In his speech, Asli chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah said Dr Siti Hasmah had advocated for social reforms in various sectors of Malaysian society, and 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,” Cheah said.He said the values shown by Dr Siti Hasmah – including tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness – were a powerful exemplar 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 multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-religious 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 added.
Also present at the dinner was Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Cheah said the occasion also celebrated advances made by Malaysian women in society.
“The theme of this occasion focuses on the ‘Women Empowerment’ effort of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or in short, the SDGs. In particular, we are highlighting SDG No.5 – gender equality,” he said.
In her acceptance speech, Dr Siti Hasmah said she was humbled by the recognition and dedicated her title to those who had helped her succeed.She remembered her late parents and siblings, whom she said would have been proud to see her receive the award.
“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.
But her voice became shaky as she recalled 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 they taught me,” she said.
Known for her love for music, she 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. It is also a universal language that brings people together in joy and harmony,” she said before playing the violin for the crowd.