Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Merdeka Award Trust, it gives me great pleasure to welcome everyone to this significant gathering to announce the names of the recipients of the 2013 Merdeka Award.
These are individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the growth and advancement of this nation.
Since it was launched in 2007 by PETRONAS, ExxonMobil and Shell, the Merdeka Award continues to grow in its quest to recognise the contributions of individuals and organisations that have garnered remarkable and lasting achievements for Malaysia.
The Merdeka Award reflects our aim to commemorate the true spirit of independence, which transcends the conventional definition of national sovereignty.
It explores the liberation of the mind and spirit – factors which foster the realisation of human potential and the pursuit of excellence.
Each year, the Merdeka Award is conferred on individuals and organisations whose excellent work and achievements make an outstanding impact on the nation and its people.
Awards are conferred in five categories we believe are instrumental to the overall growth and development of a nation, namely:
- Education & Community
- Health, Science & Technology
- Outstanding Scholastic Achievement
- (and) Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia
One award is made for each of the five categories. In the event that in a given year, two individuals or organisations are deemed to be equally deserving of recognition, the award will be shared.
Recipients will receive a trophy, the Merdeka Award Work of Art by renowned artist Latiff Mohidin and a cash award of RM500,000.
The search, nomination and selection of Merdeka Award recipients, which began in January this year, are extensive and rigorous. In the final round of selection only the most outstanding achievements and contributions are recognised.
In this way, it is our hope that the Award will earn its recipients a place in history as individuals and organisations that have gone above and beyond the call of duty by demonstrating the true Spirit of Merdeka.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is now my pleasure to announce the recipients of the 2013 Merdeka Award.
In the Education & Community category, there are two recipients this year.
The first Joint Recipient is Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Utama Arshad Ayub for his outstanding contribution in shaping Malaysia’s education landscape through the development of professional education and education reforms and innovation that have resulted in education becoming more accessible to Malaysians.
Tan Sri Arshad is among the foremost education visionaries in Malaysia. He laid the foundation for Institut Teknologi MARA (now UiTM) and led one of the most successful education initiatives in the country.
These early efforts were original and outstanding and have since been emulated by many other educational institutions in the country.
The second Joint Recipient is Raja Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Utama Muhammad Alias for his outstanding contribution to rural development and rural reform through organising successful land settlement projects for the landless, rural population in Malaysia.
Raja Alias helmed FELDA for more than three decades, crystalising the vision of then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, “to provide land to the landless and jobs for the jobless”. FELDA has since been recognised as a key agency in the effort to eradicate rural poverty in Malaysia and its model has been applied in other countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and nations in Africa.
The recipient in the Environment Category is Dr Lim Boo Liat for his outstanding contribution to the conservation of Malaysia’s biological diversity through the study, understanding and control of vector-borne diseases and the relationship between diseases and the environment; and for advocating the protection of our natural heritage.
Dr Lim, a pioneer in the field of zoology, is regarded as a leading authority in the research and conservation of Malaysia’s biological diversity through his six decades of scientific research and environmental advocacy.
He has made significant contributions to the publication of the Red List of Mammals of Peninsular Malaysia, considered to be the first national Red List carried out by any country in the world.
The recipient in the Health, Science & Technology Category is Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Yahya Awang for his outstanding contribution to pioneering the development of clinical research and cardiac surgery in Malaysia and for his instrumental role in the establishment of the National Heart Institute or Institut Jantung Negara (IJN).
Dr Yahya played a pioneering role in the development of cardiac surgery, at a time when this area of study was at its infancy in Malaysia and the country had many patients in dire need of treatment.
He successfully performed the first heart transplant in Malaysia, paving the way for heart surgery to become accessible to more Malaysians.
The recipient in the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement category is Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr Lam Sai Kit for his outstanding contribution to scholarly research and development in medical virology and infectious diseases including dengue.
Professor Lam is among the most influential figures in medical virology in South East Asia, notably for his research in dengue that is recognised by the World Health Organisation.
Professor Lam was part of a 15-member team from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, that identified the Nipah virus as a cause of viral encephalitis among pig farmers in the country, helping to contain the outbreak. The Nipah Virus Encephalitis Investigation Team was conferred the Merdeka Award in 2008.
There is no award this year in the category of Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia.
Ladies and gentlemen,
While these towering Malaysians are extraordinary in their own right, what makes this year’s recipients even more interesting is the combined legacy of their achievements and contributions:
- With Tan Sri Arshad’s pioneering efforts, UiTM has grown to become Malaysia’s largest institution of higher learning in terms of size and population offering 480 academic programmes.
- Raja Alias’ initial efforts have resulted in millions of acres of land being planted with oil palm and rubber and many FELDA settlements established across the country.
- Dr Lim has conceptualised “ecological labeling” by parasite pattern, accepted by animal behaviorists and mammalogists around the world, and has helped revive and strengthen the Malaysian Nature Society, itself a recipient of the Merdeka Award in 2008.
- Dr Yahya’s vision and dedication and his early efforts in IJN have spawned an institution that has treated more than a million patients since it was established in 1992. He has trained no less than 50 of the country’s 57 cardiac surgeons currently in practice.
- Professor Lam founded the Asia Pacific Society for Medical Virology, which has over 600 members from over 40 countries, and the Society continues to be actively engaged in collaborative research.
Collectively, these individuals have positively impacted numerous lives, not just in Malaysia, but also in the region and around the world, and made a significant difference to our understanding and appreciation of the world we live in today.
They are Malaysians who embody the Spirit of Merdeka and we hope their significant contributions, which brings our tally of Merdeka Award recipients to 22 individuals and two organisations, will continue to inspire Malaysians in the years to come.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Please allow me to take a moment to thank my fellow Board members –Tan Sri Dato’ Shamsul Azhar Abbas, President & CEO of PETRONAS; Mr J Hunter Farris, Chairman of the ExxonMobil Subsidiaries in Malaysia, Mr Iain Lo, Chairman of Shell Malaysia, Dato’ Henry Sackville Barlow and Professor Emeritus Datin Dr Norella Kong, for continuing to guide the Merdeka Award in its pursuit of excellence.
My appreciation and thanks also to the 22 eminent members of the Nomination and Selection Committees, as well as the Merdeka Award Secretariat, for their dedication and commitment in carrying out their responsibilities.
It is our hope that the Merdeka Award will continue to inspire young Malaysians and leave a lasting legacy that will take this nation of ours to greater heights in the coming years.