GE15: Young candidates eager to make a change

In Malaysia, young people’s involvement in politics can be traced back to the pre-independence era 


THE youth have long played a significant role in shaping the political landscape and bringing about social changes in many countries. 

There are strong evidences, for example, that young people, primarily students, were the driving force behind the pro-democracy movement in South Korea in 1987, the campaign to depose Suharto in Indonesia in 1998 and the Egyptian uprising in 2011. 

In contrast, there have been instances where youth activism has led to the establishment of authoritarian regimes, such as the 1971 coup in Thailand or the Iranian Revolution in 1987. 

In Malaysia, young people’s involvement in politics can be traced back to the pre-independence era, specifically when the Sultan Idris Training College (SITC) was established in 1922, which indirectly contributed to the formation of the first political organisation known as the Kesatuan Kaum Muda (Young Malay Movement or KMM). 

Adam Adli Abd Halim, 33, who is the Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate for Hang Tuah Jaya, Melaka, is one example of a young political activist in contemporary Malaysia. 

Introduced as part of a list of new faces, Adam Adli is recognised for his long track record in people activism. 

“I am from a middle-class family where you live within what you have. I participate in politics as I believe in promoting social justice or equality. 

“Some people might not care about political ideologies in Malaysia, but for me, I would put myself along the line of the progressive ideology,” he said to The Malaysian Reserve. 

As a leader of the PKR youth wing, Adam Adli believed that his experience in activism has provided him with valuable exposure to policymaking issues, especially concerning the Malaysian youth. 

“Apart from my work locally, I have international experience that can significantly contribute to taking Hang Tuah Jaya to new heights. 

“The time has come for voters in Hang Tuah Jaya to decide by choosing the best candidates each party has to offer,” he said. 

On being the underdog against a heavyweight, Adam Adli said that it is not about challenging Yang Di-Pertua Negeri of Melaka Tun Dr Mohd Ali Mohd Rustam’s son or anyone else, but rather, what he can bring to the table to contribute effectively to Hang Tuah Jaya voters. 

Adam Adli said that he has identified key issues that must be addressed in order to improve the quality of life for the Hang Tuah Jaya constituency, including job opportunities, education, the digital economy, housing and tourism. 

“I understand what young people want and need after many years of working with them. I have noticed that they need a place to do activities and someone to guide them,” he added. 

He also mentioned that as an activist in politics, he has a better chance to make a change, although this is the most unpopular decision among the youth. 

“I think if we do not enter the political arena and do not try to make a change, who else will? 

“Politics needs the expertise and fresh ideas from young people. So, I saw there was a space for me to help them and to make changes,” he added. 

Young Syefura ventures into politics to give quality representation to the youths and she is aware that they are very critical to nation-building (Source: Young Syefura’s Facebook)

Another young activist who jumped into politics is Young Syefura Othman, popularly known as Rara, who was announced as DAP’s candidate to defend the Bentong seat, Pahang, at the coming polls. 

The 32-year-old gained popularity as a politician after winning the state legislative assembly seat of Ketari, Pahang, in 2018, one of four state constituencies under the Bentong seat, alongside Bilut, Sabai and Pelangai. 

There are 87,058 registered voters in Bentong and about 50% of them are below 40-year-old. 

“I contest in a rural area where DAP is extending its reach beyond urban voters by fielding Malay candidates, citing the presence of many Felda settlers and conservative Malay villagers in Bentong,” she said. 

It has been observed that Bentong voters were excited over Young Syefura being named as incumbent Wong Tack’s replacement for GE15. 

“She is well known here for what she has done in Ketari — young, energetic and very hardworking,” said one of the villagers who wished to be known only as Kak Mai. 

Young Syefura said youth empowerment and economic emancipation would be her priority if elected as Bentong MP. 

While saying that she ventured into politics to give quality representation to the youths, she was also aware that they were very critical to nation-building. 

“I hope when I get there, I can become a role model and inspire young people. Youths constitute almost 50% of the total population of the country,” she said. 

Shahril Sufian holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Politics from the University
of Manchester and a master’s degree from LSE (Source: Shahril Sufian’s Facebook)

Umno information chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan is the prospective candidate for Alor Gajah, Melaka, as a youth build-up in the oldest ruling party in Malaysia. 

At the age of 37, he was appointed as an economic director at the Prime Minister’s Department under Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in October 2021. 

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Politics from the University of Manchester under a Bank Negara Malaysia scholarship in 2008 and completed his master’s degree in Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), upon receiving a full Chevening Scholarship from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 

Previously, he was a strategy and management consultant at McKinsey and Co for three years, a placement manager at Teach For Malaysia for a few months and a policy officer for Khairy Jamaluddin for two years. 

Shahril Sufian also worked at Destini Oil Services Sdn Bhd as the CEO of the company before venturing into politics. He ran as a Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate for Kuala Langat, Selangor, in GE14 but lost to PH’s Xavier Jayakumar Arulanandam. 

Chen is advocating for plantation sector in Tawau which is affected by Indonesia’s decision to stop receiving new job orders for migrant workers

Meanwhile, Parti Warisan has fielded 28-year-old lawyer Chen Ket Chuin for Tawau constituency to represent the party in Sabah in the 15th General Election (GE15). 

“We put young candidates with good backgrounds, who are knowledgeable and well-exposed. We want to show Malaysians in Sabah that young people like them can form policies in Parliament and contribute ideas to ensure that the country continues to progress,” said Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal. 

Chen is advocating an issue in the plantation sector in Tawau which is affected by Indonesia’s decision to stop receiving new job orders for migrant workers in all sectors. 

He said one of the reasons was that the use of the Maid Online System (MOS) was not supposed to be applicable to Indonesian workers following the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in April between Malaysia and Indonesia. 

“In short, Malaysia does not honour its end of the bargain on the MoU,” he said. 

He added that Tawau relies heavily on foreign workers from Indonesia, especially for the local smallholder plantations. 

The former president of Malaysian Students’ Society of Cardiff University also said that Warisan is the party that will fight for Sabah’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963. 

“The recent statement made by some political party leaders that there should be a new Malaysia Agreement is absurd, and it once again demonstrates how dishonest these leaders are to the Sabahans,” he said. 

A native of Johor Baru, Fatin Zulaikha is the 3rd Malay female candidate for DAP in this election, extending the party’s reach into Malay heartlands (pic: Bernama)

With Fatin Zulaikha Zaidi being deployed to challenge BN in its Mersing bastion, Johor, DAP’s venture into Malay heartlands is continuing to grow. 

The 29-year-old holds a degree in Politics and Government Studies from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and had interned for Johor Jaya assemblyperson Liow Cai Tung in 2017 before joining DAP and becoming her special officer the following year. 

A native of Johor Baru, Johor, she is the third Malay female candidate for DAP in this election, after the announcement of Young Syefura and Syerleena Abdul Rashid (Bukit Bendera, Penang). 

Uniquely, Fatin Zulaikha’s wingman is also her former lecturer from Penang, Dr Andrew Aeria, who was willing to come to Mersing to help her campaign during the GE15. 

According to the former student of the Faculty of Social Sciences, the presence of her former lecturer made her more enthusiastic to fight in the elections. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition