RENGIT, March 7 — It took many by surprise when constitutional lawyer Nizam Bashir Abdul Kariem Bashir was announced as Parti Pejuang Tanah Air’s candidate in Rengit.
Yet when he spoke to Malay Mail, Nizam Bashir quietly remarked the decision to contest was merely motivated by his eagerness to be an agent of change, to uplift vulnerable groups within the constituency who are facing hardship in navigating the state bureaucracy.
“When you are there to serve the interests of the people, you should do all you can to ensure that things are better not just for them but also their children.
“So I think we need to have a more uniform and targeted approach to resolve these things, no point saying we have a welfare program but the person supposed to receive is not benefiting, so we need to make things easier,” the 48-year-old said in an interview here last Monday.
If he were to win, the benefit of his legal training to Rengit constituents will translate to the ability to more easily understand the legal framework and how to identify ways to overcome existing weaknesses in the system, he further pointed out.
To surmise, Nizam Bashir said it was one way of him giving back to society.
“In any event where law is concerned I have never been content to just make money, it's never been my cup of tea. I've always taken an interest in public litigation and public interest matters.
“If I come across destitutes, I would try to do something for them and I think politics in the best sense of the word is a bit like that,” he said,
Citing the Orang Asli in Rengit, Nizam Bashir pointed out that the community was no different than the First Nations people or also known as Aboriginal persons in Australia (where he studied for his law degree) as issues such as better housing and income still remain unresolved until this day.
“In terms of local issues that are particularly relevant to Rengit, one would be the Orang Asli and they are not too dissimilar in their needs and wants as compared to other Orang Asli communities in Malaysia.
“I think that you need to look at what's the root cause, because despite them being given the necessary assistance newer generations still face the same problems such as housing and in fact what I find so interesting is why it's such,” he explained.
Entry into politics, accidentally
“Accidental” is one word to describe how Nizam Bashir ended up in politics.
“When one becomes a lawyer who practises public, constitutional law, most of it I think happens not because of a conscious decision but it’s more or less accidental.
“Some of the files probably ended up on my desk because I took an interest in the matter and I suppose in that sense that’s how politics was for me as well,” he said.
Recounting his unexpected journey, Nizam Bashir said he became an ‘accidental politician’ by way of helping out a friend that involved him shifting chairs for an event which eventually led to one thing and then another.
“I find it very difficult to say no to friends. I suppose in that sense it's why I started as an accidental lawyer then an accidental politician.
“That is how I accidentally ended up in Pejuang but I do know some individuals in Pejuang as I have worked with them in a non-political capacity in several non-governmental organisations and social works,” he said.
Nizam Bashir was quick to dispel the notion that he is a newcomer in politics as he was exposed to political “intrigues” during his time in the Bar Council.
“So I have been involved with Tun [Dr Mahathir Mohamad] and other NGOs after he left the political scene the first time around 2006 to 2007. That’s how things started.
“If you had asked me whether politics was something that interested me, maybe not in that I wanted to go and meet people, convince them of a particular viewpoint.
“I think that's never been my cup of tea but just as much as I became an accidental public law lawyer the same thing happened with politics,” he added.
Nizam Bashir is going up against Barisan Nasional and Umno supreme council member Datuk Mohd Puad Zarkashi as well as two other candidates — PKR's Khairuddin Abdul Rahim who is also Senggarang incumbent and Perikatan Nasional's Mohammad Huzair Lajis — in a four-cornered fight for Rengit.
Rengit is a rural seat under the Batu Pahat parliamentary constituency, with ethnic Malays being the dominant group.
Early voting is on March 8 while polling is on March 12.