Welcome and Introduction by UP President Angelo A. Jimenez for the Honorary Degree Conferment Ceremony
of Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim
2 March 2023, UP Theater, UP Diliman
Your Excellency Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Charge d’Affaires Mr. Mohammad Fareed Zakaria, Esteemed Members of the Board of Regents, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo and Chancellors of our Constituent Universities, To the Presidents of the State Universities and Colleges, Members of the Faculty, Administration, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I feel deeply honored to welcome you to the University of the Philippines—our country’s first and only national university to be so designated. That is because UP, as we call ourselves, represents the noblest of our people’s aspirations. It is home to the minds that shape our nation, and today those minds open themselves to yours—as we open our hearts as well to your party, who have so graciously chosen to visit us.
Of course we are pleasantly aware that for Your Excellency, this is a kind of homecoming, having come to visit UP as a young student leader to seek the counsel of the late and beloved University Professor Emeritus Cesar Adib Majul, our foremost expert in Islamic studies.
This campus would have been quite different then—a bit less crowded perhaps, given the many new buildings and facilities we have since erected. But what has not changed is the strong and unquenchable spirit of liberal and nationalist education that you would have found in UP then.
That spirit has survived many challenges throughout the decades, as you yourself, Excellency, have survived and prevailed over the many vicissitudes of your political life. And thus we feel bound in spirit to your own youthful idealism, your courage, and your lifelong quest for freedom, justice, and prosperity—not just for Malaysia but for a renewed, aware, and vibrant Asia.
The Philippines and Malaysia share a long and special kinship—one of blood and culture—beyond the politics and economics of the present. Our countries both emerged from colonial rule determined to claim our rightful place in the community of modern and progressive nations.
We each have met with our own successes and our own setbacks. And while we cannot easily prescribe one’s solution for the other, given the differences in our societies and historical experience, it is clear that we are beset by many of the same problems—corruption in government, selective justice, socioeconomic inequality, food security, and environmental destruction, among others.
There is much room and reason for our political, business, and academic leaders to engage in fruitful dialogue, and I hope that your visit today will result in new modes of cooperation between our countries and our universities.
And now it is my great privilege to introduce our guest of honor to the UP community.
Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim is the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia—a position for which his prior exposure to a broad range of government positions and responsibilities has prepared him well. Previously, he served as Deputy Prime Minister from 1993 to 1998 and Minister of Finance from 1991 to 1998, before which he served as Minister of Education in 1986, Minister of Agriculture in 1984, and Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports in 1983.
Respected for his unyielding stance against corruption and his management of the Malaysian economy during the turbulent financial crisis of 1997, Anwar has been internationally recognized for his bold and dynamic leadership. Euromoney named him one of the world’s top four finance ministers in 1993, and in 1996 Asiamoney named him Finance Minister of the Year. In 1998, Newsweek voted him Asian of the Year.
The awards reflect the effectiveness and impact of Anwar’s financial stewardship. During his tenure as Finance Minister, Malaysia enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and economic growth despite the instability rocking the regional economy. He backed free market principles and highlighted the issue of the proximity of business and politics in Malaysia. He advocated greater accountability, declined to offer government bailouts, and instituted widespread spending cuts.
Anwar was Chairman of the Development Committee of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in 1998. During his tenure, he strongly endorsed debt cancellation initiatives and reprieves for emerging countries, particularly Africa.
Sadly, he has been made to pay a steep personal price for his unflinching principles.
His calls for further reform in 1998 led to his dismissal from government. Subsequently he was tried and imprisoned on charges that were eventually overturned by the Malaysian Supreme Court, and he was finally released from solitary confinement in 2004.
Imprisoned once more in 2015 on what were widely deplored to be political grounds, Anwar was pardoned by King Sultan Muhammad V in 2018. Anwar Ibrahim stood and won as a Pakatan Harapan coalition candidate in the general election of 2022, and was sworn in as Prime Minister by King Al-Sultan Abdullah on November 23, 2022.
He has lectured at many of the world’s leading universities, and is an internationally renowned expert on Jose Rizal and on economics, democracy, freedom, governance, Islam and democracy, and the need for accountability in government. He was appointed Honorary President of the London-based group AccountAbility and Chairman of the Beirut-based Foundation for the Future. Anwar is also an advisor to the People’s Justice Party (Keadilan) in Malaysia.
May I add, however, that this brief political biography hardly does justice to the intellectual and visionary within the politician. For beneath Anwar Ibrahim’s sharp sense of financial management lies a deep well of moral rectitude, a belief in right and wrong that seems to have deserted many of today’s political pragmatists. Much of that derives from his strong religious faith—which, unlike the West, he does not see as being incompatible with the needs and priorities of modern society. To him, this is a native strength that can be harnessed toward an Asian Renaissance.
Like Jose Rizal, who self-identified as “Malayo-Tagalog” and who was a keen student of the cultural and linguistic connections between Malays and his own countrymen, Anwar appreciates the West as a source of knowledge but cautions against neglecting or yielding our cultural specificity.
At the same time, he has championed a more inclusive and pluralistic Malaysia, arguing—and here I quote from his book on The Asian Renaissance—“not for mere tolerance, but rather for the active nurturing of alternative views. This would necessarily include lending a receptive ear to the voices of the politically oppressed, the socially marginalized, and the economically disadvantaged. Ultimately, the legitimacy of a leadership rests as much on moral uprightness as it does on popular support.”
When I accepted the presidency of this great university not one month ago, I said that in addition to our most cherished ideals of Honor and Excellence, I wanted to add “kindness,” at least under my administration, as a measure and manifestation of our shared humanity. I am encouraged to find in his book that Prime Minister Anwar also seeks to foster “Justice, Virtue, and Compassion.” This is the humanist at the core of the man speaking—the young activist and sometime student of literature who never forgot that at the heart of all our efforts toward development lies the most human yearnings for freedom, happiness, and dignity.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you His Excellency, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
For more photos of the Conferment of the Honorary Degree on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, please click here.