KUALA LUMPUR: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, today were conferred honorary doctorates by the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (Aswara).

The prime minister received the Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts (Arts and Culture Development) for his contributions towards developing and empowering arts, culture and heritage in the country, while Dr Siti Hasmah received the Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts (Creative Arts Promotion) in recognition for her immense supports as well as upholding the country’s arts and performance industry.

Dr Mahathir and his wife received the honorary doctorates from Aswara’s rector Assoc Prof Sahar Sa’di Hashim during the academy’s 15th convocation ceremony at Panggung Eksperimen today.

Also present were Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohammadin Ketapi and Aswara Board of Director chairman Datuk Rashidi Abdullah.

“Dr Mahathir was the icon responsible in realising the aspiration of the National Culture Congress for the development of Panggung Negara.

“Construction on Panggung Negara on a 5.44 ha plot of land started in 1995. It was subsequently opened in Sept 15, 1999 by Dr Mahathir.

“The name Panggung Negara was later changed to Istana Budaya,” said Sahar.

Aswara in a statement described the ceremony this year as a special and meaningful occasion since the Panggung Eksperimen, which is the venue of the convocation, was a facility officially opened by Dr Mahathir in 1994.

“The facility not only serves as a venue to nurture interest in arts, culture and heritage among students, but also as a platform that produces world class talents,” stated the academy, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

A total of 171 graduates will receive their scrolls during the two-day ceremony that ends tomorrow.