Mischief is brewing in the Batu parliamentary constituency with pressure mounting on its sitting MP, P. Prabakaran, to step down. Observers suspect it is linked to the ongoing power struggle within PKR. Whatever it is and whoever is behind it, one thing is clear – it has more to do with the ambitions of powerful politicians than with serving the people.
The trouble began when the High Court ruled earlier this month that PKR vice-president Tian Chua was wrongfully denied the right to stand for election in GE14. The court found that “it was unjust, inequitable and unreasonable to deny Chua’s qualification and right to contest as a candidate in elections.”
Most Malaysians would no doubt rejoice with Tian Chua over the court’s verdict; a great wrong has now been set right. Tian Chua has long been a leader in the ‘reformasi’ struggle and, in his two terms as Batu MP, served the constituency with excellence and dedication. Had he stood for re-election, there’s little doubt that he would have won handsomely and perhaps gone on to hold a cabinet position.
With Tian Chua’s disqualification, however, the PKR leadership, with the support of Tian Chua himself, adopted P. Prabakaran, then standing as an independent candidate, as its own, endorsed him and threw its support behind him.
The same electoral tsunami that swept Pakatan Harapan to power last year also swept Prabakaran to office, making him the youngest member of parliament. When he handed in his nomination papers he probably never expected that fate would favour him the way it did, that he would go on to win. But win he did and now he sits as the duly elected PKR representative of the people of Batu.
Since taking office, Prabakaran, a law student and political novice, appears to have worked hard to serve his constituents. His white SUV is a familiar sight across the constituency. What he lacks in experience is more than compensated by his passion, commitment and dedication. As Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil noted recently, he is “young but he is committed and knows the problem in his area. He gets his hands dirty. He knows the problems faced by the people.”
Now that Tian Chua is once again eligible to stand for election, however, his supporters are demanding that Prabakaran step down to make way for him. It is, of course, as asinine an idea as UMNO president Zahid Hamidi’s suggestion that the government step down in the wake of its defeat in Tanjung Piai and call another general election.
In the last couple of weeks, Prabakaran’s car has been pelted with eggs while a smear campaign against him alleging financial improprieties is making the rounds. I expect things will get even more unpleasant for him in the days ahead.
While Tian Chua has denied any involvement in the move to unseat Prabakaran, he appears to have left the door open to that possibility. “I am not in the know of any looming by-election in Batu. If it does happen, however, I leave it to the party to decide the role I should play,” he told reporters. In political speak, that’s a clear enough hint that Prabakaran ought to make way for him.
Such deliberate ambiguity is unbecoming. Tian Chua should put a stop to this nonsense about another by-election by stating, once and for all, that he supports the sitting MP and will work to help him succeed. That would be the true measure of greatness.
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has now stated that there is no need for Prabakaran to relinquish his seat and make way for Chua. He said in a statement that “Prabakaran has a mandate from the people and we will have to respect that.“ Given the acerbic divisions within PKR, however, it may not be enough to stop the campaign to unseat Prabakaran.
Prabakaran himself is standing steadfast, as he should. He has said that he intends to serve out his full term and work diligently to help make the ‘reformasi’ agenda a reality. Good for him!
Like it or not, the voters of Batu elected Prabakaran to represent them. He may not have been their first choice but his election is now a done deal. He is the sitting MP and they should allow him to do his job. That is how the systems works and it should be respected.
Those who are plotting against Prabakaran might also want to take heed of public sentiment. If there’s one takeaway from the recent Tanjung Piai by-election, it is that voters are absolutely fed up with the infighting within PH, angry at their poor performance and disappointed at their failure to deliver on their promises. Angry voters are unpredictable voters.
Given this mood, a by-election in Batu might well result in yet another resounding slap in the face for PH. It’s about time that PH leaders started prioritizing the interests of the people and the nation instead of their own egos and ambitions.
[Dennis Ignatius |Kuala Lumpur |20th November 2019]