Shahrir and Akmal, clash between titan and strategist: in Johor Baru

File picture shows Pakatan Harapan candidate for P.160 Johor Bahru, Akmal Nasir (right),  campaigning at Seng Steam Fish Restaurant in Johor Baru, May 2, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara.
File picture shows Pakatan Harapan candidate for P.160 Johor Bahru, Akmal Nasir (right), campaigning at Seng Steam Fish Restaurant in Johor Baru, May 2, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara.

JOHOR BARU, May 6 — When discussing Johor politics, it is impossible not to mention the strong-willed, idealistic Tan Sri Shahrir Samad, who has a fair share of grounded yet colourful political history and journey that is very interesting to follow.

His political career began when he became the youngest political secretary in the country when he was made political secretary to Tun Musa Hitam, who was then Primary Industries Minister in 1973 and later serving Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, also as his political secretary until 1976.

Shahrir, who hailed from Kuantan, Pahang, jumpstarted his political career as politician quite early when he won the Johor Baru parliamentary seat during the 1978 General Election at the age of 29.

From that moment, he has been the familiar face of Johor Baru until today. Although during those time, he once contested as independent during a by-election, and three times dropped as Barisan Nasional (BN) candidates and then running again for the seat, all those years saw him receiving a lot of attention from the locals.

Johor Baru has always been the stronghold of BN with Shahrir on board.

Interestingly, this time, a young blood from the opposition will be his opponent, a bit of dejavu from the past, creating a new hype and curiosity or you could say, talk of town among the people of Johor Baru who had been asking: “Who is this Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir challenging the titan?”

Shahrir acknowledged his opponent as someone who should not be taken lightly and insisted that for every election, it was never an easy win for him as he put his fate on the voters.

“I never consider this or any other election as an easy path. As it is more a question of me, as a Member of Parliament, leaving my fate to the voters when the time comes.

“It is the voters’choice, the decision of the voters after evaluating my performance as a Member of Parliament for five years and whether they feel that I could be their representative for the next five years,” he said when met recently.

Shahrir also disclosed that his 32-year old rival is in fact the protege of Rafizi Ramli, the PKR vice president who is also considered as one of the strategists for the Anwar-led political reformation party.

Interestingly, the man who spent most of his growing years in Johor Bahru, used to be special officer to Rafizi when the latter was Pandan’s member of parliament and later became the strategy director for Angkatan Muda Keadilan Malaysia.

“Firstly, we don’t deny (Tan Sri Shahrir’s ability), meaning there is a reason why he has been a Member of Parliament way back from 1978. Even comparing to my age, I was born in 1986, so his services have been even longer than my age,” Akmal told Bernama recently.

Meanwhile, Senior Lecturer of the General Studies and Co-curriculum Centre, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM) Dr Md Akbal Abdullah expressed confidence that the Umno politician would win and retain his Parliamentary seat.

As both candidates continue with their campaigns, it is very interesting to see their personal pledges and offers on the table for the people of Johor.

While Shahrir offered his vast experience to further develop Johor Bahru, Akmal on the other hand is making the rounds to ensure that the people, at this stage, knew his face and offer his capability to also, develop the parliamentary constituency, which has 101,409 voters.

During the last general election, the 68-year-old incumbent won the parliamentary seat by 10,495 majority votes, defeating PKR candidate, Tan Sri Md Hashim Md Hussein. — Bernama