Press Releases

Press Releases

2012 Merdeka Award Recipient Citations

04 OCTOBER 2012, BY Merdeka Award

For 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

  • Tan Sri Ong was born in 1934 in Malacca.
  • He attended St Francis Institution in Malacca and subsequently completed secondary school at St John’s Institution in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Tan Sri Ong attended University of Malaya between 1954 and 1958 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science (First Class Honors) and later an MSc. He obtained a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of London’s Kings College.  He was also a Fulbright Hays Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1966 to 1967.
  • Tan Sri Ong advocates and promotes Malaysian palm oil to the world. He is a pioneer in Malaysia’s palm oil industry and has paved the way for many scientists to build on his work in supporting the industry.
  • Tan Sri Ong is a scientist, innovator, inventor and a pioneer in fundamental palm oil research.
  • Tan Sri Ong has 14 patents in palm oil technology including the technology of producing palm bio diesel and the anti-oxidant tocotrienols.
  • He established and continues to lead the Malaysian Invention and Design Society (MINDS) to encourage young Malaysians to think independently and creatively.
  • Tan Sri Ong has authored and/or co-authored 400 articles and 2 books.
  • He conceptualised the conversion of palm oil to biodiesel. Today Malaysia is one of the world’s leading biofuel producers with 91 plants approved for production.
  • Tan Sri Ong’s research in tocotrienols has inspired scientists in other parts of the world to conduct similar research on palm oil.
  • As the then Director General of the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (PORIM), Tan Sri Ong worked tirelessly to refute the anti palm oil campaign. He used research and scientific evidence to convince detractors of the health benefits of palm oil.
 International Recognition
  • Tan Sri Ong has worked tirelessly and passionately in advocating and promoting Malaysian palm oil to the world.
  • Between 2006 and 2011, he conducted continuous research on palm oil and contributed to several discoveries including the SN-2 hypothesis which showed that palm oil is less fattening than corn oil and soybean oil.
  • Tan Sri Ong also created a new palm oil milling process which resulted in zero waste and, also, a process to expoxidise used cooking oil which is beneficial to the environment.
  • As a pioneer chemist in palm oil, Tan Sri Ong has established and continues to build affiliations with international associations through various roles including as a Member of the International Editorial Board of Journal of Food Lipids and as Chairman of the International Society for Fat Research (1995 to 1997).
  • Tan Sri Ong has received various awards for his achievements including:
    • Malaysian Institute of Chemistry Gold Medal Award (1981)
    • Malaysian National Science Award
    • Kaufman Memorial Gold Medal (1988)
    • PORIM Gold Medal (1989)
    • First Asian Achievement Award for Research and Development (1992)
    • Officer of the International Order of Merit on Inventors (2009)
    • Palm Oil Industry Leadership Award (2011)
Tan Sri Ong has left his mark as a pioneer and eminent scientist in the field of palm oil research and development. As a leading scientist, innovator and inventor he continues to guide and nurture young scientists in their quest to achieve world class breakthroughs. His unerring commitment and dedication truly personifies the Spirit of Merdeka and its pursuit of excellence.



For Outstanding Contribution to the Scholarly Research in the Area of Islamisation of Contemporary Knowledge and of Muslim Education

  • Tan Sri Syed Naquib was born in 1931.
  • He received his early education in Johor Bahru. He later studied at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England and, subsequently, at the University of Malaya, Singapore.
  • He received his M.A and Ph.D (1965) respectively from McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and the University of London, London, England with a special focus on Islamic philosophy, theology and metaphysics.
  • Tan Sri Syed Naquib is a contemporary Islamic scholar and thinker. He is recognised as among the most influential Muslim scholars in the world.
  • Tan Sri Syed Naquib has made significant contributions to the contemporary world of Islam in the domains of the Islamisation of contemporary knowledge and of Muslim education.
  • He was responsible for the conceptualisation of the Islamic University as well as the establishment of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) of which he was founder and director.
  • Tan Sri Naquib has delivered 400 lectures throughout Europe, the United States, Japan, and the Far East.
  • He has made outstanding contribution to the scholarly research in the area of Islamisation of contemporary knowledge and Muslim education, authoring 4 international books, 26 national books and 30 articles in various publications. 
  • Tan Sri Syed Naquib has made significant contribution to the history of the modern Malay language.
  • He discovered and published his research on the oldest Malay manuscript and solved the riddle of the correct arrangement of the Malay-Islamic cyclical calendar.
  • Tan Sri Syed Naquib is also recognised for his work formulating the general theory of Islamisation in the Malay-Indonesia archipelago.
 International Recognition
  • Tan Sri Syed Naquib’s work has consistently received international recognition.
  • He is listed as among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world.
  • His works written in English and Malay have been translated into Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, French, German, Italian, Russian, Bosnian, Albanian, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Malayalam, and Indonesian.
  • Tan Sri Syed Naquib is a Member of the Advisory Board of Al Hikma Islamic Translation Series; the Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Binghamton University, SUNY, and Brigham Young University. He is a Member of the Advisory Board of the Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization Research, Encyclopedia of Arab Islamic Civilization in Amman, Jordan. Tan Sri Syed Naquib is also a member of the Assembly of the Parliament of Cultures, International Cultures Foundation, Turkey.
  • Tan Sri Syed Naquib has been conferred numerous honors for his achievements including:
    • Fellow of the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy (Iran, 1975)
    • Iqbal Centenary Commemorative Medal (Pakistan, 1979)
    • Member of the Royal Academy of Jordan (Jordan, 1994)
    • IRCICA Award for Excellent contributions in various fields of Islamic civilisation (OIC, 2000)
    • Special Award of Recognition (Iran, 2002).
  • Tan Sri Syed Naquib has also served as a visiting Professor of Islam at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA (1976-77). He was also the first holder of the Tun Abdul Razak Chair of Southeast Asian Studies at Ohio University, USA (1980-82).
Tan Sri Syed Naquib is a distinguished and foremost thinker, philosopher and educator in the Muslim world. He is among the few contemporary scholars who, while thoroughly rooted in the traditional Islamic sciences, is equally competent in theology, philosophy, metaphysics, history, and literature - truly reflecting the Merdeka Award’s ideals of promoting thought leadership and innovation.



For Outstanding Contribution to the Research and Conservation of Malaysia’s Forest Plant Diversity

  • Dr Soepadmo was born in 1936.
  • He received his Bachelor’s education at the College of Biology, Ministry of Agriculture in Bogor, Indonesia and subsequently obtained his Ph.D from Cambridge University, United Kingdom.
  • Dr Soepadmo began his career in 1959 as a Botanist at Herbarium Bogoriense, Bogor Botanical Gardens. He was made a a Research Fellow of Rijksherbarium at the University of Leiden, Netherlands in 1966.
  • Dr Soepadmo first came to Malaysia in 1968 when he was appointed as a lecturer in Tropical Botany at University of Malaya. He was later made an Associate Professor at the Department of Botany and, following that, he was appointed as the Professor of Ecology at University of Malaya.
  • Dr Soepadmo is the foremost authority on Malaysia’s forest plant diversity.
  • Dr Soepadmo’s research plays an important role in safeguarding the future of Malaysia’s rich plant heritage and its dependence on the delicate balance between conservation and the controlled exploitation of forest resources.
  • Dr Soepadomo has published more than 100 journals, books, and research materials. The volume of encyclopedia that he produced contains detailed botanical and ecological accounts of 2,165 tree species native to Sabah and Sarawak.
  • In recognition of his contribution towards our knowledge of the Flora and Plant Biodiversity of the Southeast Asia region, six species of plants have been named after him.
  • Through advocacy, collaboration and scientific research and publications, Dr Soepadmo has contributed towards the establishment of protected forest areas in Malaysia including the Endau Rompin Park and the Royal Belum State Park.
  • In 2009, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) nominated him for the Honorary Membership Award which is created to recognise outstanding individuals for their significant and meaningful contribution to the Malaysian Nature Society and their study of Malaysia’s natural heritage.
  • Dr Soepadmo has been directly involved in guiding the research of 30 young Malaysian research officers attached to FRIM. He has also mentored 700 well trained graduates and supervised research projects of 75 Bsc Hons, 10 Masters, and 22 PhD candidates.
 International Recognition
  • Dr Soepadmo has done pioneering work on the reproductive biology and population dynamics of selected groups of economically important tree species.
  • He was nominated by FRIM as a candidate for the prestigious Blue Planet Prize in 2009 which recognises outstanding efforts in scientific research or applications of science that contribute to solving global environmental problems.
  • He is listed as a Botanist in the Harvard University Herbania and, also, in the National Harbarium, Netherlands.
  • Dr Soepadmo is also a consultant and technical advisor to various national and international bodies including Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
  • Dr Soepadmo has played a critical role in international collaborative botanical and ecological studies emphasising the critical role of Southeast Asia’s tropical rainforest in maintaining the ecological balance and stability of its surrounding areas.
  • Key collaborative studies include:
    • International Collaboration for the Study of Tropical Rainforests (1970 – 1974)
    • Research and Training Collaboration on the Reproductive Biology and Population Dynamics of Tropical Forest Trees (1975 – 1985)
    • Mangrove Research and Management Project in Southeast Asia (1976 -1980)
    • Network of Long Term Ecological Research on Population Dynamics of Tropical Rainforest (1978 – 1993)
    • Botanical Inventory of Southeast Asian Floras (1966 – Present)
Dr Engkik Soepadmo is an outstanding botanist and ecologist who has made significant contribution to the research and conservation of Malaysia’s forest plant diversity. His wide ranging works have had significant impact on Malaysia and Malaysians and truly embodies the Spirit of Merdeka.


Dr Edison Lee Tian Khoon
Dr Edison headed to Sweden’s Uppsala University, where he joined the Department of Chemistry, Ångström Laboratory, as part of his attachment stint. He is currently carrying out active research in polymer electrolyte and nanomaterials for Lithium-ion batteries. Read more about him here:
Innovating the Energy Ecosystem
Chrishen R. Gomez
Having attended the prestigious Ivy League Brown University as part of his attachment programme, 27-year-old Chrishen is now with the Wildlife Research and Conservation Unit at Oxford University. Chrishen is busy developing a genetic-based research project on the Sunda Clouded Leopard. Read more about him here: Conserving Our Forests & Future
Dr Zetty
Dr Zetty is currently working on anti-cancer compounds found in Malaysian seaweed and has continued to pursue her original project proposal of microalgae vaccine carriers for fish. A working solution has been patented by Dr Zetty and will be deployed within the coming year.
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