The word ‘Merdeka’ is the equivalent Malay term for the English word ‘independent’. It is usually used within the context of national sovereignty and national liberation. However, the word ‘Merdeka’ in the Merdeka Award signifies much more than just the physical liberation of a country. It signifies the liberation of both the spirit and mind of the people. The word is aptly chosen for the name of the award, as one must be free in both spirit and mind to reach the pinnacle of human achievements. The award is one of the most prestigious accolades that can be conferred to both Malaysians and non-Malaysians to duly recognise their immense contribution in their respective fields to the people of Malaysia.
The award was established by PETRONAS, ExxonMobil and Shell on the 27th of August 2007. There are five categories for the award and for each category, up to two people or organisations can be conferred the award. The recipients of the award will be given an inscribed certificate, a trophy and a cash award of RM 500,000. The first group of recipients was announced in the year 2008 and ever since then, the award has been conferred annually. This year, five eminent individuals have been recently announced by the Board of Trustees of the Merdeka Award Trust to receive this prestigious award.
In the Education and Community category, it is jointly awarded to two illustrious Malaysians – Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Utama Arshad Ayub and Raja Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Utama Muhammad Alias Raja Muhammad Ali. Tan Sri Arshad’s contributions in the field of education has made education more accessible in Malaysia while Raja Alias was given the award for his peerless contributions to the rural development and reform through successful land settlement projects. Dr Lim Boo Liat, who has made great scholarly contributions to the conservation of Malaysia’s biological diversity and for advocating the protection of national heritage, has been conferred the award for the Environment category. The award in the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement Category has been duly given to Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr. Lam Sai Kit. He has made outstanding contributions to scholarly research and development in medical virology and emerging infectious diseases. Last but least, unsurprisingly, Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang who has made great contributions in pioneering the development of clinical research and cardiac surgery in Malaysia, is the recipient for the award in the Health, Science and Technology category. He also played a pivotal role in establishing the National Heart Institute (IJN). Unfortunately, there will be no recipient for the award in the Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia category for this year.
It is undeniable that the recipients of the Merdeka Award 2013 have made great strides and contributions to the people of Malaysia in their respective fields. The conferment of the award to these people appropriately serves as a recognition for their hard work and unrelenting dedication to their field. It is hoped that the award will continue to be awarded to outstanding deserving individuals and will continue to act as one of the catalysts for people to continually contribute to Malaysia.