JOHOR BARU: Malaysian graduates should foster close relationships with their peers from foreign countries, especially those coming from countries embroiled in conflicts and disasters, says Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah.
Her Majesty, who is also Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) chancellor, said that this would allow the students to understand the plight of their foreign friends better.
"To graduates from Malaysia, I urge all of you to foster close relationships with foreign students studying in UTM, particularly those coming from countries affected by war or armed conflict, such as Palestine; or natural disasters and famine, such as in Sudan. They are also normal human beings like us.
"They are also our guests in Malaysia and in UTM. It is hoped that with this relationship, we will be able to understand them and the challenges they face better while also allowing us to appreciate our lives here in Malaysia more," said Her Majesty.
The Permaisuri Johor said this in her speech during UTM's 65th convocation here on Saturday (May 21).
Also present were UTM pro-chancellor Che’ Puan Besar Khaleeda Bustamam and Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi.
The Permaisuri Johor, who is also the Royal advisor of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, noted that she always tried to keep herself updated with the latest news about the problems faced by citizens of the world.
"I follow the social media accounts and the websites of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
"These accounts will give the latest information about countries where war has broken out, serious social issues and most heart-breaking of all, to know about those who have had to flee their own homes and live as refugees in other countries for many years.
"We must also realise that we are now part of a global community. As such, as global citizens, we must take an interest in what is happening around the world," Her Majesty said.
The Permaisuri also gave a special address to foreign graduates who were receiving their scrolls during the convocation ceremony here.
"To our foreign graduands, congratulations to all of you who have come from afar to study here. Today is a very special moment not only for you but for your families too.
"At past convocations, I would address our foreign students rather briefly. However, this year, and at this particular convocation ceremony, I would like to say a little bit more.
"Recent events must be mentioned even in an academic setting such as this. In particular, we are all aware of the war in Ukraine.
"For us, here in the East, what has shocked us the most was the shooting of the Palestinian journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh," said Her Majesty.
The Permaisuri also extended her condolences to Palestinian graduates who are affected by the conflict in the country.
"To the Palestinian students, who will be receiving their doctorates this morning, I would like to offer you and the Palestinian people my deepest sympathy.
"During Ramadan, especially during the last ten nights which those of us who are Muslims consider especially blessed, it was with much sadness, shock, and absolute horror to see video footage of the aggression targeted at those who wanted to pray at Masjid Al-Aqsa.
"I hope I will have the chance to meet you and all the other foreign students so that you can tell me the experiences you and your families have had to go through," Her Majesty said.
Earlier, UTM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Fauzi Ismail said that a total of 5,672 students would be graduating during the 14-session convocation ceremony.
"From that number, 502 of them are international graduates coming from 40 countries.
"So far, UTM has produced a total of 211,419 graduates, including 9,507 international graduates from 98 countries," he said.