HE. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa and Mrs. Zuma,
His Excellency Tun. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Former Prime Minister of Malaysia Malaysia, and Her Excellency Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohamed Ali,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
- It is a privilege to be here today to present the Tun Dr Mahathir Global Peace Award. On behalf of all Malaysians, I offer my warmest welcome to President Zuma. I thank you for your friendship and for your commitment to strengthening the bond between our two nations. It is a relationship that only grows stronger with time.
- The recipient of today’s award needs little introduction. So before we begin, I thought I might say a few words about the award itself.
- Over the course of history, humans have ascended great heights. We have created language, cured disease, set foot on the moon. These achievements illustrate the best of our nature: the ability to work together in pursuit of common aims. But there is another side to human endeavour.
- Despite the coming of civilization, we have yet to turn our backs on the most primitive pastime of all. Despite millennia of progress, our most powerful tools are used not just to advance our ambitions, but also to destroy them.
- Throughout our history, humans have embarked upon war. In the name of plunder, conquest or religion, we have chosen violent ends over peaceful aims. Motivated by anger, fear and greed, we have killed and maimed at ever greater scale.
- Today, conflict burns in each region of the earth. Whether border skirmish or civil war, sectarian violence or military occupation, conflict continues to take a heavy toll on people and nations: often on those who can afford it least.
Ladies and gentlemen,
- The progress we have fought for over centuries – and the achievements of our remarkable species – count for nothing if we cannot live in peace as people of one world.
- All nations share a common responsibility to break with the past and create a better future; to secure a just and lasting peace. Here the international community faces perhaps its greatest challenge: peace not just during our time, but peace for all times.
- It is a challenge that must be met collectively. It is imperative that we achieve a peace premised upon a covenant of the willing, not one enforced by hegemony or secured through coercion. Peace can only be achieved if we are willing to constructively engage each other, to substitute dialogue in place of conflict.
- It is this spirit that inspired Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, who stands solidly against war. Speaking at conferences across the world, Tun Dr Mahathir works tirelessly to deliver a simple message: that war should not be the preferred path to peace.
- Today’s award is yet another demonstration of his personal commitment to this cause. It therefore gives me great pleasure to present the Mahathir Award for Global Peace, and to congratulate its inaugural recipient.
- It is rare that a national leader rises to become a global icon; rarer still that they do so by compassion, not conquest. Only a handful earn such recognition that they are known not just to their own people, but to the world; known not only by their titles, but by a single name.
- We count ourselves lucky to find one in a generation; in the twentieth century, there were three. Mahatma Gandhi. Martin Luther King. And the recipient of today’s award, Nelson Mandela.
- For millions of people, the name stirs deeply held memories: the lawyer in London, telling the world of an ideal for which he is prepared to die. The prisoner on Robben Island, holding seminars with his fellow inmates. The free man, walking from his cell to lead his nation to democracy. And the President who turned his back on retribution in favour of reconciliation.
- It is this Mandela – the leader who brought a nation together when others would tear it apart – that we recognise today. Faced with a choice between settling scores and healing wounds, President Mandela demonstrated that peace begins at home. That the practice of peace begins with a personal commitment: to forgiveness, and to compassion.
- In one bold stroke, he rallied the country to think of the opportunities that avail themselves when a country is united. His words and his actions, particularly when tensions were at their highest, were chosen with a wisdom born of experience, and the generosity of spirit that equalled the occasion. At a time when dark flames of revenge flickered in the background, President Mandela showed that his commitment to his country burned brightest of all.
- In so doing, he gave hope to the world: hope that national reconciliation – a long and arduous journey, one that may not ever be fully complete – is nonetheless worth every single step.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- These achievements were celebrated with a particular passion here in Malaysia. For generations, our people have felt an affinity with South Africa.
- Our nation also spent much of the twentieth century in search of democracy; struggling for majority rule, working to build the institutions on which independence and prosperity rely. We felt a connection with the fight to remove racism and instate democracy, for Malaysia too was trying to create a fairer and freer country.
- Our nation’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was also the first Malaysian premier to register his opposition to Apartheid. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs rallied the Commonwealth to reject Apartheid. Three months after Malaysia’s independence, we voted to support United Nations resolutions against it, and our stance did not waver until the injustice was ended. Malaysia played a key role in bringing about South Africa’s exit from the Commonwealth, initiated early trade sanctions, and sat on the special UN committee on apartheid.
- But it was our longest serving leader, Tun Dr Mahathir, who did the most to further this tradition. Dr Mahathir worked with the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Zambian administration and the ANC itself. And in 1990, on the eve of negotiations for democracy, he welcomed Nelson Mandela to Malaysia.
- It is this personal connection to the cause – this history of activism and support for one of the defining struggles of our generation – that makes today’s award all the more poignant. And so, on behalf of all Malaysians, it gives me great pleasure to present the Tun Dr Mahathir Global Peace Award to Nelson Mandela.