English, Speech


Kuala Lumpur 11 September 2019


His Royal Highness The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex KG GCVO, Chairman of The Board of Trustees,

His Excellency Charles Hay MVO, British High Commissioner to Malaysia,

Dr. Waitchalla R.R.V. Suppiah,​ ​Secretary General of Ministry of Youth & Sports Malaysia,

Mr. John May, Secretary General of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation,

Mr. Mohd Azhari bin Mohammad, Acting Director General of Youth & Sports Department,

Representatives From Operational Bodies, And Mentors For Anugerah Remaja Perdana Rakan Muda Programme.

Members of Media,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies And Gentlemen,

The recipients of the Gold Award, Anugerah Remaja Perdana Rakan Muda, whom we are all celebrating this afternoon.

First and foremost, I would like to humbly extend my sincere appreciation to His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex for gracing us with his presence at this ceremony to confer the Malaysia Gold Award for Youth known locally as the Anugerah Remaja Perdana Rakan Muda (ARPRM). For the information of Your Royal Highness, this

award is modeled after “The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for Young People”, proudly participated by more than 140 countries around the world involving almost 8 million participants. Since the award’s inception in Malaysia in 1992, a total of 1,039 Malaysian youth have received the award at the Gold-level.

Your presence today will indeed be very meaningful both to us and to the recipients of the award.

My dear friends,

Imagine 500 years ago, as a young person in this part of the world looked up to the cloudy sky this time of the year, the deserts of Australia were starting to get warmer while seas surrounding China is getting colder. As the air in the hotter region rises, the winds from the cooler region flow into the vacuum. Soon, new sea journeys will be launched, this time bringing ships and goods and travelers from the Orient traveling by the Northeast monsoon to the Malay archipelago.

What traveled was not only the traders’ goods or the religious men’s scriptures or the adventurers’ maps and notes, but also their aspirations and anxieties, their hopes and fears.

The cycle of hot and cold climate, the changing of the northeastern and southwestern winds have fueled travels from East and West to our neighbourhood for more than a millennium. We thus became the meeting place of the great civilisations of the world, China, India, the Europeans and of course Islam. These rich, mostly peaceful interactions gave birth to a diversity of cultures which we inherited today.

Fast forward 500 years later, a young person in this part of the world looking into his smartphone, reads how China and USA are both preparing the next arsenals in this new trade war. He also reads how pundits paint and project a gloomy world, and a gloomier future. After all,

we are going to be the collateral of this war between giants, even if it’s only a trade war.

I want to propose here that we have an option not to be pessimistic and that we, especially youth can choose optimism.

We once served as the meeting place of great civilisations, and we can once again play that role. In a time when the world is hungry for conversations in the midst of confrontations, we can play the role of bridge builders we once were. And think about it, the legacy of culture and language which we inherited, these are the very elements which will enable us to be in the position to speak to the world and invite the world to speak to one another, whether in diplomacy or in trade. Do not let anyone tell you that our diversity is a bad thing. On the contrary, it is a good, nay a great blessing. My Islamic friends pointed me out this amazing verse from the Holy Quran, Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 13:

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you people and tribes that you may know one another…”

Our diversity is a blessing and more so today when it empowers us to position ourselves strategically in a contentious world.

Speaking of the trade war, the Chinese summarized Sun Tzu’s factors for success in a war with the saying 地利人和 (​Tiānshí dìlì rén hé)​.

We have a cooperating climate – the winds are on our side, we have favourable terrains. But what about 人和?

My young friends, you are the human factors.

The next ten years, from 2020 to 2030, will be what I call, the Youth Decade.

Beyond 2020

In 1991, our Prime Minister, then Dato Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad laid down a vision for our country, Wawasan 2020. It was a vision to propel Malaysia into the class of developed nations. I was 9 years old, but from then on and throughout the 90s, me and my peers eagerly imagined flying cars cruising through futuristic cityscape. We are now just months to year 2020, our vision is clearer now, there will be no flying cars on our streets or our sky. We still have old problems with us – public delivery needs to be improved, the education system is ripe for radical reform, racial relation must be salvaged if we are to live together for the next 62 years, and we definitely are.

But to say that there are only problems is to miss the obvious: while there are no flying cars, we have achieved something worthy of a developed nation. After 62 years of Independence and 56 years of forming Malaysia, we finally achieved a two-party system in our democracy. We undid several Draconian laws, abolished a fake news legislation, restore freedom of academic in the universities, improved on corruption index, climbed up more than several notches on the Freedom of Media index and we now top other southeast Asian countries in the area of media freedom.

We have more women in the Cabinet today than ever, a woman is in charge of rural development ministry and another is in charge of urban ministry, a woman is in charge of primary industries and another is in charge of science and technology. To top it all, for the first time in our history, we have a woman as Deputy Prime Minister.

In the youth sector, we have, at 27, Syed Saddiq, the youngest Minister not only in our country but perhaps the democratic world. Six Ministers and Deputy Ministers are aged below 40 years old. In Parliament, 12% of our MPs are below 40 years old and two of them are below 30 years old – MP for Muar Syed Saddiq is 27 and MP for Batu P. Prabakaran, 23. To put things in perspective, we only have 14% female MPs.

Let us put our fingers there for a moment while we look further beyond 2020 into the future.

Dr Mahathir, now Prime Minister again, launched for us a new goal, this time looking towards 2030 as a time when there will be Shared Prosperity. In other words, in the next decade, we have to deal with not only poverty eradication but also equity in economic distribution. For a long time, the focus of our national economic programme is growth. In 2014, as a newbie in Parliament, and on the opposition bench, I spoke about how growth does not equal distribution. We must not confuse between the two. Having large national GDP numbers may not mean much if the prosperity is not shared equitably among the different states in Malaysia, with the working class, between male and female and with the least among us.

Growth alone is not enough, we need to have greater distribution to ensure that every Malaysians can enjoy the prosperity of our country.

This year, Parliament passed two very important legislation in regards to youth.

On July 3, an amendment was made to the Youth Societies and Youth Development Act 2007 to redefine the age of youth in Malaysia from previously 18 to 40 years old to now 15 to 30 years old. This is to give expression to what was already set in our 2015 National Youth Policy. It is also to rationalize our age definition to match international or at least United Nations standards. I call it a rationalisation exercise because it is not logical to call a 40 and an 18 year old as youth all the same.

Two key things emerge from here. Firstly we now are able to measure our youth against world youth. If we want to be of international standard, we better make sure we are comparing apple to apple – then we are able to gauge more accurately the achievements, challenges and issues facing our youth against that of world trend.

Secondly, by this rationalisation, we can now focus resources meant for youth to be solely invested on them. In other words, 15 year olds do not have to compete with 40 year olds anymore for resources actually meant for them!

The second legislation passed on July 16, where Parliament created history when, all MPs from both sides unanimously supported the historic #Undi18 amendment to the Constitution to lower voting age to 18 years old. We have finally caught up with world trend since the 60s.

When we first came into office, the Minister and I talked about making youth strategic partners of the government to shape the future of Malaysia together. With the #Undi18 constitutional amendments, we are finally set on this path. Now young Malaysians will be formally integrated into the mainstream of our democracy, having the power to make decisions on the most important matters in our country.

What do all these mean?

Put together, in the next ten years, youth will play a pivotal role in building a new Malaysian society where there is Shared Prosperity.

Youth are more adapt to the fast-changing technological terrain and are able to catch up with an exponential rate of disruptions. Today, youth also have at our disposal much more resources and are empowered to make the changes we want to see for Malaysia in the coming ten years.

It is us who will decide if we want to fall back to extremism and fundamentalism. It is us who will decide if we want good governance despite the cost of inconvenience or we rather have a “anything-also-can-settle” government. It is us who will decide if we want a new Malaysia where diversity is celebrated and embraced or to continue living in this anxiety about the Other.

This is the Youth Decade.

Which is why I am proud to stand before some of the most brilliant youth of our country, all 254 of you who have fulfilled the stringent Gold standard criteria set for the Anugerah Remaja Perdana. You will be among the young leaders leading us into the coming Youth Decade.

Here I want to specially mention former recipients for the award such as Mr. Ravichandran Balasubramaniam (year 2014), Mr. Suhail Mohammed Kamaruddin (year 2015) and Mr. Hazrul Hafizi Abd Halim (year 2016). I would like to use this wonderful opportunity to thank them for taking this recognition to new heights and creating a distinct path for other young people to follow.

Your Royal Highness, thank you once again for your invaluable support. I hope that your presence at this year’s Award Ceremony in Malaysia will be an inspiration to the young people of Malaysia.

With that, I officiate the 2019 Malaysia Gold Award Ceremony For Youth.

Thank you.

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