[note: Brunei Times published my article yesterday. This is based on an earlier blog entry in 2006]
On the occasion of His Majesty’s Birthday which is the fifteenth of every July for our current Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzadin Waddaullah, there will be a few very deserving people who will be getting their honours. For some of them, they will also automatically get a title that goes by receiving that honours.
The Brunei Birthday Honours is similar to the British Birthday Honours given by the Queen. The honours system is a means of rewarding the citizens and other individuals for their personal bravery, achievement, or service to the country. The system consists of three types of award: honours, decorations and medals:
• Honours are used to recognise merit in terms of achievement and service.
• Decorations tend to be used to recognise specific deeds;
• Medals are used to recognise bravery, long and/or valuable service and/or good conduct.
Historically, it is not known when the first honours and titles were awarded. But certainly by the 14th century, when the Brunei Sultans were already reigning in Brunei, titles and presumably honours were already in place. The Sultan was at the top of a pyramid of officials with wazirs and cheterias as well as pehin manteris assisting him. Titles must have been given to lower officials who assisted them including the title of Dato.
Honours are split into different classes ("orders"). Each order is graded so as to distinguish the different degrees of achievement or service. In Brunei, there is a committee which meets to discuss the candidates and decide which ones deserve which type of award and at what level.
Candidates are identified by the various ministries and departments. Normally if the recipient is a foreigner, permission is asked before the candidate can be awarded. Similarly if a foreign country was to award any form of honours to a Bruneian, permission must be sought from the government before that honours can be received or before the title, if any, can be used by the recipient.
Honours awarded by His Majesty are given at separate occasions depending on the level of award. The 'Bintang Kebesaran' or Decoration Orders are awarded during His Majesty's Birthday by His Majesty himself. If there are too many recipients to be awarded on a single morning, some will be awarded by His Majesty at another smaller ceremony after the birthday.
In the past, the honours were also awarded during His Majesty’s visit to that particular district. Usually several honours will be given out to the residents of the district. Honours can also be awarded during visits by foreign dignitaries to Brunei. Sometimes it can also be awarded to the foreign dignitary when His Majesty is visiting those countries.
Whereas medals are awarded by His Majesty but are always presented by HRH The Crown Prince or by one of His Majesty's brothers a few months later.
The Bintang Kebesaran come in several different categories. Each category is for different classes of recipients.
For instance Darjah Kerabat Mahkota Brunei (Order of the Crown of Brunei) or the Royal Family Order of the Crown of Brunei are only awarded to members of the royal families either Bruneians or other royals.
Darjah Seri Ugama Islam is of course awarded to Islamic clerics or those who served in the religious service.
Darjah Paduka Seri Laila Jasa Keberanian is of course for the military and the police.
Each category has several classes. It is the second and first class of each category which will give the title Dato. However for being awarded the decoration or bintang kebesaran, the recipients in addition to the title in front of their names, if any, will also get to keep the letters behind their names. The list of different categories of Orders, the classes in each Order, the letters to be used at the end of one’s name and the titles, if any (to be used in front of the recipients’ names), associated with that class:-
• Darjah Kerabat Mahkota Brunei (The Royal Family Order of the Crown of Brunei) - 1st Class only: DKMB
• Darjah Kerabat Laila Utama Yang Amat Dihormati (The Most Esteemed Family Order Laila Utama) – 1st Class only: DK – carries the title of Dato Laila Utama
• Darjah Kerabat Seri Utama Yang Amat Dihormati (The Most Esteemed Family Order Seri Utama) - 1st Class only: DK – carries the title of Dato Seri Utama
• Darjah Seri Ugama Islam Negara Brunei Yang Amat Bersinar (The Most Eminent Order of Islam Brunei) - 1st Class: PSSUB – carries the title of Dato Paduka Seri Setia; 2nd Class: DSSUB – carries the title of Dato Seri Setia; 3rd Class: SSUB – carries no title; 4th Class: SUB – carries no title; and 5th Class: PUB – carries no title
• Darjah Paduka Seri Laila Jasa Keberanian Gemilang Yang Amat Cemerlang (The Most Illustrious Order of Paduka Laila Jasa Keberanian Gemilang) - 1st Class: DPKG – carries the title of Dato Paduka Seri; 2nd Class: DKLG – carries the title of Dato Laila; 3rd Class: DKG – carries no title
• Darjah Paduka Keberanian Laila Terbilang Yang Amat Gemilang (The Most Exalted Order of Paduka Keberanian Laila Terbilang) - 1st Class: DPKT – carries the title of Dato Paduka Seri; 2nd Class: DKLT – carries the title of Dato Laila; 3rd Class: DKT – carries no title
• Darjah Pahlawan Negara Brunei Yang Amat Perkasa (The Most Gallant Order of Pahlawan Negara Brunei) - 1st Class: PSPNB – carries the title of Dato Seri Pahlawan; 2nd Class: DHPNB – carries the title of Dato Hamzah Pahlawan; 3rd Class: PNB – carries no title; 4th Class: PJB – carries no title
• Darjah Setia Negara Brunei Yang Amat Bahagia (The Most Blessed Order of Setia Negara Brunei) - 1st Class: PSNB – carries the title of Dato Seri Setia; 2nd Class: DSNB – carries the title of Dato Setia; 3rd Class: SNB – carries no title; 4th Class: PSB – carries no title
• Darjah Paduka Seri Laila Jasa Yang Amat Berjasa (The Most Distinguished Order of Paduka Seri Laila Jasa) - 1st Class: PSLJ – carries the title of Dato Paduka Seri Laila Jasa; 2nd Class: DSLJ – carries the title of Dato Seri Laila Jasa; 3rd Class: SLJ – carries no title
• Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia (The Most Honourable Order of Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei) - 1st Class: SPMB – carries the title of Dato Seri Paduka; 2nd Class: DPMB – carries the title of Dato Paduka; 3rd Class: SMB – carries no title
Usually, the greatest number of new Datoships will receive the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia 2nd Class - DPMB which will give the title Dato Paduka.
Non-Bruneians traditionally get the Darjah Paduka Seri Laila Jasa Yang Amat Berjasa even though Bruneians have also been awarded this in the past. It is possible to get even higher and higher orders. The title that will be used will be the highest one that the recipient received.
Normally the lowest decoration order government officers get will be the PSB and for religious officers the PUB.
So, come 15th July 2008, if you are watching on television or reading the news of His Majesty handing out the awards, this writer hopes that this article can be used as a guide. If one of you readers is one of the recipients, this writer offers his heartiest congratulations for receiving the well deserved award.