SUBANG JAYA: Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali has been conferred the title of “Ibu Negara” by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) for displaying “the hallmarks of true leadership”.
The wife of the Prime Minister accepted the award during a dinner held by Asli to commemorate National Women’s Day.
In his speech, Asli chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah said Dr Siti Hasmah had advocated for various social reforms in various sectors of Malaysian society, saying that “her character and values laid the foundation for her widely admired career”.
“She started by breaking barriers as one of the first Malay woman doctors in the country.
“Her journey continued with her campaigns for health, family planning, drug abuse control and adult literacy at the national, regional and international levels, ” said Cheah.
He said the values shown by Dr Siti Hasmah – including tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness – was a powerful example to all Malaysians “at a time when some are using the narratives of race and religion to divide us”.
“She is an icon who inspires us to celebrate our diversity as a multicultural, multiracial and multireligious nation, ” said Cheah, who is also the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s chairman for the Malaysian chapter.
“We are also delighted to announce that Tun Dr Siti Hasmah has consented to the establishment of a RM10mil scholarship fund in Creative Arts and Music – in her name, ” he said.
Also present during the dinner was Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Meanwhile, in her acceptance speech, Dr Siti Hasmah remained humble and dedicated her title to those who helped her succeed.
Dr Siti Hasmah remembered her late parents and siblings who she said would have been proud to have seen her receive it.
"They were the ones who brought me up, and this would have been great for them because they always thought I was a tomboy," she said drawing laughter from the crowd.
However, her voice became shaky as she remembered those who helped her during her career as a doctor in Kedah and later in Kuala Lumpur.
"I owe it to the doctors, my bosses as well as village heads, midwives and traditional healers in the rural areas. They were the ones who taught me to become who I am today.
"So in receiving this honour, I ought to also thank them for the teachings and lessons," she said.
Known for her love for music, Dr Siti Hasmah also congratulated the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation for its willingness to open a music school to enable Malaysians to sharpen their talents locally.
"Learning music is a method of de-stressing and it is also a universal language that brings people together in joy and harmony," she said before playing the violin for the crowd.