Ambiga conferred France’s top civilian award
UPDATED @ 12:15:04 PM 24-09-2011
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — Resplendent in a black-and-gold sari, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan was tonight conferred France’s highest honour, the Chevalier de Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour).
As he pinned the distinctive five-pointed medal on her sari, France’s ambassador to Malaysia, Marc Barety, said the award was to recognise Ambiga’s dedication to human rights and to boost the rule of law in Malaysia.Ambiga joins an exclusive club of some 20 to 25 Malaysians conferred the French award. Among them were the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, airline maverick Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Ipoh-born Hollywood actress Datuk Michelle Yeoh, Barety said.
Yeoh was recognised in 2007 for her contribution to film and the media.
Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Zeti Aziz was another recipient this year, but was unable to attend the award ceremony, Barety said. He added that a separate award ceremony would be arranged for her at a later date.“Ambiga is the right person to get it,” Barety told reporters, adding the latest announcements on political transformation by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak after the Bersih 2.0 street rally on July 9 demanding free and fair elections proved the merit of her fight.
He noted the leadership of the then president of the Malaysian Bar in a 2008 forum on Orang Asli issues, jointly organised by the French embassy and the European Union, as having contributed strongly to the nomination of Ambiga.The order of the Legion of Honour is a merit-based award and there are only 55,000 recipients worldwide at any one time.
“I think it reflects well on Malaysia’s civil society,” Ambiga said in her acceptance speech, with a nod to Najib’s latest pledge to repeal the Internal Security Act and other security laws that allowed for preventive detention.
“It really shows how important civil society is; they are the eyes and ears of the rakyat,” Ambiga said, vowing to continue her charge to improve the rule of law.