KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm oil advocate and promoter, Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Augustine Ong Soon Hock and prominent Muslim philosopher and thinker Prof Tan Sri Dr Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas are among the three recipients of this year's Merdeka Award.
The third recipient is Indonesian botanist, Prof Dr Engkik Soepadmo who is the foremost authority on Malaysia's forest plant diversity.
The Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, who is the chairman of the board of trustees of the Merdeka Award announced here today that Ong, 78, was awarded in the Health, Science and Technology category.
This is for his outstanding contribution to 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.
Syed Muhammad Naquib, 81, is awarded in the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement category for his contribution to the Islamisation of contemporary knowledge and Muslim education.
Soepadmo, 76, is awarded for his outstanding contribution to the people of Malaysia through his research and conservation of Malaysia's forest plant diversity.
Raja Nazrin said the three winners, in their course of work, had demonstrated the true spirit of Merdeka, that of the liberation of mind and spirit and the pursuit of excellence.
However, he said, this year there were no winners for two other categories, namely Environment and Education and Community.
On Ong, who is a scientist, innovator, inventor and pioneer in fundamental palm oil research, Raja Nazrin said he had paved the way for younger scientists to support the industry through research and development.
Syed Muhammad Naquib, the contemporary Islamic scholar and thinker, was meanwhile recognised as among the most influential Muslim scholars in the world, he said.
"He has made significant contributions to the study of the history of the modern Malay language, and to scholarly research in the area of Islamisation of contemporary knowledge and Muslim education," he added.
Among Syed Muhammad Naquib's many achievements was the establishment of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (Istac).
On Soepadmo, Raja Nazrin said the scientist-cum-ecologist first came to Malaysia in 1968 and went on to become Universiti Malaya's Profesor of Ecology and had described 56 new species of tropical plants and trees, with six species named after him.
"Through advocacy, collaboration and scientific research and publications, he has contributed significantly towards the establishment of protected forest areas in Malaysia."
He said Soepadmo had done pioneering work on the reproductive biology and population dynamics of selected groups of economically important tree species.
Each recipient will receive the prize money of RM500,000, a trophy and a certificate.
With these awards, a total of 17 individuals and two organisations have received the Merdeka Award since it was established in 2007. - Bernama