Home TA Online The quiet rise and rise of Fahmi Fadzil

The quiet rise and rise of Fahmi Fadzil

Fahmi Fadzil hitting the campaign trail in Lembah Pantai - Photograph: Benedict Lopez

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Courage, conviction, and a passion for change underscores Fahmi’s political character, writes Benedict Lopez.

For a parliamentary candidate who is just 37, Fahmi Fadzil has surprisingly been involved in politics for two decades.

As a teenager, he found his life taking a sharp turn in 1998 in the aftermath of Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking, which sparked the Reformasi movement that year.

Fahmi vividly remembers the early days of Reformasi, when tear gas was tossed towards protesters on the streets of Kuala Lumpur as helicopters clattered above the city skyline, fuelling what he describes as “a burning desire for change in our hearts”.

In the general election the following year, Fahmi assisted PKR’s first candidate for the parliamentary seat of Lembah Pantai, lawyer Zainur Zakaria. But Zainur was unable to unseat the then incumbent, Shahrizat Jalil.

In the next two general elections, Fahmi helped his PKR colleague, Sivarasa Rasiah, during the election campaigns and on polling day, he announced the results as they trickled in. As it happened, Sivarasa lost the Petaling Jaya Selatan seat in 2004, but bounced back to win the Subang seat in 2008 and then retain it in 2013.

Fahmi first met former Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah in 2010, when he interviewed her during an online show. After the interview, Nurul invited him to become her political secretary and assist her in her constituency work. He accepted as he felt that both of them not only were from the same generation but also shared similar views on various issues.

PKR soon recognised Fahmi’s diligence: he quietly rose up the ranks to assume greater responsibilities as the party’s communications director and youth vice chief. He also assisted in the operations of the Setiawangsa PKR service centre in the party’s bid to win this Federal Territory parliamentary seat.

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The 2013 general election provided a litmus test for Fahmi as he helped Nurul to a notable victory over Umno political heavyweight Raja Nong Chik. Five years earlier, Nurul had turned giant-killer, defeating the three-term Lembah Pantai MP Shahrizat.

A graduate in chemical engineering from Purdue University in Indiana, Fahmi is versatile as seen in the various roles he has assumed in his career: theatre performer, writer, activist and now politician in his own right, with a burning desire to be part of creating political history.

Lembah Pantai is a homecoming of sorts for Fahmi; it is familiar turf for him. He went to school in Damansara and enjoyed roti canai with his buddies in Lucky Gardens. “Many things have changed – from hanging posters in 1999 to being on the posters nearly 20 years later; yet little has changed for the better,” laments Fahmi. “Malaysians are plagued with the high cost of living, high price of goods and perpetually afflicted by the unpopular GST.”

I first met Fahmi at Nurul’s Hari Raya open house in Lucky Gardens last July and later at a few ceramah in Bangsar. Each time he spoke, I detected genuine sincerity and a passionate commitment to serve the people and country. He is not only articulate in his views, but also eloquent in delivery. “He is a man of integrity and strong moral fibre. Our country needs more politicians like Fahmi,” a former classmate of his tells me.

The rumours mills worked overtime over the past year suggesting that Fahmi would replace Nurul in Lembah Pantai in this election. So it was not a surprise to Lembah Pantai residents when the party finally announced his candidacy earlier this week.

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Lembah Pantai is a microcosm of multiracial Peninsular Malaysia: slightly more than half the voters are Malays and the rest Chinese and Indians. Fahmi’s track record in serving the people here will be an invaluable asset to him as he prepares to meet an anticipated challenge from BN and Pas.

“The people of Lembah Pantai have no doubts about his sincerity as a worthy representative, if elected,” says a retired civil servant. “He will not only voice issues of national concern but also the aspirations of the people of this coveted constituency. And we will be proud of him as our MP.”

Malaysia needs more young leaders like Fahmi who are imbued with deep conviction – politicians who can light a beacon of hope for a better Malaysia, enabling us to navigate our way towards a more egalitarian society.

Benedict is a voter in the parliamentary constituency of Lembah Pantai, Kuala Lumpur.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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