1. Saya ingin merakamkan ucapan terima kasih kepada penganjur kerana sudi menjemput saya dan isteri saya untuk menyempurnakan majlis ini. Anugerah berprestij ini bertujuan memupuk budaya kecemerlangan, menggalakkan tasawur dan memperkasa kedudukan Malaysia sebagai pelaku global yang dinamik dan pesaing abad ke-21 dalam semua sektor utama sains, teknologi hingga kepada kesenian.
2. Dalam masa yang singkat penganjur telah mengenal pasti beberapa individu dan organisasi yang telah dan sedang menyumbang tenaga mereka dan pemikiran untuk menaikkan taraf dan kedudukan negara kita di peringkat antarabangasa.
Ladies and Gentlemen
3. The ceremony this evening, seeks to celebrate and recognize outstanding Malaysians for their contribution to society and the nation. These individuals have worked diligently, not with a view to seeking fame or awards, but have been driven by passion, by conviction, foresight, discipline, perseverance and self sacrifice. They have worked conscientiously in pursuit of their interests and excellence to make a difference in their respective spheres of influence which in turn yield results beneficial to society at large.
4. The spirit of independence, of Merdeka, both in mind and spirit, of our founding fathers must continue to be nurtured for the nation to reach even greater heights of development and excellence. In the relatively short life of Malaysia as an independent nation, its progress and achievements are the envy of many. But we cannot and must not be complacent. We must strive to continuously improve and climb higher on the development ladder. We have set ourselves the goal of a high income, developed nation status by 2020. With just nine years to go we must step up our collective effort to ensure the goal is reached.
5. Malaysia’s success and our achievements to date have been due to its people and their diligence. We have remained competitive, and in 2011 Malaysia moved up the competitiveness ladder to rank 21st among 142 nations worldwide and second in Asean. This is because of the talent that we have among the multi-racial, multi-cultural multi-ethnic society that makes us 1 Malaysia.
Ladies and Gentlemen
6. Education and critical thinking is essential in the journey that we, as a nation and society, have embarked upon. As I stressed when tabling the 2012 Budget in Parliament last Friday, knowledge is the pillar of civilisation and foundation of excellence. As such, the government will continue to accord priority to the development of the education system to produce creative, talented, highly skilled and an innovative workforce.
7. To provide a brighter future for all Malaysian children irrespective of their socio-economic background, the government is committed to providing quality and access to affordable education. There will be equal opportunities for all school going children and with provisions in the 2012 budget, for the first time in our nation’s history, primary and secondary education at government schools will be free. At the tertiary level, there are 20 public universities in the country, this in addition to the private universities and university colleges that offer numerous opportunities for the pursuit of knowledge, excellence and higher education.
8. Malaysians must strive to be among the best and be able to compete in the global arena. There is nothing to stop Malaysians from aspiring to be like the late Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Michael Dell and to join the ranks of Nobel Prize winners. Nevertheless, the government acknowledges that there are constraints of institutions in producing creative ideas. To encourage critical and creative thinking, the government will establish MyCreative Venture Capital with an initial fund of RM200 million. For those who do not continue their schooling, skills training will be provided through the Strategic Action for Youth (SAY 1Malaysia).
Ladies and Gentlemen
9. We must continuously strive for excellence; we cannot and must not compromise and settle for lower standards and mediocrity. The challenge is for Malaysia to be better than the best. While we should be proud of what we have achieved, we should not be complacent as the world continues to move forward with new technologies, ideas and discoveries. Change is the only constant. There is no escaping this trend and we must strive to better ourselves and create an even better environment for future generations — our children and grandchildren.
10. While the Merdeka Award continues to recognise, pays tribute and commemorates the spirit of “Merdeka”, including foresight, discipline, perseverance and self-sacrifice, that was demonstrated by our forefathers, I am happy to note that efforts are being made to encourage, tap, develop and nurture talent among the younger generations. For this, a new initiative – the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment – is to be introduced next year.
11. One grant will be offered in 2012 and two each in subsequent years. Open to Malaysians between the ages of 22 and 35 years, the grant is for post graduate students in select disciplines, that is education, arts, sports, community and social work, environment, health, as well as science and technology. Recipients of this grant will engage in short-term, collaborative projects at selected, internationally-recognised host institutions.
12. With this initiative, the organisers aim to identify and honour outstanding young post Merdeka Malaysians who exemplify the Spirit of Merdeka, and those who, in their respective areas of expertise demonstrate a commitment to excellence, contribute to the betterment of society and the nation’s development. The youth are our future and it is important that we guide and provide them the opportunities and facilities to pursue their interests in the best institutions globally so that they can excel in their chosen fields and lead the nation onto a higher development platform.
Ladies and Gentlemen
13. It is essential that we, as a nation, recognise and honour individuals who have made significant contributions for the betterment of society and the nation. Their achievements serve as potent reminders to the rest of us of the heights that can be reached when the mind and spirit has been truly liberated in the relentless pursuit of excellence.
14. Congratulations to the recipients of the Merdeka Award 2011. Even though you did not consciously and deliberately set out to seek such an award, but having been recognised for your contributions and achievements, the award should not be an end in itself. I hope this recognition will encourage and propel you, and all previous recipients, to reach even greater heights in your respective fields.
Wabillahi Taufiq Walhidayah Wassalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.