Raja Zarith Sofiah also firmly believes in emphasising the importance of education among the young generation
By LYDIA NATHAN / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS
It is important for one to recognise the needs of others while giving back to the society as much as possible.
That is the clear message shared by the Permaisuri of Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah at the 28th Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) Lecture series in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday night.
“Some people are fortunate enough to have very privileged lives, and giving back should be a legacy that is passed from one generation to the next,” she said in her keynote speech entitled “Giving Back to Society — Continuing the Tradition”.
Raja Zarith Sofiah attributed her passion for charity to her late parents — Sultan of Perak Sultan Idris Shah Sultan Iskandar Shah and Raja Perempuan Perak Raja Perempuan Muzwin Raja Ariff Shah.
“I would see my parents getting ready and dressing up to attend functions in orphanages and hospitals. I would watch their interactions with the people and villagers, and it was something I wanted to carry on.
“In fact, I remember going to my father’s office to visit him, watching him at work or just looking at his large collection of books. There were always people there, be they state officials or villagers,” she said.
The mother of six said the whole situation was very much familiar to her when she got married to Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar in 1983.
“The people who came to see my husband were officials, ‘orang asli’ or ‘orang laut’. They often came to voice their grievances or simply to confide in him.”
“As a young wife then, Raja Zarith Sofiah said she had to learn how to budget not only for her family, but also for those working under her. “I was given the duit pasar (grocery money) and I would check the prices of chicken at the market. I would try to save what was given to me,” she added.
More than anything, this inspiring lady has been well-known for her work with various charitable organisations and non-profit organisations.
Raja Zarith Sofiah said she began her work with the Malaysian Red Crescent some 15 years ago when she was initially being invited to attend as the guest of honour.
She has since felt to do more.
“In October 2006, I became a volunteer and was given a vest, attended some forums and seminars. Then in December the same year, the floods hit Johor.
“I recalled my husband hopping into his four-wheel drive and helping to transport people. As there were more rain that year, more people needed to be evacuated,” she said.
The Johor queen said she also realised that there was a need for disaster management at a bigger scale at the time.
“Then, another wave of floods hit in January 2007. It was heart-wrenching,” she said, adding that the incident served as a constant reminder that she should not take her privileged life for granted.
Raja Zarith Sofiah had also agreed to become a familiar figure at the Paediatric Palliative Care Unit at the Sultan Ismail Hospital and the Paediatric Ward at Sultanah Aminah Hospital, not knowing just how much that would eventually change her life.
She initially started as a volunteer with a hospital programme in Johor in the late 1990s, making monthly visits to see patients at the hospice, visiting old women with cancer in their homes and, more recently, learning more about children with cancer.
“Still, nothing prepared me for the shocking news when my fourth son, Tunku Laksamana Johor Tunku Abdul Jalil Iskandar — who was only 26 at that time — was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer.
“We knew how expensive cancer treatment and medication was and so we launched the Tunku Laksamana Johor Cancer Foundation. Seeing my son suffer while we could afford him treatment, we knew we had to help those who were less fortunate,” she said.
So far, the foundation has helped more than 1000 cancer patients with medication and treatment, as well as transport.
Sadly, Tunku Abdul Jalil succumbed to the disease and passed away in December 2015.
Importance of Education
Still, it did not stop her from doing more. Raja Zarith Sofiah is also a firm believer in emphasising the importance of education among the young generation.
As the chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Raja Zarith Sofiah became aware of the fact that many students went to bed hungry, either from saving money to send home to their parents or not having the funds at all.
“We launched the ‘Because We Care Chancellor’s Fund’, I knew almost one-third of the students had come from the bottom 40% group and needed help. I felt strongly about giving them motivation and the support to succeed — they are, after all, the future of the nation,” she said.
The 28th TAR Lecture series was organised by the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM) since 1970 in honour of the country’s first Prime Minister (PM) Tunku Abdul Rahman.
It had since been a platform for both local and foreign leaders, practitioners, academicians and thinkers to discourse and share insights on contemporary economic and management issues.
Some of the key figures who have given the lectures include third PM Tun Hussein Onn, Jeffrey Robert Immelt, PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz.
MIM president Tun Mohammed Hanif Omar, who was also at the event, said the TAR Lecture series has remained one of the most important anchor series for the group.
“It has convened distinguished and notable speakers in the last 48 years with 27 lectures and we are very pleased that Her Majesty is here today with us,” he said.
He said businesses are changing rapidly and leadership styles need to change with trends, adding that a strong leader is one who is able to sustain all times, negotiate all trends and overcome any possibilities to the best of their abilities.
Meanwhile, MIM awarded four prestigious people into its Court of Emeritus Fellows during the 28th TAR Lecture series.
The first Court of Emeritus Fellowship Membership Admission went to Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, who is the CEO of Genting Bhd, the holding company of Genting Group.
He has previously received numerous awards in recognition of his leadership and is in the business of leisure, property development and oil palm plantations, among others.
The second award went to Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, who is the visionary founder and chairman of Sunway Group — a leading conglomerate with a core interest in real estate, construction, education and healthcare.
Another fellow recipient of the night was Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas who received his Honours Degree in Law from the University of Singapore in 1970 and is currently involved in charities which include the MyKasih Foundation and the Vijayaratnam Foundation.
Datuk Prakash Chandran was also given an admission into the Court of Emeritus, having extensive experience in the field of technology as the CEO of Siemens Malaysia.
MIM chairman Datuk Ng Tieh Chuan expressed his appreciation to the team, partners, sponsors and supporters who made the night a success.
“I especially want to thank Her Majesty for being with us here tonight, we are greatly touched and grateful to have heard from you. It has made this important event even more memorable for all of us,” he said.