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Why I wrote a book – a personal story
Published on: Sunday, December 17, 2017

By Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau

My new book ““Communicating Science, Trust, Integrity for Societal Wellbeing” has just been launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in conjunction with the Global Entrepreneurship Community Summit and Malaysia Commercialisation Year 2017 on 12th December.

This book is effectively a collection of most of my writings over the course of more than a year, published by Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia, hence this book is available from their website (www.itbm.com.my).

Here is a personal narrative of why I write so regularly, eventually leading to a published book.

In November 1999, for the first time I was elected as Member of Parliament for Tuaran.

This might mark a new journey for this new kid on the block, but the story began way back.

I was very blessed to have had the opportunity to venture out of my comfort zone in my village Lokos, Sabah, to the bigger cities such as Kuala Lumpur. My secondary school journey started at SMK Kiulu but three years later I transferred to SMK Ranau when the state government of Sabah offered to sponsor my Form Three studies there.

With good grades in the Lower Certificate of Education (LCE) I was sent to Setapak High School in Kuala Lumpur for Form Four and Form Five.

After earning the Malaysian Certificate of Education (MCE) I learned of several pre-university options before me, most notably Asasi Sains at a national university. Regrettably due to the lack of effective communication means in suburban areas back then, I had to pass up the opportunity to apply for those options.

Nevertheless I was once again rewarded a scholarship from the Sabah government to do Form Six, this time at Sekolah Menengah Sains Selangor, a fully residential school in Kuala Lumpur.

Moving to the uncharted waters of Kuala Lumpur as a 16-year-old chap was daunting, yet a real eye-opener for me. Being in the capital city was like being in the forefront of national development.

This part of Malaysia was more connected.

Back in my lower secondary school years in Kiulu, my schoolmates and I would depart on foot from home in Lokos at 6 A.M. and would arrive at 6 P.M. at SMK Kiulu, carrying food supplies such as rice.

It was a gruelling 12-hour walk. We built a hut near school and would return home every fortnight.

After primary education I almost dropped out due to very challenging financial circumstances at home.

Unlike today, education and textbooks were not free at that time. I vividly remember my class teacher summoning students, urging them to pay up their monthly RM5 school fee. It was utterly embarrassing!

RM5 was a big sum to us in the 1970s. One could purchase staple food supply with that amount that would last a person for weeks. So my parents had hoped that I quit school to help out with the family farming activities.

But where there is a will, there is a way. To support my own education I did a part-time job in a rubber estate on weekends. Then I found work with a Chinese “towkay” (boss) in the only row of shops in Kiulu town.

Food and rental were provided, which lifted a major financial burden off my shoulders. I have always thought that my insistence to stay in school was my sweetest victory yet. Education is a right, not a privilege.

I am a lifelong advocate for “education as social mobility” and I hope that students would never give up on their education prematurely. Perhaps now you can see why life was a 180-degree change for me starting Form Four in the capital city of the country. This is my story of how I became very observant and active in socio-economics.

During the 2015 Malaysian Cabinet reshuffle I was appointed as the new Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation. The Ministry is called Mosti in short. Upon realising the enormous portfolio Mosti holds, I had emphasised that our policies and direction would have to be communicated to the Malaysian public clearly.

My own immediate move was to write regularly to engage the nation in government’s initiatives.

Readers could reach out to me via my official blog (www.wilfredmadiustangau.com) where all my articles are published, via the Ministry’s or my own social media. My doors are always open to constructive feedback from all of you.

I entitled this book “Communicating Science, Trust, Integrity for Societal Wellbeing” because I strongly believe that engaging the people in what the Ministry is doing is the first and foremost step for us to achieve our objectives. “STI” is the common acronym for “Science, Technology and Innovation”. Here I use it for “Science, Trust, Integrity”. The knowledge and application of science would result in technological development and innovation. But it takes trust and integrity to drive it.

Already much in technology has changed since my birth year of 1958 till today in 2017. Recalling the times where I moved across the South China Sea away from my kampung (village) in my teenage years, tears would well up in my eyes as I separate from my family, especially my parents.

There was a particular time when my mother fell very ill for a couple of years. I am heartened that though both my father and mother are frail and have aged, they continue to reside in our family home in Lokos till today.

Now we could video call our loved ones from anywhere in the world, using a device that could be held in our palms! This was unimaginable more than three decades ago.

Three decades later, toward 2050, similarly, it would be a very different world for our children, hopefully for the better.

A quality life for each and every Malaysian could only be possible with long and short-term planning and implementation.

Foresight experts, futurists and the public have painted various pictures about what the future holds for the country and the world over the next three decades.

But one consensus among them all is that science, technology and innovation would be the driving force behind the changes and developments we hope to see.

Most of the community in my hometown Lokos are farmers. So personally I hope that science, technology and innovation as a mean would help increase productivity growth in industrial activities, especially in the labour-intensive agriculture sector.

Along this journey we would have to constantly review ourselves to ensure that we are on the right track, which constructs the main discussion of this book.

Fourty-two topics are presented broadly through four chapters, namely Creative and Digital Economy, Science For Policy and Diplomacy, Societal Wellbeing and Community Development, and lastly Foresight and Talent for the Future.

I dedicate this book to the “TN50 generation”. What is the Malaysian dream? It is now our responsibility to do our best for them.

Lastly I thank the Prime Minister for his remarks about my book,

“Madius, a friend of mine since the early 1990s when he was active in the political arena in Sabah, has played a critical role in this. As Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, he has led the efforts and communications around these activities, through his weekly columns now compiled in this excellent book.

His passion for the subject matter is clear and this collection of essays captures not only his genuine enthusiasm for the fields of science, technology and innovation but also outlines his sound rationale on why it is so important that we continue to pursue our development in these areas.

I have no doubt that his writings will be a source of inspiration for many generations of future scientists and innovators to come.”

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