1. Since achieving independence in 1957, Malaysia has undergone a transformation. Huge investments were made in infrastructure and human capital development, to drive our economic growth. The aims were to improve standards of living for rural and urban populations; to alleviate poverty; to raise the level of education; to improve health outcomes; and to ensure the inclusion of all in the growing prosperity of our young nation.
  2. The success of these efforts can be seen in the industrialisation of Malaysia, the modernisation of our economy, and the elevation of overall well-being throughout our society. This progress has provided a strong foundation for the quality of life we enjoy today. These achievements were made possible by the wisdom and dedication of our founding leaders, and by the active participation of Malaysians, who have been steadfast in the pursuit of excellence and in their duty to nation-building.
  1. Later this month, we will mark the 65th anniversary of our independence, commemorating our achievements so far, and looking forward to our further development. The world beyond Malaysia presents us with new and ever-more difficult challenges, however. So while we celebrate how far we have come since 1957, we must also continue to strive, to struggle, and to work together towards a brighter future. I am confident that we Malaysians have the talent and tenacity, grit and gumption to make our future both sustainable and equitable.
  2. We are also celebrating the 15th year since the founding of the Merdeka Award Trust. As many of you know, the Merdeka Award is intended to embody the “Spirit of Merdeka.” It honors those who have made outstanding contributions to our nation. It celebrates their resolute pursuit of excellence in their respective fields, and the realization by them of their full human potential. These Laureates serve as an inspiration for the rest of us.
  3. I want to mention some of our Laureates who are sadly no longer with us, but whose legacy lives on through their outstanding achievements.
    1. The late Tan Sri Lim Phaik Gan, for her fight for women’s rights and marginalized groups in the late 1960s;
    2. The late Dr. Engkik Soepadmo, for his significant contribution to research and the conservation of plant diversity in Malaysian forests. Several species of plants are even named after him!
    3. The late Dr. Lim Boon Liat, whose remarkable contributions in the field of zoology have even been recognised in a Google Doodle;
    4. The late Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim, who was an instrumental figure in the formulation of the Rukun Negara, and whose works are a primary source of reference for the history curriculum in Malaysia;
    5. Allahyarham Royal Professor Ungku Aziz, and Allahyarham Tun Dr. Arshad Ayub – who helped shape and develop Malaysia’s education landscape through education reforms and innovation;
    6. The late Datuk Leslie Davidson – who revolutionized the development of the local oil palm industry; and
    7. The late Tan Sri Just Faaland – who helped pave the way for economic growth and the prosperity of this country.
  4. We are pleased to have many of our Laureates here with us today, who have also made an indelible mark on our country. The Merdeka Trust is delighted to have been able to honour some of Malaysia’s best minds, bravest hearts, and most capable hands, through this illustrious tribute.
  5. Whilst recognizing these giants and leaders, the Trust also wanted to nurture among young Malaysians the pioneering spirit that has helped to drive our country’s progress. This is particularly important as we move towards a future where innovative scientific research and development, and technological know-how, fostered by the next generation, is what will provide us with competitive advantage. In 2012, we introduced the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment, to complement the Merdeka Award. It provides outstanding researchers under the age of 35 the opportunity to collaborate with international experts in their fields of interest. This enables them to build on their existing work and achievements.
  6. In both the Award and the Grant, the Merdeka Award Trust has recognised outstanding Malaysians, in the following areas, among others:
  • Medical research to identify causes and treatments for various types of cancer, heart disease, HIV, and other infectious diseases.
  • Solutions for sustainable agriculture production, and for improved food and waste management.
  • Innovations in space exploration, and in energy conversion and storage using local commodities.
  • Disaster response and management, through integrated partnerships between the public and private sectors and universities.
  • Advocacy for our culture and heritage, including for indigenous people through art.
  • Conservation of our rich biodiversity, flora and fauna.
  1. Many of our recipients have gone on to enhance and expand their body of work, establishing themselves as subject-matter experts and thought-leaders in their respective disciplines, both here in Malaysia and globally. We are extremely proud of them all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. I am pleased to announce that this year we are recognizing five more well-deserving recipients for the 2022 Merdeka Award, as follows.
  • In the Education and Community category, the award is given to Teach For Malaysia, for their work to ensure higher quality education in government schools, especially in rural and underprivileged communities. Their work is underpinned by the belief that a child’s education and future should not be determined by his or her circumstances in life.
  • In the Environment category, the award is given to the Global Environment Centre. The award recognises their outstanding contribution in mangrove, peat swamp forest, river and coastal management; their climate change programmes; and their promotion of community engagement and partnerships to help conserve and protect our environment and natural resources.​
  • In the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement category, the recipient is Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr. Siti Zuraina binti Abdul Majid. This is in recognition of her outstanding contribution as an archaeologist, including her role in the discovery of ‘Perak man’, and her efforts in promoting the designation of Lenggong Valley as a UNESCO World Heritage site.​
  • In the Health, Science and Technology category, the recipient is Professor Dato’ Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman. She is a driving force in mitigating the spread of infectious diseases, whose work in structuring policies and responses to HIV/AIDS has contributed to the prevention, treatment and reduction of cases.
  • In the Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia category, the award is given to Dato’ Dr Annabel Teh Gallop. This is for her outstanding contribution in scholarly research, curation, archiving and the preservation of ancient Malay letters, manuscripts, and other documents, and Malay and Islamic seals. Her work has promoted understanding of Malay as the language of trade and diplomacy throughout the Malay Archipelago, and helped to illuminate the rich heritage of the Malay world.
  1. This year, the Trust is debuting a new category, Anugerah Harapan Merdeka, to recognise a younger generation of trailblazers consisting of individuals below 40 years of age, or organizations less than 10 years old.
  2. The inaugural recipient of Anugerah Harapan Merdeka is
    Samuel Isaiah. He is recognised for his outstanding contribution and unflagging commitment to improving and uplifting the standard of education among Orang Asli children, as well as for his work in coaching teachers to help elevate the quality of education for all.
  3. Both the Grant and Anugerah Harapan Merdeka contribute towards the development of a pipeline of distinguished talents, serving to inspire others who may one day also emerge to become Merdeka Award Laureates.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. As I consider the list of 63 laureates who have been conferred the Merdeka Award, I am inspired by those who continue to push the envelope, and make all efforts to foster a culture of excellence. Many are ahead of their time, and are giants in their fields, but remain humble in their pursuit of progress.
  2. Such major achievements generally do not come about without some sacrifice, of course. There may have been times when our Laureates have wavered, especially if the path towards their goals is pitted with trials. Yet they retain their strong sense of mission, remaining resolute, determined, and driven. They are remarkable and admirable people. With persistence and foresight, they have pioneered new approaches to tackle issues affecting society and the planet. Through their efforts they are helping humanity to survive and thrive from one generation to the next.
  3. As such, the Trust aims to advance the important work that they do, and to amplify the impact they make in the social, economic, and environmental realms. By celebrating and acknowledging these extraordinary Malaysians, we hope they will become a beacon to those who follow after them.
  4. Our enduring ambition at the Merdeka Trust remains: to foster a culture of excellence, and in doing so, to promote thought leadership and innovation, and to enhance Malaysia’s standing as a dynamic and competitive 21st century global player, in all key sectors from science and technology, to culture, and the arts.
  5. In promoting this goal, we are helping to create a Malaysia that is stronger, more resilient, and more united. And I must emphasize that these goals are not the responsibility of leaders, or of specific individuals or organizations alone. They will be attained only through the collective effort of us all, both here in this room and beyond. By joining hands together, including with members of the media, we can strengthen the impactful work being done for and by our people.
  6. As we press on with hope for a better future, I want to thank you all, for staying on the course of excellence, and for promoting the path of positive change through your outstanding work in so many diverse and important fields.
  7. I want to end by thanking my fellow members of the Board – Datuk Tengku Muhammad Taufik, Ivan Tan, Datuk Yvonne Chia, and Professor Datuk Dr. Halimaton Hamdan; the members of the Nomination and Selection committees as well as the hard-working secretary of the Board, Kerina Fauzi. Finally, please join me in congratulating once again this year’s distinguished Awardees.
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