Can we dispensed with long winded protocol laden honorific ceremonial salutations at functions?

Syed Nadzri’s article “Time to dispense with protocol at functions” in NST on 19 May 2015 really struck a chord with many of us. And I have heard many colleagues and friends grumbling about this. I am sure you have come across functions where you have to endure a good 10 minutes of opening salutations such as Yang Berbahagia Tun, Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri, Yang Berbahagia Puan Sri, Datuk Seri, Datu-datuk, Datin-datin and the list goes on and on until the reader is breathless and the listeners start to whisper to each other, fiddling with their programme books, staring at the ceiling, or even stifling a yawn or two. If you are an emcee, it is even worse because not only you have to make sure the Tan Sri, Datuk Seri, Datin Seri, Datuk or whatever that were on the list is around, you must also get the order correct. Syed Nadri said, the book Malaysian Protocol by Datuk Abdullah Ali, listed down the order of precedence right from the Yang Di Pertuan Agong to all the way down to the ministerial level – all 53 levels!. Worse still, at state level functions, the salutations provided by the host state take precedence and as an emcee you must know it or else that is probably the last of your emceeing job or at government level, you’ll getting the show cause letter or your boss would be reprimanded by the big bosses for not following protocol. It is a real dilemma. Many people moaned about it but so far nobody dares to defy the protocol, more so us government servants. I reckon it is a reflection of our Malay custom that has been woven into our social fabric, where respect to the positioned and elders are of prime importance. I have attended a lot of functions overseas, none so far matches our intricacies and length in addressing the opening salutations.
The Chief Minister of Sarawak recently tried to cut it down when he ordered he should be referred as CM (short for chief minister) without mentioning his full official titles during official events. I wonder if other state chiefs would follow. But you still run the risk of being told off if you get it wrong or miss out mentioning any dignitary in your speech. I believe it is necessary to address the important guest at events but to address all of them complete with their titles and to repeat that every opening paragraph is quite tiresome.
On that note, the reknown ulama, Datuk Abu Hassan Din noted on TV9 recently that Muslim are not obligated to answer a salam given by a speaker if the salam is given after the salutation. As you know, Muslims are obligated to answer a salam and giving the salam should come first. It is very interesting, I noticed that many a time, a speaker would only say the “Assalamualaikum” after addressing the long list of dignitaries present at the event. He said, the speaker should immediately open the speech with “assalamualaikum”, then only address the dignitaries with their ceremonial honorifics. He chided some people who open the speech with salutation and add a lot Arabic salutation with praises to Allah and Rasullullah, excerpt from the Quran and the doa and only finally say the all important “assalamualaikum”. In this case, he said, muslims are not obligated to answer with waalaikumussalam.

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