Welcome back Tun

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FILE PHOTO: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad smiles during an interview with Reuters in Putrajaya, Malaysia, March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo

The Petri Dish lauds the return of the man who gave weight to the importance of science and technology.

TUN DR MAHATHIR MOHAMAD is one the most respected and illustrious leaders in Asia, the Muslim world and in the international circuit.

The international recognition that Malaysia earned in the global world was largely due to Dr Mahathir’s vision and tireless effort. During his glorious 22 years of premiership, he had carved out many farsighted and ambitious policies that was aimed at making Malaysia globally competitive.

He is not known to mince his words. And made many bold and unpopular decisions that yielded the intended results. Under his leadership, Malaysia was known as the Asian Tiger.

Science – A key agenda

There is no denying that education as well as Science Technology and Innovation (STI) had always remained in Dr Mahathir’s key agenda in nation-building.

This is even evident when he announced the first 10 key ministries right after being sworn in as the 7th prime minister – Ministry for of Multimedia, Science and Technology is one of them.

He took two bold decisions that ruffled many feathers in the field of education.

As a strong proponent of science, technology and innovation, he introduced the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in English in 2003 (PPSMI) in Malaysian schools.

“All journals on advances in science and research are in English. Therefore, if we want to make progress and stay on par with the developed world, we must master the English language,” he said in his keynote address at the Malaysia-Africa Summit 2014.

However, the policy was reversed in 2012. I trust many among the scientific community would welcome back this policy.

He often lamented that university students were taking the easier path by pursuing Arts programmes.

He wanted Malaysians to embrace science and technology and be globally competitive.
Another bold move was abolishing the quota system for public university enrolment which he replaced with the meritocracy system.

The Academy of Sciences was established during his premiership and Dr Mahathir was the man who created the first science advisor position for the country with Tan Sri Omar Abdul Rahman taking the office.

Vision 2020 was another dream of this legend to make Malaysia a fully developed nation by 2020.

Scientific society

It was part of the Sixth Malaysian Plan in 1991. Under this vision, Mahathir wanted a progressive scientific society that is innovative and forward-looking, one that is not only a consumer of technology but also a contributor to the scientific and technological civilization of the future.

There is no denial that Mahathir is the “Father of Biotechnology” for Malaysia. He envisioned biotechnology as one of the driving forces to make the nation a high-income economy.
No one could have forgotten his ambitious BioValley plan which was abandoned due to a change of cabinet.

The project was planned to be based at an 80-hectare campus in Dengkil, 45 kilometres south of Kuala Lumpur, and was slated to open in 2006.

If Mahathir had had his way, BioValley would be a bustling biotech centre today.
Unfortunately, the project faced a premature death. Will the new premier revisit and re-evaluate the current biotech initiatives with the same level of enthusiasm?

There should be no doubt about this as Mahathir showed strong consistency in his views and position about science and technology even after his first retirement in 2003.

Mahathir Science Award

To honour Mahathir’s contribution to science and technology, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia established the Mahathir Science Award in 2004.

This is Malaysia’s most prestigious science award for tropical sciences bestowed on any scientist, institution or organisation worldwide in recognition of contributions and innovations towards solving problems in the tropics through science and technology.

Mahathir’s tireless efforts in making science and technology a strong national agenda cannot be summarised in this short editorial.

I cannot sufficiently give justice to his contribution and the legacy that he left behind, that we believe will be taken to the next level in the next few years.

Malaysia can expect to be a roaring tiger once again, this time not just in Asia but globally – this is what the rakyat is aspiring for.

Now, everyone hopes that Malaysia will be hitting the international platform for the right reason and one where all Malaysians will be proud of.

As we welcome, the newly minted prime minister to lead the country again, on behalf of the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre and The Petri Dish, I convey my sincere gratitude to the former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau, for his interest in our initiatives to bring science to the doorstep of Malaysians.

Special thanks also to Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, Menteri Besar Selangor and Datuk Teng Chang Kim, Selangor Exco for recognising Mabic as a partner in developing Selangor BioBay. I look forward to continue this initiative.

Join us in welcoming Tun Mahathir – legend of STI as the new CEO of Malaysia.