Prime Minister YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak on Monday, 3 December 2012 called on Malaysians to be relentless in the pursuit of excellence and scholarship, saying the country needed this to achieve its aim of becoming a knowledge-based economy.
In his speech at the 2012 Merdeka Award Presentation Ceremony, the Prime Minister, who is also Patron of the Merdeka Award, commended the recipients on their efforts, saying, “This year’s Merdeka Award recipients come from very different backgrounds. Their areas of expertise are equally diverse; the chemistry of palm oil, which is rather different from Islamic thought and education, and ecology and conservation. But despite that, they are united in their relentless passion and unerring commitment to scholarship.
“This commitment, and the pursuit of excellence, is critical for Malaysia to build and sustain a knowledge-based economy, strengthening our ability to innovate, adapt and even create new technologies.”
He added that the broadening of minds, the practice of scholarly discourse and the acquisition of intellectual maturity are the foundations of a knowledge-based society. “We are here to recognise tonight the fine examples of those who have never stopped learning, who continue to explore the unexplored.”
The Merdeka Award, which honours individuals and organisations for their outstanding and lasting contributions to the nation and the people of Malaysia in their respective fields were presented to:
YBhg Academician Tan Sri Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Augustine Ong Soon Hock in the category of Health, Science and Technology, who is recognised for his outstanding contribution to the research and development of the chemistry and technology of Palm Oil and for his significant role in advocating and promoting the Malaysian Palm Oil Industry to the world.
YBhg Tan Sri Professor Dr Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-attas in the category of Outstanding Scholastic Achievement, for his outstanding contribution to the scholarly research in the area of Islamisation of Contemporary Knowledge and of Muslim Education.
Dr Engkik Soepadmo in the category of Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia, for his outstanding contribution to the research and conservation of Malaysia’s forest plant diversity.
In his inaugural speech as Chairman of the Merdeka Award Board of Trustees, following his appointment earlier this year, His Royal Highness Raja Dr Nazrin Shah Ibni Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah, the Regent of Perak Darul Ridzuan, said: “We honour these individuals who have made the people of Malaysia proud to be Malaysian, and in the course of their work have demonstrated the true spirit of Merdeka – that of the liberation of mind and spirit.”
He added: “They are ordinary Malaysians who have achieved the extraordinary (and) will continue to inspire the people of Malaysia to greater heights.”
This is the fifth year that the Merdeka Award, the nation’s highest award for excellence, has announced a group of recipients, following the establishment of the Merdeka Award in 2007, and its first group of recipients in 2008.
Each of the recipients received a RM500,000 cash award, the Merdeka Award trophy and the Merdeka Award Work of Art. For 2012, there are no award recipients in the categories of Education and Community, and Environment.
The evening’s ceremony, which took place at the Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS, included performances by Datu Ruslan Sulai, from Kota Belud, Sabah, who recited the patriotic poem “Tanahair” by Tongkat Warrant; as well as vocal performances by Dato’ Yusni Hamid, Jaclyn Victor and Hafiz. They were accompanied by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and a keroncong ensemble, lead by conductor Ahmad Muriz Che Rose.
The event was attended by the Merdeka Award Board of Trustees, representatives of three founding members of the Merdeka Award – PETRONAS, ExxonMobil and Shell - several past recipients of the Merdeka Award, members of the Merdeka Award Nomination and Selection Committees, as well as representatives of leading corporations, academia and non-governmental organisations.