KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s return of his Selangor state awards will not change his past status as a prime minister of 22 years or his present position.
Former Universiti Malaya law professor Gurdial Singh Nijar said this following Mahathir’s decision to return the awards after strong comments against him by the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.
“Under the constitution, the sultan has complete discretion in giving out awards. The award is given in appreciation of a person’s services.
“Since the sultan has expressed his displeasure with Dr Mahathir, it is therefore a noble gesture on Dr Mahathir’s part to return the awards,” Gurdial said.
Mahathir’s decision to return the awards comes as the sultan marked his 72nd birthday yesterday.
The sultan had first criticised Mahathir following the latter’s speech during Pakatan Harapan’s “anti-kleptocracy” rally in October, in which he referred to Prime Minister Najib Razak as a “descendant of Bugis pirates”.
The Selangor royal household are descendants of the Bugis ethnic group.
Mahathir has maintained that his remarks were only against Najib and not directed at the Bugis community.
The Selangor sultan further criticised and condemned Mahathir in separate interviews published by The Star and Utusan Malaysia.
The late Selangor sultan, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, had bestowed the Seri Paduka Mahkota Selangor (SPMS) award to Mahathir in 1978.
In 2003, following Mahathir’s retirement as prime minister, Sultan Sharafuddin awarded him the Darjah Kerabat Yang Amat Dihormati (DK).
The award was only given to a maximum of 25 people at any one time and was a sign of appreciation for Mahathir’s contributions during his tenure as prime minister.
Mahathir’s wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali has also returned her Selangor awards.
When asked if people who had been charged in court should also return their state awards, Gurdial said they were in a different situation from Mahathir.
“It is different when the sultan removes the award given to a person charged or convicted of a crime.
“I recall that the previous Sultan of Johor had done that in such cases. A criminal case conviction could well tarnish the image of the sultan.