Mention the glory days of the state of Perak Darul Ridzuan and most conjure the relic of the past when tin mining was at the height of its boom. In the mid-19th century the state was one of the worldâs prominent mining industrial areas but later lost its prominence when world tin industry collapsed. As if the sunset industry was the stateâs only key to greatness, for many years Perakâs past looms over its future. The struggle to live in an old and a new identity was obvious, given its neighbouring states Selangor and Penang have fast become the nation powerhouses while Perak continues to sleep on its potential… until recently the âzâ factor sets in.
THE RESPECTABLE âYOBâ
Tasked to steering Perak into a reawakening is the man whose life story typifies one of the greatest transformational journeys made by any Perakian political leader to date. From a fishing boy into a magnetic statesman, Perak menteri besar Datoâ Seri DiRaja Dr. Zambry Abd Kadir, 55, has earned himself the daunting task of waking up the sleeping giant that is Perak. The reawakening of Perak holds particular significance for Zambry as he aims to challenge and overturn the psychology of decline which had become rooted in Perak since the end of the mining era, pursuing stateâs recovery with striking energy and determination.
Despite his controversial entry as menteri besar in 2009, there is no mistaking that the personal qualities Zambry possessed fitted him well for the task handed to him by the people. He is bold yet compassionate; plain-spoken yet assertive.Zambry, who often goes by the name of âYobâ, a Perak term of endearment that means brother, is known as the peopleâs man amongst Perakians. He is commonly seen as one of the politicians who finds joy in going to the ground (turun padang) to meet his people. His official visits to districts and towns, or more widely known as Pemukiman, are more elaborated to the extent of spending nights with local communities.
âPemukiman opens a window for me to attend to the issues and concerns addressed by the rakyat in the most truthful and direct way,â he adds.
His programmes are centred towards walking a mile in the shoes of every Perakian he meets, to experience life from their living conditions, even if for a short while. His charisma and humility as a leader have left Perakians swooning over his leadership style in a matter of months ever since he took office. Zambry, whose genuine smile is ever ready to greet one at any time, oozes practicality and kindness in his actions and words, making him one of the most likeable Perak State leaders to date.
While some viewed his kindly temperament as a sign of weakness as a leader, Zambry possessed much political grit although it was often hidden and seldom acknowledged. He is a product of his circumstances that has been wrought with hardships. When he goes out as a statesmen his character is put to the test, and people get to see what a real man he is. Those who followed his career would remember the time Zambry was detained under the now defunct Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1998.
The Pangkor-born statesman became actively involved in politics in 1995, soon after his return from the United States. Being the centre of important political and philosophical movements at the time, Zambry took a lively interest in current affairs. He started his political journey in UMNO as the Pangkor UMNO Branch Chief before being elected as Lumut UMNO Youth Division Chief. He later won a seat as the executive council member at the National UMNO Youth before being appointed as the State UMNO Youth Chief.
In 2004 General Election, he stood and won the Perak State Legislative Assembly seat for Pangkor and returned as incumbent in 2008 and 2013 General Election. At present, Zambry holds the seat as a Pangkor State Assemblyman for the third term and second term as the 11th Menteri Besar of the State. Having been described as one of the toughest state to win in 2009, retaining Perak in the subsequent general election in 2013 was testimony to Zambryâs prowess as a politician and statesman. Even the most hardened critic would be impressed by how fast his influence changes the political landscape of Perak.