Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Proton "Accord"

I didn’t quite follow the goings-on in Proton… until I saw a Proton “Accord”

I was driving slowing around Precinct 2 of Putrajaya the other day. I had to find a place to park my car. You know where Precinct 2, right?
A sleek black car zoomed past me.

“Isn’t that a Honda Accord?” I asked my wife. Of course, she didn’t know, since she had no interest in cars at all.

“How come it is carrying a Proton badge?” Again, I asked myself.
Soon, I see many more Proton “Accords”.

I was a Liu-laolao! These cars are all chauffeured-driven; the people in the back seat are all top bureaucrats of the country. This is Precinct 2, friend!
I googled.

Proton had entered into a badge engineering agreement with Honda. No wonder!
This reminds me of NAZA cars when I first saw them.

When did NAZA start to produce its own cars, I asked a friend.
They are all KIAs, came the answer. NAZA just stick a new badge to them. I learned for the first time the meaning of Badge Engineering. How clever we Malaysians are!

You know the Hokkiens have this line of reprimand for copycats: Use the hide of someone’s butt to do a makeover of your face?
But isn’t this a form of plagiarism, albeit a sanctioned one?

No wonder we are not hard on plagiarists in our universities.
People like Ridhuan Tee can sleep well; no worries!

Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Etc - The New Opium

I am not tech-savvy; I understand, besides those named above, there are many other Social Media Apps. These seem to be the opium of the day now!

You have to take your hat off to the conceivers of these ideas. They have turned simple ideas into multi-billion global enterprises. Billions were hooked into accessing them each time they had a moment to spare. (Just look around you when you are in public spaces.)
I am getting very annoyed with WhatsApp! I was in a couple of chat groups – being a member of my high school’s old boys network, my university classmates’ lunch “club” and my condo's residents association, among others - but have now decided to opt out from some.

Each time someone starts a chat, alerts would come in non-stop on my “smart” phone to tell me that new messages are threading in. Much of the conversation is, in my Hokkien lingo, mee-suah (thread or thin, and endless noodles) stuff. In spite of our age, some are still pretty naughty; they love to send sexually explicit pictures! I am no saint; but surely this is not a good thing to do on these apps. 

We are all social animals; some are more so than others, which is all understandable. Facebook would bombard you from time to time with alerts on new postings by relatives and friends you know. I do welcome updates on their families, the places they are visiting, their new career, and even their advisories on new medical breakthroughs, etc. But I am bored to death each time I see a posting about the dishes friends are enjoying in a restaurant or a function (many of which are really ordinary), or about their children’s “cute” behaviours. One friend who idolised the late Lee Kuan Yew so much that everything about him in the wake of his demise was posted on line. But the stuff was already all over the papers!
Social media have an important place in our life. But to use them to broadcast your routines in Facebook or to extend your mee-suah talk to chat-group members who are not involved in the subject matter is to me being quite insensitive to others when you are indulging in your opium habit!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tax-exempt car entitlement - an incentive?

I believe most people know the government does offer incentives to citizens with expertise to return to serve in the country and qualified nationals of other countries to make Malaysia their Second Home. Each family is allowed two duty-exempt vehicles. The savings can be attractive.

But few know the difficulty if he or she decides to dispose of the vehicle!

Upon his return six years ago, my son bought a locally assembled BMW 323i under the scheme. Normal outlay would have been $270K; he paid only $170K or thereabout.

He car was giving him too much problem, even though he had it fully maintained at Auto Bavaria. He decided to replace it with a Japanese car. Since I was around, I decided to help him advertise and sell it. The ordeal began...

A used car dealer who responded to my advertisement was knowledgeable enough to alert me that duties had to be paid before the ownership of the car could be transferred. I only knew that no transfer could be effected within two years of the purchase. Not this one. He suggested that I approach the Customs to confirm.

I duly went to the Customs' headquarters to check things. Yes, but I have to go to the Ministry of Finance at Putrajaya to determine how much I have to pay. What documents do I need? "A copy of the ownership card and the owner's IC will do," officer advised.

The Ministry of Finance at Putrajaya is a monumental structure from afar, but like many buildings in our part of the world, there is much room for improvement in terms of finishes if one cares to look closer. But never mind, the officers are generally quite helpful. I soon found the office for the purpose I had gone for.

"Oh, you have to ask your son to write a letter," explained a lady officer.

I protested. How come those people at the Customs didn't know about this requirement?

Notwithstanding, procedure had to be followed. The lady officer was kind enough to offer me a piece of paper for me to pen an application "on behalf of my son". I should wait for 10 working days.

Why the red tape? I am sure the officer will give his approval since the two-year condition has been satisfied. And surely there is already an established table or formula to calculate the duties payable. Both these functions can actually be performed by the Customs. Or Murphy's Law is something that all government ministries and departments need to follow?

I would have thought with Idris Jalal around, we should not have to reach our left ear by twisting our right arm around the back of our head - just to sooth a small itch?

Or Idirs's KPI is anchored on the process rather than the outcome?

But I must say this: unlike the old days, our government officers are generally quite a helpful lot now.

Nine Covers for Ten Shit Tanks

I have always made it a point to stay clear of race, religion and Malaysian politics in my blogs. A discussion about 1MDB would invariably breach this self-abstention of mine. But like all concerned citizens, I find the goings-on there too disturbing to keep my mouth shout.

Anyone who has more than a layman's knowledge in corporate finance can only conclude - despite the denials by those involved in the "scandal" - that things are indeed not right at all in 1MDB, even if much of what has been revealed by Sarawak Report is not factually correct.

Leaders can choose to be remembered as immortals like Tunku Abdul Rahman or Deng Xiaoping, or plunderers in the moulds of Marcos and Suharto, or as greats like Lee Kuan Yew. There was always a Rasputin or "eunuch" in the courts of the latter category - characters like Cojuangco and Bob Hassan, and in the Southeast Asian context, these are usually men of Chinese descent, even though ordinarily Chinese were by and large treated as second-class citizens in these countries during the eras in question. These leaders accumulated fortunes of outlandish proportions, when the bulk of their countrymen lived in abject poverty. (Many there still do today, even though these leaders are long gone.) Unfortunately or unfortunately, people in such countries appear to be very forgiving; the heirs of these plunderers and scions of their courtiers are still being treated like princes and princesses in their respective lands.

With Internet, there is no way any perpetrator can cover his or tracks fully. Sooner or later, the whole truth will come out. The culprits are likely to get away scot-free, leaving the country poorer by tens of billions. 
History is full of such examples, but greed is a universal motivator. None would admit to be doing anything wrong. Once you are in, you will internalise yourself to champion your cause, no matter how misplaced it is, or in the case of courtiers, to continue to mount the tigers.

Many - the so-called rubber stamps- might not have benefited much from his or her involvement in a scandal like this, but they would be eventually perceived as pariahs nonetheless.

I remember a Cantonese line for a situation like this: if you can only muster bine covers for ten shit tanks, no matter how hard your juggle, the place will definitely stink to high heaven!

Monday, May 11, 2015

What are these Chinese trying to prove?

These pictures were cut and pasted from a PowerPoint source extended to me by a good friend. Apparently, this 4700 ft-high Glass Sky Walk in Tianmen Mourtain in Zhagjiajie, Hunan is China's newest tourist spot!

I saw that many had responded with great pride of this new Chinese wonder. I hold a different view.

What are these Chinese trying to prove? One-upmanship? To me, it is a disaster waiting to happen. Glass in such a setting? Silly really!



The anguish of a father

I am not sure if I have posted the following, which has remained a draft in my blog list for some time...

A friend forwarded the following story stroy to me. Apparently it was written by Wong Ho Leng, MP for Sibu and State Assemblyman for Bukit Assek. Touched by the story, I lost no time in routing it to friends and relatives.

... Untold Story about Guan Eng

I had written 2 paragraphs about my visit to Guan Eng when he was serving his sentence in Kajang Prison. I made that visit in October 1998 together with Chong Siew Chiang. I had merely written that during that visit in Kajang Prison, Chong Siew Chiang and I had a heart to heart talk with Guan Eng for 1 hr. 45 minutes in respect of his legal case which had cost him his freedom, political office, professional career, pension and much else besides. 

I had said that it was a sad but eventful meeting. I was economical in my words.

There is one aspect of my visit to Guan Eng that day that I did not write about. Actually, I could not write about it, because it was so, so humiliating and sad. I did not write about it because Kit Siang did not want me to see it. But I did see what Kit Siang desperately tried to let me not see it.

Kit Siang was supposed to drive us to Kajang Prison. He was busy that morning and our departure from our HQ was delayed a little. Kit Siang was speeding like nobody’s business. When we arrived at the Prison, we “checked” in at the office. It was at this time that I saw the prisoners walking out in their prison uniform for row calls at the wardens’ office. They had to squat in rows, every time and every day that they did so, and the prison wardens would call their numbers.

As I walked in, I saw the familiar face of a prisoner with an unfamiliar crew hair cut. He was squatting at the front row. Both his hands were placed over the back of his head …

We had a split second eye contact but I pretended not to see … It was very dissimilar to those other cases when I was required to visit the prison as a lawyer.

Half an hour later, we met. Kit Siang did not join us. I would not know where he had gone to. Guan Eng started by saying that he wanted me to send a message to Party members and supporters in Sarawak not to despair over his fate. “Tell them that they can break my back, but they cannot break my soul.”

As we discussed his case, I knew that he was not well at all. He was pale and complained of body pain. He also complained that he had not consumed sufficient salt, the food being tasteless. We were worried that his fragile body won’t take him through. We were concerned about his safety in there. He assured us that the inmates there had treated him alright, that they all knew that he was wronged.

It was unbelievable that even when he was at the pit of his life, he had his heart for the Party members, in our case, the comrades in Sarawak.

We told him our view about the legal case. It was clear to us that he was fated to sit behind bars for another 10 months. He knew as much. Royal pardon was out of question.

As Kit Siang drove us away from the Kajang Prison, he made sure that we had a taste of the signature food of Kajang town – satay. At the coffee shop, Kit Siang greeted the town folks who wished him well and to remain strong, but in his leaner body frame, I saw the pains that he had endured. Political adversaries had long accused him of cronyism and nepotism, and the building of a Lim dynasty. The fate of his son losing everything after standing up for a Malay girl who was raped by a Chief Minister, and having to languish in jail for 18 months, showed the cruelty and venom of those accusations.

Siew Chiang was habouring many questions inside his chest and it took a long time for him to break his silence. He asked Kit Siang why he was speeding desperately this morning. Kit Siang then told us. He wanted to make it to the Prison before the row call. If we had made it in time, our meeting could begin, and Guan Eng would not have to take part in the row call. During the row calls, the prisoner had to squat in a row, hands behind the head … As the father, Kit Siang did not want us to see his son in that moment of ultimate humiliation.

Siew Chiang told Kit Siang that he did not see Guan Eng in the row. I said I did not also. Then Kit Siang told us where Guan Eng was squatted. He sped, because he had not wanted us to see the ultimate humiliation to his son.

But I had sinned with my eyes.

The signature satay was tasteless to me amidst cries of injustice that innocent people had to suffer.

On our way home, there was hardly any communication between us. Our hearts were heavier than lead. In my mind, I saw the flashes of a prisoner, hands behind his head, his face so familiar, squatting in the row like other inmates. I repeatedly asked myself whether Guan Eng deserved this. Why should I see that moment in his life when his father had wanted me not to? But that was what it was, for Guan Eng had to endure that humiliation for 365 days.

It was after midnight in Kuching not long after Guan Eng’s release. We had finished our party function and all were hungry for supper. We found a little place in order to replenish our tummies. There was no food left except plain porridge. I ordered some, teasing Guan Eng that the porridge must be better than what he was used to in Kajang. Guan Eng cursed me for reminding him of what he had gone through.

That day about 2 weeks ago, when I stood for photograph with YAB Lim Guan Eng behind his Chief Minister’s desk in Penang, I recalled what I had seen of this man. From a humiliated prisoner, he had been vindicated by the powers in the people’s hands.

Much that YAB Lim had never responded to anything I said about his less than glamorous times behind bars, he will always remember the ultimate humiliation that a person had gone through. He will know the true meaning of justice.

In less than 10 years, God has shown YAB Lim Guan Eng the way. May YAB Lim now shower mercy and love to the great people of Penang.

A friend reverted with this email, which I am reproducing whole-sale below:
As part of the dap [sic] members, we used to keep GE company, before he was sentenced to sit out in kachang prison. Now he is arrogant and ignore us totally.

Also GE went to prison not on the fact that he stood up for a malay girl. He broke the law by printing without a permit.There are many lawyers in dap who knows fully well it is a jailable offence, but chose to keep silent.

After his release from prison,he was voted out of the Dap [sic] state body in Malacca with the second lowest vote.His wife betty got the lowest vote.

He used his power as SC [sic] to become CM of penang,when it is the state chief that shold be chosen.

In politic, it is dog eat dog and there is no honour.

And this is how I responded:
Dear So-and-so,

I was only a schoolboy when I read Pearl S Buck's The Good Earth. To me at that time, it was just another book about poverty-stricken China. I have not bothered to read another Buck because since then because somehow I seemed to have been led to believe that her books are all bad about China and Chinese. Things changed a couple of days ago. In a visit to a book shop recently, my wife’s attention was drawn to a recent biography on her and she decided to pick it up. Because she still had a few in her reading queue and since I was also running out of things to do, I decided to take a first cut at it. I couldn’t put it now, not until I had finished with it. I now realized how wrong I had been! I didn’t know she was living like one of those dirt-poor peasants in a war-torn, rural China then. The stories in her book were apparently based on real characters - herself, her parents, her siblings and those she cared in a very remote part of China where her father was serving as an overzealous missionary – albeit fictionalised somewhat to make the stories more gripping. Her works were, and still are, largely dismissed by many Chinese. Oh, she is NOT Chinese, how can she write correctly about Chinese and China? I suppose many of us would rather forget about that down-and-out period of China. She was supposed to accompany Nixon on his first visit to China, but none other than Zhou En-Lai personally asked for her to be excluded in the party. She had few admirers in China, Lu Shun, said to be China’s greatest author in the 20th Century, was a rare exception. His book The True Story of Ah Q mirrors much of hers. He talked about a clueless Chinese to wake up the Chinese; she related the sufferings of many in that era for the world to read.

Few objected when Bush established Guantanamo in the wake of his war on Terror, but when footages about tortures and acts of humiliation began to leak out to the world, Bush was condemned to the core and America became a pariah. People were not looking at the victims as Al-Qaida extremists; they were horrified by the fact that how a civilised country called the United States of America could do such things to people.

This “untold” story about LGE went deep into my heart, not because I am a supporter or sympathiser of LKS, LGE or DAP – as a matter of fact, none of them is appealing to me politically – but because I felt totally empathised by the sufferings of a father having a son languishing in a prison. The air of desperation, the indignity and the loss of self-esteem as a result of self-perceived humiliation in a holding cell manned by prison wardens and glimpsed by prison visitors can drive one to insanity. I literally could feel their sufferings in that helpless situation. My son-in-law has a cousin who was studying in Australia some years ago. He was looking for a room to rent one day. While speaking with a potential landlord in the latter’s apartment, he , out of the blue, reached for a chopper in the kitchen and killed butcher the man and his wife. By all account he was non-violent. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. His father is one of the foremost cardiac professors in Indonesia. He comes to Melbourne to visit his son in prison once or twice a year. Even after so many years, I still could feel his pain each time I see him.

All of us are entitled to our personal opinion. I like to share mine with friends, but I never expect anyone to agree with me.


Yu Book
I leave readers to form your own conclusion.

When traffic light turns red, step hard on your accelerator!

Our Balkan tour took us to six or seven countries. By coach!

When we arrived in Bulgaria, the traffic leading to the capital Skopje was heavy – quite understandable since it was already late evening time. The local tour guide was nonetheless apologetic. “When we see yellow light, we step hard on our accelerator.” She explained.

She hasn’t seen the way we drive in Malaysia!

I used to be an impatient driver when I was younger. I loved the challenge of overtaking a long convoy of already fast moving cars – even on those single carriage highways in the yesteryears. After having lived in Australia for the last fifteen years, I have become a totally law abiding driver. I now observe every traffic rule, even when I drive in Malaysia.

Instead of being impatient, I have become intolerant instead.

Overtaking one’s left on the emergency lane appears to be the norm of the day. The drivers are not the less instructed Ahmad or Ah Kow or Muthu in their war-torn Protons or Datsuns; many are in fact driving the latest Mercedes or BMWs or Porsches! Even when the traffic light has already turned red, you still see people making a dash to cross the finishing line, not to mention the disregard shown to pedestrians on zebra crossings.

Instead of taking roundabouts, why not make a U-turn before it to save the big circle? That’s what I saw many a time at the Saujana Resort roundabout in front of my apartment. Quite sickening really!

To many, weaving in and out at breakneck speed seems to be the therapeutic way to distress.

Why are so Malaysians behaving like monsters on the road?

One: There are simply too many feeder roads that channel traffic into expressways, which are only as good as the bottlenecks that are in the system. The Kampung Kayu Ara bottleneck is a case in point, despite the NKVE.

Two: Look at the count-down counters at traffic junctions. Red for 199 seconds? Sure everybody would try to avoid this 199-year wait! You are not supposed to cross even the side road is already deserted during this 199-year wait, for the side roads are also accorded a flow time of 199 years. I understand we send our traffic planners go overseas to study other cities from time to time. Don’t we just pack them off to Singapore for a few days?

If the waiting time is short, surely people are more prepared to stop. Isn’t this common sense?

Three: Why put up all the cameras to trap speeding? If I have the franchise to crack down on all the users of emergency lanes along the expressways, especially the Federal Highway, I would certainly be a billionaire in no time. Hasn’t this been considered by so many of our very entrepreneurial politicians already?

In Australia, feeder roads leading to expressways are designed and built to reduce bottlenecks. They are sufficiently long and during non-peak hours, they allow cars to accelerate to 100 km/h to phase generously into the main arteries. During peak hours, one-car-at-a-time traffic ensures that the main flow is not interrupted. And few flout the rule. (If you care to look at these rare offenders, you invariably see a yellow face!)

Four: Our signage is poor. We are too ambitious. There are so many destinations to check out when you are more or less being forced to drive at 110km/h. Direction disappears when you reach critical junctions or split ways. Or it is too late to turn by the time you see it.

Many critical signs are obscured by trees; Others are thoughtlessly displayed. Yes, I see Petaling Jaya; but which part of Petaling Jaya? The new or the old?

Five: We do repair roads and fill up pot holes. But how do we do it? Keep thickening them, of course. No wonder manholes have also become potholes!

Six: Parking bays allow you to park your car the whole day if you want. No wonder people double or triple park! Again common sense, or the lack of it, really!

Seven: I am sure many of us are unable to find EXIT signs in some commercial complexes car parks. The one in Oasis Square at Damansara Ara is outright pathetic in this respect. And I believe Sime Darby is the developer. Why? The bosses don’t have to park the cars themselves. They would not know the problem! I once wrote to Sime Darby Property’s MD to alert him of the filth in this “high-end” suburb. His office replied that is NOT their problem! No wonder!

Condo Dwellers’ Syndrome

Or as some may prefer to call: Condo Living Syndrome

Pareto’s ballpark is seldom wrong; even with the case of condo dwellers.

Eighty percent of dwellers in a typical higher-end condo are apathetic to anything that is happening out of their routine.

Joint Management Body? Residents Association? And their AGMs or EGMs; all these are inconveniences! And why bother about neighbours?

My wife and I were staying in a condo at River Valley Road in Singapore for a couple of years in the mid-2000s. Most of the residents I believe were families of fairly rich Indonesians, and ethnically Chinese, of course. I ran into a number of familiar faces in the lifts every day. Having lived in Australia for some time, it was just natural for me to say hello to them. I gave up after a few attempts. Our overture many a time was met with complete aloofness.

Toorak is “Kampung Tunku” or “Damansara Heights” of Melbourne. There are many mansions there, many of which used to be owned by the old money of Melbourne. No longer! Each time a house was sold, the new owner would invariably be someone ethnically Chinese – whether they are from Mainland China, or Hong Kong, or Malaysia, or Singapore, or Indonesia. My daughter and her family live in this suburb, thanks to her parents-in-law’s foresight. Since my wife and I had to help provide a taxi-service to Monica’s two boys, we decided to also put up with them.

We take morning and evening walks every day. We could see the transformation. Greeting on-comers is no longer a social norm in Australia. Thanks to all these new Permanent Residents! And a reaffirmation of the stereotyping of Chinaman to Aussies!

I could not help but conclude that we of Chinese descent are really not a very friendly lot.

I was therefore a little guarded when we moved into our second home in Malaysia: a unit in a condo in Shah Alam’s Saujana Resort. True enough, we seemed to be invisible to many we met for the first time in the lifts, or along the neighbourhood paths during our morning and evening walks.

I had long resigned to this reality, until a fellow resident insisted on nominating me to be the president of the condo’s resident association - in spite of my protestation that I was only a “part-time” resident.

I thought I should help promote neighbourliness as my first challenge of the office.

Alas, changing attitude is more difficult than moving a mountain! Apathy is just a natural outcome of condo dwellers’ syndrome. Not many residents are interested in the activities of the association. (However, those who do are really very committed to its cause.)

I see this apathy is most glaring with those who were educated wholly in Chinese schools. Is there something very fundamentally wrong with Chinese schools' approach?

Chinese schools are completely capable of producing straight-A students. But many do not seem to know how to “educate”, especially in the area of social etiquette! I dare say many products of Chinese schools are awkward when it comes to the ABCs of social skills. But if the teachers themselves are not aware of this need, what do you expect? I suppose one has to start with teaching the teachers first! Who else to learn from? My answer: the people the community seems to hate most. Who else but the Japanese, lah!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Conspiracy Theorists

"Oh, I can tell you the British royal family is behind the accident that caused the death of Princess Diana." "No doubt about it, President Kennedy's assassination was engineered by the then director of FBI!" "911 was the work of America itself!"

These are the older so-called conspiracy theories one often reads. The new ones include the recent disappearance of MH370.

People just love conspiracy theories!

Conspiracy theorists take pain to draw evidence to support their conclusions. While some might be true, many are tailoring their "evidence" to suit their own conclusions. You can believe if the plot is hatched between a couple of individuals. But if they involved huge organisations and cross-boundary arrangements, then I think we should be more discerning in accepting.
There was a discourse about IS amongst our university classmates lately. It started with one chap forwarding an article about the origin of IS. This article has been in circulation in the Internet for sometime already. It is basically a pseudo-academic article, nothing very great to shout about. But people are just concerned; there is really no harm in reading it, even though a lot of  the facts offered are already common knowledge.

It soon attracted responses, which is to be expected, since many of my classmates are pretty scholarly during their younger days. The intellect of some are still formidable given the fact that our median age is about 67, and most have already retired.

One classmate is totally convinced that IS is the creation of Uncle Sam. And he wrote passionately about his belief.

 "Looked at so and so in the American establishment, see what they have said about IS.

 "Look at the Toyotas used by the IS. They are all designed for IS's specific needs. You think they can get the supply without American nod?"

So on and so forth.

"Oh, this MH370 thing, I can tell you it is an American plot. Go to this link and that link and you can see them for yourselves that what I say is true."

This friend of mine is assuming that for the former case, Obama has been working with the Republicans and the different political and tribal factions in the Arab world and Toyota to come up with an organisation to destabilise the region. For the sake of oil, maybe? As for the latter, ditto Uncle Sam is the culprit. He can cause all the military radars, Tony Abbott and Najib to remain silent (remembering he has been invited to play golf with Obama?), and allow America to bring the plane somewhere. Why? Because there is a military secret that the plane was carrying and Americans did not want China to have.

A person who is obsessed with conspiracy theories is usually a very imaginative individual. To them, there is definitely a connection between two points in space. All you have to do is to draw a straight line to join them. Bingo! 



I have always admired the two latest model BMWs that are parked next to my car bays in Serai Suajana. They carry fancy number plates. I do exchange pleasantries with this BMW enthusiast whenever we run into each other in the car park. He is perhaps in this early 40s and spots a pair of earrings, which are quite unusual for a man of his age in Malaysia. However, when I came to know that he was in the jewellery business, I could understand.

Recently I saw that one of his BMWs had been fitted with a " Dato' Seri" emblem.
Oh, I don’t know that my neighbor is a Dato' Seri! 

Many Chinese love honorifics! And Malaysia offers plenty of these opportunities. At the federal level, we have titles like Tun, Tan Sri and Datuk, and at the state level, we have Datuk (is also spelt variously as Dato or Dato', depending on the state that is bestowing the title) at the entry level, followed by amplifications like Seri, Wira, etc for the higher categories. The federal honorifics are bestowed by the King and those of the states', by their respective hierarchical rulers or governors.

Federal titles like Tun (SMN, SSM) and Tan Sri (PMN, PSM) are more coveted. The number of living recipients for each of the four categories used to be restricted years ago, but now I understand only the Tun's numbers are. Only top politicians, real captains of industries and benefactors of social and community causes are bestowed PSMs, which are the lower category of the two Tan Sri-ships. But now, I see that many minor league CEOs and businessmen also carry that title. I suppose the powers that be have their reasons to do so.

I understand at the federal level, the "power to recommend" lies with the prime minister and as for the states, that privilege lies with the respective chief ministers. While some states are stringent in handing out honorifics, others appear quite generous. Many would vouch that if you were prepared to spend a couple of millions or hundred Ks, procuring an honorific in front of your name is no big deal. I don't know how far it is true, though. But indeed there are so many titled people now. If you just shouted "Datuk" in any social function, many would say “I am”, so the joke goes.

Honorifics are meant for people who have contributed to the nation, or the state, or society. But on closer scrutiny, some of the recipients are really not that deserving. Some have committed crimes. Notwithstanding, they are largely coveted. I suppose if you can obtain the title without giving anything to the society, people will still hold you in some awe; after all, you must be a man who has means the spare millions or at least a couple of hundreds of Ks to flaunt.

But for those who have genuinely earned the honour, the idea of having pseudos as peers must be pretty discomforting.

Titles are largely scorned off in a country like Australia. Tony Abbott nearly lost his job recently, thanks to his decision to reintroduce knighthoods and award one to Prince Philip! What a nut Tony was. Sir Prince Philip? Or Prince Sir Philip? Does Prince Philip need that?

Some has-been royalties are selling titles for a living. I heard "datu-ship" can be had for a couple of Ks from a "sultan" in the Philippines. A lordship can also be had from one of the obscure princes in Europe. And I am sure North Korea would be able to gain a lot of forex if Kim Jong Un decides to declare himself as the emperor of North Korea. Chinese would queue up in droves to pay him or the country princely amounts just to have a title in front of their name!
It really doesn’t matter if it is from North Korea or Timbuktu. We Chinese love titles!