Why politics? Tengku Zafrul says staying on sidelines is not right, and he wants to be part of the solution

·4-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 — With its seafood and natural beauty spots, Kuala Selangor is used to embracing visitors and tourists.

Recently, it has also started getting used to weekend visits from Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, in what can only be interpreted as his bid to turn the constituency into his platform into full time politics.

“I want to be part of the solution. People always say don’t be part of the problem but be part of the solution,” the former CIMB CEO and career corporate man told Malay Mail and Singapore’s Straits Times last Sunday during his most recent visit to the constituency.

With intense development and new highways and roads, Kuala Selangor has over the past decade transformed into almost a suburb or township on the outer fringes of Greater Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
With intense development and new highways and roads, Kuala Selangor has over the past decade transformed into almost a suburb or township on the outer fringes of Greater Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

With intense development and new highways and roads, Kuala Selangor has over the past decade transformed into almost a suburb or township on the outer fringes of Greater Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

While emphasising his potential candidacy is not cast in stone, he was keen to point out that Kuala Selangor was no longer a sleepy, coastal town that was far removed from the boardrooms and corridors of financial power he has built an entire career on.

With intense development and new highways and roads, Kuala Selangor has over the past decade transformed into almost a suburb or township on the outer fringes of Greater Kuala Lumpur.

“It has become like Shah Alam. No longer considered like the other three neighbouring areas of Tanjung Karang, Sungai Besar and Sabak Bernam,” he said in reference to Kuala Selangor’s neighbouring districts to the north which are demographically more semi-rural.

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz talks with people as he walks along Jalan Raja Abdullah in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz talks with people as he walks along Jalan Raja Abdullah in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz talks with people as he walks along Jalan Raja Abdullah in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

“If I am given the opportunity it will be a tough one. We are underdogs here right now. A big majority of voters here are now professionals so I think you need to field a professional here,” he said, referring to the Barisan Nasional coalition.

The Kuala Selangor federal seat is now held by Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad, the popular former health minister from Pakatan Harapan’s Amanah. Two of the state seats in the constituency are also held by PH while a third is currently in the hands of Pejuang.

A significant number of voters in Kuala Selangor also reside in spanking new housing developments in Puncak Alam, a pleasant slice of suburbia bordering Shah Alam and Klang.

A general view of Jeti Nelayan Pekan Lama in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A general view of Jeti Nelayan Pekan Lama in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

A general view of Jeti Nelayan Pekan Lama in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

“I have gone down on the ground for quite a while now and the feedback I’m getting is quite positive, because you have to try, right? What is not good is if you go there and don’t engage. The more I engage hopefully the more I learn how to improve,” Tengku Zafrul said last Sunday during breakfast at Auntie Foo cafe, a hipster style restaurant famous for its nasi lemak rendang.

As if on cue, a number of patrons came up to Tengku Zafrul and asked to have pictures taken with him.

“I must say I am fortunate in that I did not come from a family with difficult circumstances. My mother was a civil servant, my family, civil servants. Grandfather was secretary-general of the Ministry of Health. So there is that sense of national service.

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz (centre) greets recipients during the LHDNM corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme at Dewan Dato Penggawa Permatang in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz (centre) greets recipients during the LHDNM corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme at Dewan Dato Penggawa Permatang in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz (centre) greets recipients during the LHDNM corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme at Dewan Dato Penggawa Permatang in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

“But I was never really exposed to this until I joined the government. And that’s when I realised. Staying on the sidelines? It’s not right.”

Tengku Zafrul said he spoke to his mother when he joined the government as finance minister, seeking her counsel.

His mother — Raja Datuk Zaharaton Raja Zainal Abidin — was a former director-general of the Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department.

A general view of Pasir Penambang in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A general view of Pasir Penambang in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

A general view of Pasir Penambang in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

“She said to me: ‘This is the real world. If you want to do this, you need to understand that you have the ability. One is to listen and secondly is that sense of national duty to help out because you are lucky and it is time to give back’.”

On his most recent visit last Sunday to Kuala Selangor, Tengku Zafrul’s charm offensive and attempts to engage with locals at small, intimate events was generally well received.

Taking a slow walk through town, he was instantly recognisable, likely due to his status as finance minister.

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz attends a programme with students at the De Palma Hotel in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz attends a programme with students at the De Palma Hotel in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz attends a programme with students at the De Palma Hotel in Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Whether that will translate into enough votes remains to be seen.

“I have in my mindset now that you must offer your services but if you are not accepted you don’t feel guilty. Right now I feel guilty if I don’t contribute.”

A general view of Pekan Lama Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A general view of Pekan Lama Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

A general view of Pekan Lama Kuala Selangor, August 14, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa