SOLO (INDONESIA): TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad has called on ethnic Malays to empower themselves by pursuing knowledge and education.
The former prime minister said there was no reason why ethnic Malays in Southeast Asia could not use the knowledge available through modern science, technology and the Internet to regain their historical place as one of the world's most powerful communities.
"Like the Europeans who pulled themselves out of the Dark Ages by drawing upon the knowledge cultivated by Muslim scholars, now ethnic Malays have to chase knowledge collected and explored by Europeans and others," he said before receiving a humanities and cultural studies honorary doctorate at the Universitas Sebelas Maret (UNS-Solo) yesterday.
The award, in the field of Leadership and Empowerment of Malay Communities, was presented by UNS-Solo rector Prof Dr Ravik Karsidi during the Open Senate Meeting and conferral ceremony at the university auditorium yesterday.
It was awarded to recognise Dr Mahathir's role in developing Malay society during his 22-year tenure as Malaysia's premier.
Dr Mahathir spoke of the importance of not only gaining knowledge for its own sake, but of exploring further to create new knowledge, methods and applications that can benefit Malay society and further the spread of information.
He said higher learning institutions played a vital role in such efforts, stressing the need for the right equipment, laboratories and tools in the quest to explore new areas of research, science and technology.
"If we can invest heavily in research and study, perhaps one day, we will be able to equal and surpass the Europeans and others, and contribute further to the development of ethnic Malays.
"We must also ensure there are educational infrastructures equal to the best in the world, teachers dedicated to the cause of learning, and the right assistance from the government and those who have benefited from such institutions."
He said Moores Law indicated that the power of microchip technology multiplied every one and a half years, with the expected goal of creating microchips the size of an atom, paving the way to new discoveries and abilities.
"We are not there yet, but (ethnic Malays) may contribute to the process through the mastery of such technologies."
He said the mastery of modern knowledge must be augmented by specialised skills in nation management and development, as well as good values cultivated from a young age.
"The desired strength and power can only be gained with the creation of a new and developed ethnic Malay society and nation."
Dr Mahathir is the second person to receive such an award from Indonesia's 7th-ranked public university, after former Indonesian Agriculture Department secretary-general Dr Mas'ud Wisnu Wandara in 2009.
The university's decision to award the doctorate was based on Dr Mahathir's contributions in his political life, his written books and texts, his international stature, economic and educational policies and his work in fostering a strong diplomatic relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia.
Dr Mahathir and UNS-Solo chairman of the board of trustees, Dr Akbar Tandjung, were appointed advisors of the university's new Malay Studies Centre, also launched yesterday after a four-year development process.
Present at the conferral ceremony were Dr Mahathir's wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, and Universiti Utara Malaysia vice-chancellor Datuk Dr Mohamed Mustafa.
He is expected to deliver a public talk at the Perdana Global Peace Foundation's "War is a Crime" exhibition at Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta today.
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad being presented with a honorary doctorate in Leadership and Empowerment of Malay Communities by UNS-Solo rector Prof Dr Ravik Karsidi at Universitas Sebelas Maret.