KUALA LUMPUR: There are at present 36 Tuns and 458 Tan Sris, with room for more.
These honorific titles, though regularly given out by the Federal Government, are controlled and must not exceed a certain number at any one time.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Datuk Abdul Rahman Suliman said there were two categories of "Tun": the Seri Maharaja Mangku Negara (SMN), which is limited to 25 people, and the Seri Setia Mahkota Negara (SSM), which cannot be bestowed on more than 35 people at a time.
"However, the Government has only bestowed 14 SMN and 22 SSM to date.
"This means there are 36 Tuns in the country. The Government can bestow the title ‘Tun’ on another 24 people," he said to reporters at Parliament lobby.
He was elaborating on a matter brought up by DAP MP for Tanjung Chow Kon Yeow in the House concerning titles and protocol.
Rahman said the criteria for "Tun" recipients were that they should be outstanding in their field, should have contributed to the country, and be influential.
He said similar conditions applied for the "Tan Sri" honorific, which fell under two categories: the Panglima Mangku Negara (PMN) and Panglima Setia Negara (PSN). Combined, the number is limited to 625; 75 of them PMN and 550 PSN.
Rahman said to date, the Government had bestowed Tan Sri awards on 458 people.
A similar arrangement existed for the title of "Datuk", which also came in two categories: the Panglima Jasa Negara (PJN) and Panglima Setia Diraja (PSD).
Rahman said a register was maintained to keep track of recipients and ensure nobody was bestowed the same title by the Government twice.
He said Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had received his "Tan Sri" while he was Johor Menteri Besar.
He said civil servants who received the titles "Datuk" or "Tan Sri" should be of a certain age: men above 40, and women, 35.
During question time, Chow said it must be awkward for the minister when he has to deal with a civil servant who had a higher honorific than himself.
Rahman said such an issue never arose.
"Titles are just that and should not pose a problem to their work," he said.
"I don’t think any civil servant would disregard instructions because they have a higher title than the minister."
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