal title. An example would be Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem, whose federal title is Tan Sri and state title is Datuk Patinggi. His title would be expressed as either:
- Yang Amat Berhormat Tan Sri Datuk Patinggi Dr Haji Adenan bin Haji Satem (federally)
- Yang Amat Berhormat Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr Haji Adenan bin Haji Satem (in his home state)
Another exception is when a person has received an award from a state other than the person's home state; when visiting the award-bestowing state, that state's title will take the place of a home state's title (if any). As an example, the current Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir will be titled as follows:
- Yang Amat Berhormat Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad (federally)
- Yang Amat Berhormat Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad (in Sabah)
- Yang Amat Berhormat Tun Pehin Sri Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad (in Sarawak)
- Yang Amat Berhormat Tun Dato Laila Utama Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad (in Brunei)
A style carried by virtue of royal title always trumps those carried by non-royal titles. Male royals may choose to append "al-Haj" to their name instead of using "Haji". The following example is correct:
- Yang Amat Mulia Jeneral Tengku Dato' (name) al-Haj
- Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan dan Yang di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam
- the official title of the Sultan of Brunei, styled as His Majesty (HM) the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan
- Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Raja Isteri
- the ruler's most senior consort, styled as Her Majesty (HM) Raja Isteri (the Queen) Pengiran Anak
- Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Isteri
- the ruler's junior consort, styled as Her Royal Highness (HRH)
- Kebawah Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan
- the office of the former abdicated sultan (last held by Omar Ali Saifuddien III who abdicated in favor of his son), styled as His Majesty Begawan Sultan
- Kebawah Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Suri Seri Begawan Raja
- the queen mother, styled as Her Majesty Begawan Raja
For those who have blood-ties with the royal family who are married, styled as Prince or Princess in English, and given the hereditary honorific prefix Pengiran:
- Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Duli Paduka Seri Pengiran Muda Mahkota (or: Pengiran Muda Mahkota)
- the crown prince, styled as His Royal Highness (HRH)
- Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Muda (or: Pengiran Muda)
- the sultan's other sons
- Pengiran Anak Puteri
- the sultan's daughters-in-law
- Pengiran Anak Puteri
- The sultan's daughters
- Pengiran Muda
- the children of the crown prince
- Pengiran Anak
- the sultan's other grandchildren
The titles for grandchildren apply to great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. For generations following that, the title is only Pengiran.
A person who marries a distant member of the royal family (ie: Pengiran) is given the title Pengiran Anak; the title is lost if they divorce.
- Pengiran Isteri
- the wife of a prince, usually with royal heritage (princess consort)
- Pengiran Bini
- the wife of a prince, usually with non-royal heritage (royal consort)
- Pengiran Babu Raja
- the mother of the sultan's senior-most consort
Historically Southeast Asia was under the influence of Ancient India, where numerous Indianized principalities and empires flourished for several centuries in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. The influence of Indian culture into these areas was given the term indianization. French archaeologist, George Coedes, defined it as the expansion of an organized culture that was framed upon Indian originations of royalty, Hinduism and Buddhism and the Sanskrit dialect. This can be seen in the Indianization of Southeast Asia, spread of Hinduism and Buddhism. Indian diaspora, both ancient (PIO) and current (NRI), played an ongoing key role as professionals, traders, priests and warriors. Indian honorifics also influenced the Malay, Thai, Filipino and Indonesian honorifics.
Titles of Malaysian royalty and rulers:
- Yang di-Pertuan Agong (literally, "He who is made Supreme Lord" but usually "Supreme Head" or "Paramount Ruler") is the official title of the ruler of all Malaysia, elected from among the nine heads of the royal families. The title is often glossed "King" in English.
- Yang di-Pertuan Besar (literally "He who is made Great Lord", but often "Great Lord") is the official title of the ruler of Negeri Sembilan. All other state rulers are sultans except the Raja of Perlis.
- Yang di-Pertua Negeri (YDPN) is not a royal title, but the title of "The Head of the State" (the "Supreme Head") for the state of Penang, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak which do not have hereditary rulers. Yang di-Pertua Negeri is installed by His Majesty Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The title is sometimes translated as "Governor" in English.
- Tuanku is both a title when used before a name and form of address when used alone, and is reserved for the Malay rulers. It is a contraction of the phrase "Tuan ku " ("My Lord"), and as a form of address can be glossed as "Your Majesty" or "Your Highness", but is left untranslated when used as a title. In Sarawak, "Tuanku" is the prefix used by certain noble families. In Aceh, a province of Indonesia, "Tuanku" is given to the children and grandchildren of a reigning monarch.
- Tengku (also spelled Tunku in Johor, Negeri Sembilan and Kedah; Ungku or Engku to denote particular lineages; the equivalent Raja in Perak and certain Selangor lineages; and Syed/Sharifah in Perlis if suffixed by the royal clan name "Jamalullail") is roughly equivalent to prince or princess. Tengku is also a royal hereditary Malay title in eastern Sumatra, which is part of Alam Melayu (Malay world). East Sumatra has several Malay sultanates, such as the Sultanate of Langkat, the Sultanate of Serdang, the Sultanate of Deli, the Sultanate of Asahan, and the Sultanate of Siak Sri Indrapura, as well as Tengku Besar of Pelalawan and the Sultanate of Riau-Lingga.
Styles on formal Malaysian notices
- Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia (KDYMM) (literally "He/She Whom is The Dust of The Almighty") is used for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and state rulers alike. The title is a reference to the rulers being subjected to the Law of God, with their powers being dust compared to the power of Allah. However, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong also uses the prefix "Seri Paduka Baginda" (literally, "Conqueror Majesty") and in English, his title is often translated as "His Majesty". A state ruler is "His Royal Highness" ("His Highness" before 1971). Since 1984, the ruler of Johor has used the title "Baginda" as well, but he is referred to in English as "His Royal Highness". The ruler of Perak also uses the prefix "Paduka Seri" which is derived from the archaic formula "Paduka Seri Maulana". The ruler of Negeri Sembilan also used the prefix "Paduka Seri" between 1993 and 2004, but this has since been dropped. These titles are not used as a form of address – instead Tuanku is used.
- Duli Yang Teramat Mulia (DYTM) is equivalent to Royal Highness and used by the heir apparent. Usually, an heir uses the title of Raja Muda, Tunku Mahkota or Tengku Mahkota, Yang di-Pertuan Muda, or Pengiran Muda Mahkota.
- Yang Teramat Mulia (YTM) is used by the children of reigning sultans (except in Negeri Sembilan) and by the Dato' Kelana, the Undang of Sungai Ujong in Negeri Sembilan
- Yang Amat Mulia (YAM) translates to His/Her Highness and is used by the children of the ruler of Negeri Sembilan and Johor, the Undang of Jelebu, Johol and Rembau and the Tunku Besar of Tampin in Negeri Sembilan
- Yang Mulia (YM) translates to "His Highness" or "Her Highness", used for heirs and heiresses, descendants of royal families, sultans and rajas.
In Malaysia, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong grants federal titles as awards which are honorary and non-hereditary. These titles may be revoked by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or returned by the individual.
There is a maximum number of Malaysian subjects who may be award-holders at any one time. These numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may be awarded such titles in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and may use the title locally.
The Tun title has existed in Malaysian society for hundreds of years. In ancient times, Tun was an honorific title used by noble people of royal lineage, inherited by the male descendants.
Over time, the Tun title has become a title conferred by the Yang Di Pertuan Agong to the most-deserving recipient who has highly contributed to the nation. The highest federal award granted by the Malaysian government is the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SPGP).
Tun is the most senior federal title awarded to recipients of either the SMN (Seri Maharaja Mangku Negara) or SSM (Seri Setia Mahkota). However, the SMN and SSM are not the highest federal awards, ranking fourth and fifth, respectively. There may not be more than 25 living holders of each of these awards at any one time.
The title for the wife of a Tun is Toh Puan.
The SMN is usually awarded to the Yang di-Pertua Negeri (YDPN) with the title of Tun and the highest order of the state. Some examples:
- The Honourable (Yang Amat Berhormat) Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the current Prime Minister of Malaysia
- His Excellency (Tuan Yang Terutama) Tun Datuk Seri Utama Haji Abdul Rahman Abbas, the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Penang
- His Excellency (Tuan Yang Terutama) Tun Datuk Seri Utama Haji Mohd Khalil Yaakob, the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Malacca
- His Excellency (Tuan Yang Terutama) Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Haji Juhar Mahiruddin, the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sabah
- His Excellency (Tuan Yang Terutama) Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sarawak
The Tun title has been awarded to all the retired Prime Ministers of Malaysia with the exception of Najib Tun Razak (making him the first retired Prime Minister without the Tun title).
Tan Sri is the second-most senior federal title and a honorific used to denote recipients of the Panglima Mangku Negara (PMN) and the Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM). The PMN and PSM rank seventh and eighth, respectively, in the order of Malaysian federal awards. The wife of a Tan Sri is called Puan Sri.
There may be at any time up to a maximum of 75 living PMN holders, and a maximum of 250 living PSM holders.
Malaysian-born actress Michelle Yeoh was awarded the Tan Sri title in 2013.
Datuk is a federal title that has been conferred since 1965. It is limited to recipients of Panglima Jasa Negara (PJN) and Panglima Setia Diraja (PSD), the ninth- and tenth-ranked Malaysian federal awards. There may be up to 200 living PJN holders and 200 living PSD holders at any one time. The wife of a federal Datuk is a Datin.
A female conferred the title in her own right is formally known as "Datin Paduka"; the prefix "Datuk" is more commonly used for women as well as men.
Individual states that have a head of state nominated by the respective state's legislature may confer the title of 'Datuk' to individuals. However, this is different from the title "Dato". The latter is awarded by individual states headed by a Sultan, and not a head of state nominated by the state legislature. For example, the Yang di-Pertua Negeri (State Governor) of Malacca is the non-hereditary head of state nominated by the state legislature. He may confer the title of 'Datuk'. The Sultan of Pahang is the hereditary ruler of the state and may confer the title of "Dato' ". Individual rulers (and their staffs) determine the award of these titles.
In many cases, there is a maximum number of Malaysian citizens who may hold a state title or award at one time. These limits do not apply to foreigners. Some may carry the following state titles.
Dato' Sri or Dato' Seri is the highest state title conferred by the ruler on the most-deserving recipients who have contributed greatly to the nation or state. It ranks below the federal title Tun and is an honour equivalent to federal title Tan Sri. The wife of a recipient is Datin Sri.
The former Prime Minister of Malaysia's title is Dato' Sri Najib Tun Razak. Present Prime Ministers Mahathir bin Mohamad and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi each held the title Dato' Sri during their administrations; following retirement, they received Malaysia's most senior federal title, Tun, conferred by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Dato' Sri is the most-senior state title, conferred during the ruler's birthday celebration with the SPMS award. In Selangor, a maximum of 2 Dato' Sri (SPMS) state awards can be conferred each year, up to a maximum of 40 living Dato' Sri (SPMS) holders at any one time.
Women who hold the Dato' Seri would be called "Datin Paduka Seri". There are derivatives such as "Datin Paduka Seri Utama" in Negeri Sembilan.
Some rulers grant awards which carry high titles unique to that state, such as Dato' Sri Utama of the state of Negeri Sembilan.
Datuk Seri (pronounced in similar manner to Dato Sri) is the most-senior state title conferred only by the governor.
A governor who is appointed by the Yang Di Pertuan Agong can award the Datuk Seri title which is equivalent to federal title Tan Sri.
There may be confusion between the titles Dato' Sri and Datuk Seri, since the Malaysian media may address Dato' Sri title-holders as Datuk Seri.
Women who have been awarded the title of Datuk Seri may use its feminine title of "Datin Paduka Seri" and its derivatives such as "Datin Paduka Seri Panglima", "Datin Paduka Seri Utama" and "Datin Paduka Patinggi".
An example is the current spouse of the former prime minister, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor.
Dato' is the most common title awarded in Malaysia. The wife of a Dato' is a "Datin", except in Terengganu where they are known as "To' Puan" (not to be confused with "Toh Puan", the wife of a non-hereditary Tun). The title may only be conferred by a hereditary royal ruler of one of the nine Malay states.
Dato' is also a hereditary title in Negeri Sembilan, where titles are held for life by heads of certain families and passed on to their heirs. These are not conferred by the ruler, but passed on through the customary native laws. The wife of a hereditary Dato' is addressed (by courtesy) as "To' Puan".
In other states, certain noble families have hereditary titles and are addressed as Dato'. For example, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Najib Tun Razak, is hereditary Orang Kaya Indera Shahbandar of Pahang. He would have been addressed as "Dato' " even if he had not been conferred a Dato' Sri (SSAP) state award of Pahang.
Foreigners may be awarded such titles in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.
A female Dato'-holder is called "Datin Paduka"; her husband will not receive a title. An example is Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba.
Other derivatives are "Dato' Wira" in Pahang, "Dato' Paduka" in Kedah and Negeri Sembilan, and "Dato' Laila" in Brunei.
The Governor of Sarawak may award the Panglima Setia Bintang Sarawak (PSBS) which carries the title "Dato" (without the apostrophe).
Each state may have their own unique variation of Datuk. The award Darjah Cermelang Seri Melaka (DCSM) from Melaka carries the title Datuk Wira. Sarawak awards senior civil servants the Datuk Amar and Datuk Patinggi.
Dato Paduka is the most-common title awarded in Brunei, of which it is a class of the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia ("The Most Honourable Order of Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei"). The wife of a Dato Paduka is a "Datin". If the award is conferred on a woman in her own right, she would be addressed as "Datin Paduka".
Other versions of Dato Paduka include "Dato Seri Paduka", "Dato Paduka Seri", "Dato Laila Utama", "Dato Paduka Seri Laila Jasa" and others. These title awards are non-hereditary, granted by the Sultan of Brunei.
This title is mainly used in Brunei and Sarawak. An example of the title in Brunei would be Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Di-Raja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Isa, the former Minister of Home Affairs and the current Special Adviser to the Sultan of Brunei. The titles refers to the traditional ministers posts in Brunei.
In Sarawak, the title comes with the award of the Satria Bintang Sarawak (SBS). Among its first recipients is Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib, the former Chief Minister of Sarawak and incumbent Yang DiPertua Negeri Sarawak.
Justice of Peace (JP) ranks below all Dato' or Datuk. In Malaysia, Justices of Peace have largely been replaced in magistrates' courts by legally-qualified (first-class) stipendiary magistrates. However, state governments continue to appoint Justices of Peace as honours. In 2004, some associations of JPs pressed the federal government to allow JPs to sit as second-class magistrates to reduce the backlog of cases in the courts.
The following are used as styles, both before a person's title and by themselves as forms of address:
- Tuan Yang Terutama (TYT) (lit. "The Most Eminent Master") – the style of a state governor, equivalent to "Your/His Excellency" and also as a title for serving Ambassadors to Malaysia, e.g. T.Y.T. Tuan Christopher J. LaFleur.
- Yang Amat Berhormat (YAB) (lit. "The Most Honourable") – the style of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the chief ministers and the Menteri Besars of the states and Tuns who are members of parliament.
- Yang Berhormat (YB) (lit. "The Honourable") – the style of members of parliament and state legislative assemblymen. A prince who is a member of parliament is "Yang Berhormat Mulia" (e.g. Yang Berhormat Mulia Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the MP for Gua Musang). "Yang Berhormat" is also used for recipients of the First Class Order of the Crown of Johor (SPMJ) regardless of whether a member of parliament or not.
- Yang Amat Arif (YAA) (lit. "The Very Wise") – the style of the Chief Justice of Malaysia, the President of the Malaysian Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the High Court of Malaya and the Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak.
- Yang Arif (YA) (lit. "The Wise One") – the style of a judge of the Federal Court or Court of Appeal, as well a judicial commissioner or judge of the High Court of Malaya or the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak. It does not apply to session court judges or magistrates.
- Yang Amat Berbahagia (YABhg) (lit. "The Most Felicitous") – the style of persons with the titles Tun or Toh Puan, and the wives of state governors, the wife of the prime minister, the wife of the deputy prime minister, as well as the wives of state chief ministers.
- Yang Berbahagia (YBhg) (lit. "The Felicitous") (and variants thereof) – the styles of persons with a chivalrous title.
The English versions of these styles follow British usage. Thus the prime minister, cabinet ministers, senators, state executive councillors and judges of the High Court and above are styled the Honourable or the Right Honourable, although technically it is a solecism to style the prime minister or heads of courts Right Honourable as they are not members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
Other Malay titles by inheritance
- Permata or Paramata, jewel or princess
- Potre, Potri, Putri, Putre or Puteri, princess
- Radiamoda, crown prince
- Bae, princess
- Sangcopan, literally means "the one to whom surrenders"
- Panondiongan, literally means "the most high"
- Simban, literally means "worshipped"
- Pengiran, equivalent to Tengku or prince
- Raja, varies depends the lineage of heretary.
- Ungku, equivalent to Tengku or prince. A hereditary (paternal) title from one of the lineages of the Royal Family of Johor.
- Raden, a royal family name used in the several Malay Sultanates in Kalimantan, used extensively by the Pontianak Malays.
- Abang is a title that is particularly found in Sarawak. Its use is rooted in the appointments of Datuk Patinggi, Datuk Temenggung, Datuk Bandar and Datuk Imam, centuries before the British colonisation. The children of these state dignitaries carry the title Abang (male) and Dayang (female). When an Abang marries a Dayang or a commoner, the issue will get to keep the title. The issue of a Dayang does not carry a title if he or she has a non-Abang father. However, if a Dayang marries a male aristocrat bearing a different title than hers, her issue will be named according to the husband's given title.
- Awang is the term used for addressing men in Brunei, equivalent to Mr. However, Awangku are hereditary, of which they may later claim the title Pengiran since they are also related to the Brunei Sultanate. This, however, requires the approval of elders who must consider if he is mature enough to carry the title – or once he has married. The change is only eligible for those who inherit the name Awang from their family line. As for the rule of inheritance of the name, it is the same as Abang.
- Dayang is the term used for addressing women in Brunei and it is equivalent to Ms. Dayang is also the female issue of an Abang and an Awang (see Abang and Awang).
- Syed is a title inherited by male descendants, through the male line, from the Prophet Muhammad via his grandsons Hassan and Hussein. Female descendants are known as Syarifah, Sharifah, or Sayyidah.
- Meor is a title inherited by the male issue of a Syarifah and non-Syed father. For females, the first letter of the name comes with 'Ma' as in "Ma Mastura". This is typically used in Perak and few other states such as Terengganu and Kelantan.
- Megat is a title inherited by male descendants of Pagaruyung Prince Megat Terawis, who was the first bendahara of Perak. Megats along with Puteris and Tuns are typically found in Perak. "Megat" is also styled by a half-blood royal male descendant of a female royal of Pahang.
- Puteri is a title inherited by the female descendant of a Megat.
- Tun is a title inherited by the issue of a Puteri, the female descendant of a Megat and a commoner father, in turn inheritable through the male line. In Pahang, it is the title of a male or female descendant of a Sultan through the female line. In the upper part of Terengganu, Tun is a title inherited by descendants of the now-abolished Bendahara of Terengganu,
- Wan is a title inherited through the male line, given to a son or a daughter of a royal-family mother who married a commoner. This is typically found in Patani, Pahang, Kelantan, Kedah, Terengganu and Natuna-Anambas. In Kedah, Wan is the title used by descendants of certain former chief ministers of the state, e.g. the descendants of Wan Mohd Saman. Wan can also be used as the title for a girl's name, though this is uncommon, e.g. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Wan can also be found in Sarawak, and is somehow related to the state's Syed lineage. A female issue of Wan carries the title Sharifah. A Wan may later claim the title Tuanku. This, however, can only be done after he gains the approval of the elders and is considered mature enough to carry the title. The change is only eligible for those who inherit the name Wan from their family line. The issue of a Sharifah does not carry a title if he/she has a non-Wan father.
- Nik is a title inherited by the issue of a male Nik. It is typically found in Patani, Kelantan and Terengganu.
- Che is a title inherited by the issue of a male Che descendants and were also used by some Malay nobles in ancient time. Certain lineage of Raja Jembal descendants also uses the Che title. However the Che title can also be passed down from a descendant of a female Nik and non-Nik male. The Che title is commonly found in Pattani, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.
- Haji (or Hajjah for female) can be used by people who have completed the Hajj. This title is abbreviated as "Hj." or "Hjh.".
- Tuan literally means "master". Due to its colonial overtones, this term is mostly obsolete, although the title can still be added to Syed and Haji. It is used for non-titled members of Parliament and State Assemblymen. In some states like Kelantan, it could also denote one of the royal family. As an equivalent of Sir, it is used in formal correspondence. When addressing an audience, the plural form "tuan-tuan" (gentlemen) is used, usually combined as "tuan-tuan dan puan-puan" (gentlemen and ladies).
- Encik (abbreviated "En.") is equivalent to Mr. and can be used by all men. Warrant Officers in the Singapore Armed Forces are also referred to as Encik informally.
- Puan (abbreviated "Pn.") can be used by all married women. It is equivalent to Madam, not Mrs., as most married women in Malay-speaking countries do not use the names or surnames of their husbands. For married women who use their husbands' names, they can be addressed as "Puan (husband's name)". It is also used in formal correspondence. When addressing an audience, the plural form "puan-puan" (ladies) is used, usually combined with "tuan-tuan" as "tuan-tuan dan puan-puan".
- Cik is equivalent to Miss and can be used by all unmarried women.
Not all Datuks have lived exemplary lives and some have been convicted of crimes. The various rulers have recently taken steps to ensure the integrity of the institution by means of consultation and the revoking of the given titles.
Mahathir bin Mohamad mentioned that one of the problems with titles in Malaysia is the numbers of them given out. He stated in an interview "Personally, I feel if you want to give value to anything, it must be limited...if you produce a million Ferrari cars, nobody will care about buying a Ferrari."
The Raja Muda (Crown Prince) of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah, stated "That is my view. You degrade the award and the Ruler has the right to revoke it. In my opinion, it should be taken away." He also stated that "Sometimes, I think we give away too many datukships...it dilutes and devalues the award."
In the first government following the independence of Malaya in 1957, 5 of 15 cabinet Ministers were Datuks. The finance minister at the time, Tan Siew Sin, held the title Justice of Peace. Later, he was granted a Federal award which carried the title Tun. The father of Malayan independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, received no awards and carried the title "Tunku", which he inherited as the prince of the state of Kedah. He was honorarily referred to as "Yang Teramat Mulia". The senate held only 14 datuks and parliament held only 7.
The conferral of "Datuk" by the Penang government to 25-year-old squash world champion Nicol David and Olympic badminton silver medalist Lee Chong Wei sparked controversy that they were too young to receive the title. The Melaka government was criticised for awarding the Datuk title to a non-Malaysian Indian actor, Shahrukh Khan, for making movies and promoting the Melaka state internationally.
Issues in Selangor
- The Dato's of Selangor attempted to set up an association of Selangor Dato's. It received approval from the registrar of societies but was shelved when the Sultan forbade any Dato' from joining or otherwise risk losing their title.
- Four datuks were removed in 2003 by the Sultan of Selangor.
- Dato Sri Anwar Ibrahim had his title revoked by the Sultan on 3 November 2014.
- The Sultan of Pahang revoked the titles of two Dato's in 2004.
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