2019 Merdeka Award Grant For International Attachment Announcement And Presentation Ceremony


Assalamualaikum Warahmatulahi Wabarakatuh, and Good Afternoon.

1. One of the most rewarding aspects of presenting the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment each year is getting to be part of this next step in the journey of a young Malaysian, in pursuit of his or her aspirations. I am greatly heartened by their energy, and by their determination to make a difference in the world. This pioneering spirit and determination is what has driven our country’s development thus far, and I am confident that the next generation of Malaysian talent will continue to shape and drive the future direction of our nation.

2. Let me first touch briefly on the meaning of “Merdeka”, and on what it means to be an independent nation. It means being empowered to influence the future of our own nation, for the wellbeing of our people. It means being the masters of our own destiny, and being responsible for charting and driving our progress, for the benefit of current and future Malaysians.

3. Since achieving independence in 1957, our country has gone through a transformative process of nation-building and economic change, with huge investments in infrastructure development and in human capital. The initial aim was to improve the standard of living of rural and urban populations, and promote greater social inclusion. The success of these efforts resulted in the industrialisation of Malaysia, with the fast growing economy contributing to the country’s progress, and providing the basis for the improvements that Malaysians enjoy today. 

4.   Our current prosperity, as an upper income economy, has been made possible by the work of our founding leaders, and by the active participation of individual Malaysians, who have been steadfast in their pursuit of excellence, and outstanding in performing their nation building duties. Every year we pay tribute to some of these exceptional individuals and organisations with the Merdeka Award.

5.      But we cannot rest on the laurels of our past successes.  As the world around us is transforming, Malaysia must also evolve in order to drive the next phase of our country’s journey towards a sustainable future. It is here, I believe, that young Malaysians can make a significant impact. Part of the beauty of youth is the ability to view the world from a fresh perspective. With that also comes the opportunity to make a difference, whether in the area of scientific research and development, of environmental conservation and sustainability, or of social and human capital development. All of these can provide the impetus for sustainable growth.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

6. The Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment was launched in 2012 to provide opportunities to help young Malaysians develop their novel ideas and enrich their body of work, by engaging in short term collaborative programmes at globally renowned institutions and organisations. In return, it is hoped that this opportunity will help them develop solutions to address some of the nation’s most pressing needs.

7. To date the Merdeka Award Trust has awarded a total of 14 grants in the following areas:

  • Medical research to identify causes and treatments for various types of cancer, cardiac diseases, HIV, and stroke;
  • Research into solutions for sustainable agricultural production;
  • Research into energy conversion and storage using local commodities such as palm oil and rubber;
  • Disaster response and management through integrated partnerships between the public and private sectors and universities;
  • Research into data-driven business models to help position local SMEs in areas of research and innovation;
  • Advocacy and appreciation of indigenous people through art;
  • New energy resources for sustainable energy production that is environmentally friendly and cost efficient.

8. The mastery and application of knowledge through research is a great enabler. When it is applied wisely, it can promote economic advancement, social development and unity and harmony. The important work carried out by our young researchers cannot be done in isolation, however. It requires the collective support from various organisations in the private and public sectors, be it in the form of funding or collaboration. I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the founders of the Merdeka Award Trust – PETRONAS, ExxonMobil and Shell, for their ongoing commitment to supporting young Malaysians to strive for excellence, through the means of the Merdeka Award Trust.

9. As we progress in this journey of nationhood, I would like to encourage all Malaysians to foster a culture of knowledge-building and sharing, and to participate actively in the country’s development. I hope that young Malaysians will continue to hunger for knowledge and service, regardless of the field of pursuit. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

10. This brings us to the main purpose of this afternoon. I am encouraged to note that each year we receive an increasing number of applications for the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment.  All of the proposals submitted had their unique attributes, which made the selection process interesting. After a rigorous selection process, I am delighted to announce that 5 (five) talented Malaysians have been selected to receive this year’s Merdeka Award Grant.  And so now, it gives me great pleasure to announce the 2019 Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment recipients:

  • CHRISHEN ROBERT GOMEZ A/L ROY ANTONY GOMEZ is currently a Project Research Manager at the Bornean Carnivore Programme. His work focuses on endangered animal preservation through genetics research on the Sunda clouded leopard.
  • FENG YING XING is conducting Post Doctoral work at the Centre for Intelligent Signal and Imaging Research, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS.  He plans to develop a deep-learning model to improve cognitive performance.
  • JULIANA OOI SUE MAY intends to focus her research on “Empowering Young Malaysian Parents in Reproductive and Social Health Education”. She currently works as a Project Manager at Red Brick Global Education.
  • MOHD AZRI AB RANI is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Applied Sciences at Universiti Teknologi MARA. His research is on “Batteries for Future; The Birth of Sodium Ian (Na+) Batteries”.
  • YANNY MARLIANA BABA ISMAIL is focusing her research in “Smart Material that Speed up Bone Healing”. Yanny is currently a lecturer at the School of Materials and Mineral Resources Engineering, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

11. To the Grant recipients, I hope that you will make best of the opportunity to engage with the world’s finest experts, collect valuable insights for your fields of research, and develop solutions for the people, while at the same time contributing to your personal growth.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

12. Before I end, I would once again like to thank PETRONAS, ExxonMobil and Shell, the Founding Members of the Merdeka Award Trust and Merdeka Award Board of Trustees – who have long played a key role in Malaysia’s nation-building efforts – for their continued commitment and contribution to nurturing human capabilities for achieving excellence.

13. I would also like to thank the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment Selection Committee, family members and friends of the 2019 Merdeka Award Grant recipients, as well as everyone present today, for your support for the Merdeka Award Grant. 18.    Thank you and have a pleasant evening

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