Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim.
Assalammualikum warahmatulah hibawarakatuh
The Merdeka Award Trust is delighted to announce that this year six (6) outstanding individuals will receive the 2015 Merdeka Award while two promising, young scientists will accept the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment.
This occasion marks the eighth year in which individuals, both Malaysian and non-Malaysians, are being recognised for their outstanding work and enduring contributions to the nation and the people of Malaysia, in their respective fields.
Each year the Merdeka Award is conferred in five categories:
- Education and Community
- Health, Science and Technology
- Outstanding Scholastic Achievement
- (and) Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia
Each Merdeka Award recipient will receive a trophy, a work of art by Malaysian artist Latiff Mohidin and a cash award of RM500,000.
The selection of Merdeka Award recipients, which began in January this year, was wide-ranging and thorough, with only the most outstanding accomplishments and contributions making it to the final round.
Since it was established in 2007, 28 individuals and two organisations have received the Merdeka Award.
For 2015, the Merdeka Award recipients are:
In the Education and Community category, TAN SRI DR JEMILAH MAHMOOD – for outstanding contribution to the development of humanitarian and international emergency relief.
Tan Sri Jemilah was the driving force behind the establishment of MERCY Malaysia, one of the first nationally-grown humanitarian organisation that works both at home and internationally, harnessing the spirit of volunteerism and selflessness from Malaysians from all walks of life. In 2009, 10 years after she founded MERCY, Tan Sri Jemilah left the organisation to focus on other areas of humanitarian development. Tan Sri Jemilah currently heads the World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat based at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
In the Environment category we have joint-recipients, who will equally share the Merdeka Award. They are:
EMERITUS PROFESSOR DATO’ DR ABDUL LATIFF MOHAMAD – for outstanding contribution to research and understanding of plant taxonomy and conservation biology in Malaysia.
Professor Abdul Latiff is a pioneer and has been actively involved in the research of plant taxonomy and conservation biology. Currently serving as Emeritus Professor and Guest Scholar at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Professor Latiff’s efforts have led to greater understanding of the field of taxonomy that is essential to the nation’s rich biodiversity.
Professor Latiff has named a new genus of plant and 18 plant species new to science. He also has seven scientific plants and two animals named in his honour.
The other Joint-Recipient of the 2015 Merdeka Award for Environment is:
PROFESSOR EMERITUS TAN SRI DR ZAKRI ABDUL HAMID – for outstanding contribution to the observation, analysis and assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services, fostering the remediation and protection of the natural environment and promoting environmental sustainability in Malaysia and globally.
A researcher, educator, scientist, and diplomat Tan Sri Zakri was awarded the prestigious Zayed International Prize in 2014, for his role in providing global leadership in the field of environment. He was awarded the prize for his international role in championing environmental issues, in particular, developing a number of key findings in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report. Tan Sri Zakri was also a recipient of the Langkawi Award in 1998. His achievements, particularly in his global role in championing environmental issues has highlighted to the wider community Malaysia’s efforts in the realm of sustainable development. Tan Sri Zakri is currently Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
The 2015 recipient in the Health, Science and Technology category is PROFESSOR DATIN PADUKA DR KHATIJAH MOHAMAD YUSOFF – for outstanding contribution in the field of microbiology and virology through a better understanding and diagnosis of the contagious and fatal viruses in poultry and the study of the potential of the virus in combating cancer cells.
Professor Khatijah is a virologist and microbiologist who is internationally recognised for her groundbreaking work in identifying and developing a novel antiviral peptide against the Avian Influenza Virus H9N2. She is currently the Dean of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at University Putra Malaysia (UPM).
Professor Khatijah’s research has resulted in over 500 scientific papers with a total citation of 214 times, 18 patents, two trademarks, and she has mentored 115 postgraduate students. Her work has achieved international recognition, such as the UNESCO Science Laureate (2005) and the Distinguished Alumni Award from La Trobe University in 2008.
The recipient in the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement category for 2015 is PROFESSOR DR IR MOHD ALI HASHIM – for outstanding scholastic contribution in the research of separation processes and water and wastewater treatment and for his instrumental role in the setting-up of the Centre for Ionic Liquids.
Professor Ali Hashim, the Founder and Head of University of Malaya Centre for Ionic Liquids (UMCiL), is a leading scholar and researcher in separation processes and green technology that includes bio-separations, ionic liquids, and water and wastewater treatment systems. In his scholastic career of 38 years, he has published more than 200 research articles in refereed international journals, including 168 ISI publications with an ISI H-index of 26 and he has filed over 20 patents, putting Malaysia on the map of separation processes and green technology research.
At the UM Centre for Ionic Liquids, Professor Ali Hashim has made several significant discoveries. In particular, he and his team have been successful in harnessing the high reactivity nature of the superoxide ions through generating and stabilising them in ionic liquids and reacting them with crude palm oil to produce a number of speciality chemicals.
The recipient in the category of Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia is DR ELIZABETH LESLEY BENNETT – for outstanding contribution to the conservation and management of wetland habitats and that of endangered wildlife in Malaysia through research, advocacy and policies.
Dr Bennett initially came to Malaysia in 1984 to undertake a research project on the proboscis monkey in Sarawak and later focused on the conservation and management of wetland habitats in Sarawak by working closely with the Sarawak Forest Department to protect areas of coastal swamp forest in Sarawak. She initiated conservation education and awareness programmes for rural people living around critical areas of wetland habitat. This sanctuary is an important site in Sarawak for coastal forest wildlife. Dr Bennett is currently Vice President for Species Conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society based in New York.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A common thread that binds this year’s Merdeka Award recipients is their passion, determination and commitment to the pursuit of excellence.
The founding of a globally-recognised volunteer relief organisation; advancing our understanding of conservation biology; championing environmental sustainability internationally; finding a remedy for avian influenza; harnessing green technologies; and advocating wildlife conservation; – these groundbreaking developments have helped the nation in meeting global challenges in domains such as the environment, health, industry and social welfare.
In this way the Merdeka Award aims to continue to foster excellence by inspiring more individuals and organisations to pursue innovation and nurture creativity, talent and an entrepreneurial or competitive spirit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Merdeka Award is supported by signature initiatives, one of which is the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment, a short-term grant designed to make it possible for qualified Malaysians between the ages of 22 and 35 to engage in collaborative projects or programmes at selected, internationally-recognised host institutions.
The Grant, launched in 2012, creates the opportunity for recipients to establish contact and working relationships with other experts in their fields, share knowledge, and build on the body of work in his or her area of research.
Two Grants are offered annually to successful candidates in select disciplines – Education and Community, Environment as well as Health, Science and Technology, reflecting the categories in which the Merdeka Award itself is accorded.
The 2015 Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment recipients are:
Ms Chua Ling Ling, 26, and Dr Mohd Sukor Su’ait, 30.
Ms Chua, currently a Research Assistant at University of Malaya’s Immunotherapeutic Laboratory, plans to focus her research on the association between gut microbiomes and the systemic immune activation, inflammation and early onset of age-related diseases in HIV-infected individuals.
Dr Mohd Sukor, currently Research Fellow and Lecturer and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Solar Energy Research Institute, plans to strengthen his research in Advanced Energy Conversion and Storage Material from Malaysian palm oil.
As part of his Attachment Dr Sukor will investigate the effects of various lithium salts concentration on the chemical interaction, electrochemical, thermal and morphological properties of palm based polyurethane polymer electrolytes.
The 2014 Merdeka Award Grant recipient Dr Kamalan Jeevaratnam has recently completed his attachment at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, while 2014 recipient Dr Lim Dr Lim Hong Ngee, has recently left to pursue her three-month Attachment at the University of Toronto in Canada.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before I conclude, I would like to thank members of the Merdeka Award Board of Trustees – Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, PETRONAS President and Group CEO; Mr See Kok Yew, 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 their dedication and commitment to the Merdeka Award.
I would also like to extend my appreciation to the 22 members of the Merdeka Award Nomination and Selection committees, all of whom are distinguished industry leaders in their own right. My appreciation also to members of the 2015 Merdeka Award Grant Selection Committee comprising senior members of the Human Resources Divisions of the Founding Members – PETRONAS, ExxonMobil and Shell.
Thank you and have a pleasant evening.