Youth and Political Literacy: In Person with YB Fahmi Fadzil

by Shenoj Kuruvilla

One way or another, politics is something that will often come up in conversation here in Malaysia. Whether in regards to elections or governmental decisions, it is always a popular topic. These days, political literacy is on the rise, with more and more young people wanting to get involved. 

Project RISE is a movement started by the students of the MPU module, Constitution of Malaysia Studies (CMS). It was launched to raise awareness on political literacy and social advocacy to empower the youth, not only to vote, but also to be aware of how these issues concern them. They have done online projects in the past and are consistently posting on their social media, aiming to educate the youth about our laws and constitution.

On 21 April 2022, Project RISE, in accordance with their CMS module, organised “Youth and Political Literacy: In Person with YB Fahmi Fadzil.” Fahmi Fadzil first introduced himself and his background. He has been serving as the Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, Kuala Lumpur since May 2018. However, before his political tenure, he was a writer, actor and theater performer. Before that, he studied and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University in the US. 

The first question asked was, “What made you go into politics?” Having pursued the American Degree Programme at Taylor’s, YB Fadzil cited three classes which changed his worldview: Sociology, which exposed him to oppression in the world and in his society; World Religion, which taught him empathy and understanding for other beliefs; Theater, where he learned how to express himself. With the sense that something was amiss in our society, he felt that he had to speak up and do something. 

YB Fadzil was then asked about his day-to-day work as a politician. He first emphasised that what the public sees in Parliament was only about 5% of the workload. In essence, he provides leadership to those in tight spots. One example of this was when he was visited by a family who needed monetary assistance during the pandemic. He surveyed their situation, and took them in as his ‘keluarga angkat.’ He moved them into a public housing area, supported the mother’s business and got the children into better schools. This way, they would eventually be able to sustain themselves. YB Fadzil gathers data from cases like these and uses it in Parliament.

The moderator then asked YB Fadzil whether anyone can become a politician, "Is a specific skill set required or is it innate?" YB Fadzil’s response was that you need three vital elements to become a politician: communication, ideas and drive. He passed on advice he received from his friend, "Write down on a piece of paper why you want to become a politician and keep that with you at all times."

YB Fadzil was asked about where he thinks Malaysia is going and how the youth can take part in the process. His answer was simple,

"The youth are the conscience of the country. They will shape the future of Malaysia. One clear example of this is the Undi18 movement, set up and run by youths, which successfully pushed for the passing of a legislation, altering the voting age to 18. The youth have to discover their worldview, along with motivation and values to ensure they never give up."

The moderator asked YB Fadzil how we can reach out to the politically illiterate.  He emphasised that it starts with us. "The human to human relationship is very important in this aspect." He explained how we need to set a good example for the people around us by being the change we want to see in the world. Seeing as Project RISE’s motive was to increase youth involvement in politics, YB Fadzil encouraged them to conduct projects on campus to educate the students. 

After the session, the moderator opened the floor for questions. It was a very informative session, which ended with the Project RISE team giving YB Fazdil a gift and him taking a picture with the audience. For more activities like this one, follow Project RISE on Instagram. It is the hope of BAC Education Group that our students will become active participants within our wider community..