“JUST give me a chance.” That was PKR’s Akmal Nasir’s message to the voters of Johor Baru.
And after six non-consecutive terms of being represented by Barisan Nasional’s Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad, the people of the constituency were indeed willing to give him that chance, it transpired.
Akmal, however, speaks with humility about what was, by most measures, a decisive victory.
At 32, and with less than a decade of experience in politics, Akmal trounced long-time incumbent Shahrir with a majority of 19,782 votes. There is a seriousness to his tone that suggests he will not be taking the will of the people of JB for granted.
“We need to maintain the ability to speak up and ensure we hold everyone accountable,” he says when asked about the future. “There needs to be checks and balances.”
Politics was not inevitable for him: Akmal is a graduate of the Malay College Kuala Kangsar and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and holds a double major in Actuarial Science and Economics. Upon returning to Malaysia, however, he decided early on that he could achieve his goal of contributing to society by entering politics.
Akmal had his political awakening while he was studying in the United States.
During his first year there, in 2005, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim spoke at an Islamic conference in Washington DC.
Akmal wanted to meet the man he had heard so much about while growing up.
“I invited my seniors along to meet (Anwar) because I wanted to know what he was all about. Growing up, I would hear many stories about him – people saying this and that. I wanted to see him in person,” he says.
Anwar left an impression on the young Akmal as the latter saw a humble man, who chose to become a politician to fight for what’s right.
“Politics is the vehicle for the causes that you fight for, not a way of life,” he notes.
The fact that Akmal’s father was a policeman might have something to do with his interest in upholding the rule of law.
In 2012, he and Rafizi Ramli co-founded the National Oversight and Whistleblowers Centre, a non-profit organisation aiming to establish public-driven oversight initiatives. Indeed, Akmal was part of the team that uncovered the National Feedlot Corporation scandal in 2011.
Akmal’s approach has won him respect and votes among the people of Johor Baru, which is his mother’s hometown.
In his view, too many backdoor decisions are being made in the power hubs of Putrajaya.
“Johor should be on the map,” he says with a smile. “We have to build up the dignity of the people.” – Courtesy of the KRA Group
The KRA Group is a public affairs consultancy with a South-East Asia-wide focus.