Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim praised Filipinos “for the courage of their convictions in the cause of democracy” in a lecture he delivered Thursday, March 2 at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, after being conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
“You have demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are able to confront arrogant powers and show to us, in ASEAN and beyond, that defeat in times of trouble is not an option,” Anwar said of Filipinos.
“You have shown that democracy is not a mere slogan to be bandied about only in times of elections and that rightfully used, democracy does empower the people to determine their future for the better,” he continued.
“In this regard, we too, in Malaysia, have recently undergone that same process where democracy has enabled me to take on the responsibility and trust of leading my people.”
In his lecture on strategic takeaways for the Southeast Asian region, Anwar also expressed his particular admiration for Dr. Jose Rizal which he called a “truly Asian Renaissance Man” and the “greatest of Malayans.”
The Malaysian leader said Rizal’s warning against “the sliding into the comfort zone of routine” remains relevant in the context of the Southeast Asian region today.
“We could make a case that routine has led, to a certain extent, to the erosion of our bonds as individual states which must be united in the common cause of peace and stability. Even worse, routine has allowed the world to fall behind our future potential. Routine tells us to be divided in opinion and to hate one another, fuelled by the convenience and routine of social media, fake news, misplaced nationalism, and certainly, Islamophobia.”
In debunking Western stereotypes of Asians, he also cited two of Rizal’s works in his talk, namely “The Philippines A Century Hence” and “Indolence of the Filipino”.
UP President Angelo Jimenez said he was honored to welcome Anwar, especially because of the Malaysian leader’s affinity with the University as a frequent visitor in his youth, having sought the counsel of the late UP Professor Emeritus Cesar Adib Majul.
“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,” Jimenez added.
According to UP, Anwar was conferred the honorary doctorate for being an expert in Rizal studies as well as in economics, democracy, freedom, and governance.
In 1996, he published “The Asian Renaissance” where he described Rizal as “the precursor of the Asian Renaissance.”
Anwar was on a two-day official visit in the Philippines. He had a bilateral meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday.