18/03/2004

Plight of 13-year-old draws Fadillah into politics

Plight of 13-year-old draws Fadillah into politics

KUCHING March 17 - Petra Jaya parliamentary candidate Fadillah Yusof has been characterised as a young leader with calibre who is friendly, knowledgeable, soft-spoken and approachable.

Among those supporting this view is Taman Malihah Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Chief Awang Meda'an Awang Ahmad.

Fadillah himself said it was his sensitive nature which drew him into politics and in this election to contest the seat vacated by Tan Sri Dr Sulaiman Daud.

Joining the PBB in 1989, Fadillah became its Tupong Information Chief and Youth Secretary in 1991 and rose to become its Youth Chief in 1995, a post he still holds.

The 42-year-old Universiti Malaya Law graduate said his foray into the real political arena came when he was appointed as a lawyer to represent Daud Abdul Rahman in the latter's 1996 state election nomination for Tupong.

"When he won, I was offered a committee seat for Tupong, but I declined on the basis that I was not ready and wanted to focus on strengthening my financial situation and my new law firm," he said.

However, Fadillah said the tug on his heartstrings came during a working visit to Sungai Maung in Tupong where he met a 13-year-old boy who was forced to quit school to help his family earn money.

"I came from a poor family and I have been through hardship. So when I met that child, I could not believe this was still happening in our society. I can accept it if it is a rural area, but not in a city like Kuching," he said.

The ninth of 14 children, Fadillah said he now viewed politics as his responsibility to ensure that society was not left behind in the mainstream of development.

Fadillah also attributed his fighting spirit to the bloodline of his father, Yusof Merais, a social activist in Sibu and an independence fighter who was jailed several times by the British.

"After independence, he was active in Parti Kemajuan Sarawak (Kemas) and mixed with the grassroots. The folk stories I grew up hearing also made me closer to them and fired in me the desire to solve problems in society," he said.

The Sarawak PBB Youth Secretary-General and father of five said although he was born in Sibu, he had, in the words of Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, "fallen in love with Kuching."

Fadillah is also well known for his welfare work in Petra Jaya, including providing food aid to some 6,000 flood victims in Kampung Tupong Jaya, Gita Laut, Pinang Jawa and Taman Malinah as recently as January.

On Sunday, the fight is between Fadillah and Parti Keadilan Malaysia candidate Wan Zainal Abidin Wan Senusi, 53, who lost to Dr Sulaiman in the previous general election.

As a Sarawak BN candidate, Fadillah said his focus would be to balance the physical development of the area with the progress of its society, especially in terms of education and youths.

"Comparatively, we have experienced rapid growth via Government programmes but the people have yet to accept them and are not ready for change. So this causes social problems, like youths with no direction who sniff glue, loiter around and waste time," he said.

He thus urged the people to support him and give him the chance to serve them.

Petra Jaya has three State seats - Tupong, Satok and Semariang - and 39,365 voters.