Independents offer solution to Pakatan Harapan’s Batu problem

Prabakaran, Panjamorthy open to endorsements by Pakatan Harapan should Tian Chua fail to qualify


The High Court will decide today whether Pakatan Harapan’s Tian Chua can contest for the Batu parliamentary seat after his nomination was rejected on a technicality, but already the spotlight has turned to two independents who did get nominated.

In an unexpected turn of events, 22-year-old law student P Prabakaran and former MIC leader Datuk VM Panjamorthy have stepped up to offer themselves as substitutes.

Both are open to endorsements by Pakatan Harapan should Tian Chua fail to qualify for this general election.

However, Tian Chua may have already made his choice for the last resort move to include at least a candidate sympathetic to Pakatan Harapan.

In a solidarity rally held in Sentul on Labour Day on Wednesday, Tian Chua told supporters to wait for his “signal” if the High Court ruled in favour of the Election Commission (EC).

“As a last resort, wait for my signal,” Tian Chua said. “We want to identify a party that supports Pakatan Harapan and ‘Reformasi’ movement, and I will endorse that candidate or party,” Tian Chua said as quoted by a local newspaper. He asked voters to support the Pakatan Harapan-endorsed candidate and ensure the Opposition’s continued presence in the federal constituency.

At present, Batu is headed for a four-cornered contest between Prabakaran, Panjamorthy, Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Datuk Dr Dominic Lau Hoe Chai and PAS candidate Azhar Yahya.

Despite Lau and Azhar’s respectable credentials — Lau being Gerakan VP and Azhar, Batu PAS chief — constituents have favoured Tian Chua in the last two elections.

In the previous poll, Tian Chua won against Lau by a majority of 13,284 votes. In 2008, he won over BN’s Lim Si Pin by a 9,455-majority. The parliamentary seat has long been an Opposition’s stronghold, even before Tian Chua was made Batu MP.

Between 1959 and 2018, BN has only represented the constituency for five terms. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Batu is open to the idea of voting for independent candidates.

Prabakaran, being the youngest candidate in this year’s general election, aims to woo young voters by fighting for the rights of youths.

Among his campaign declaration is to bring down the voting age from 21 to 18, improve public infrastructure, make the township more disabled-friendly, improve vocational and tertiary education, and increase internship opportunities for youths.

The third-year law student kicked off his campaign with a six-minute clip on YouTube where he explained his decision to run in the election, and why people should vote for him.

Prabakaran hopes that his participation in the political process would inspire other young people to follow his footsteps in the coming general elections. Meanwhile, 62-year-old activist and businessman Panjamorthy is a familiar face in Batu due to his involvement in various non-governmental organisation’s works and MIC over the last four decades.

His decision to contest in this election is to seek empowerment to voice out grouses at a higher level.

Panjamorthy said while the constituency has made a significant progress over the years, pending issues such as the relocation of low-cost flat residents, Hindu temples and high traffic volume need to be actively addressed.

The MIC veteran, who tendered his resignation to the MIC secretariat a day before nomination day, said he welcomes an endorsement from Pakatan Harapan, if the offer arises, and is ready to pledge his support for the Opposition coalition.

The High Court will decide on Tian Chua’s appeal to reverse the EC’s decision today. The verdict will determine whether Tian Chua will be able to defend his seat in this election.

Pakatan Harapan has vowed to field a candidate in Batu, regardless of the court’s ruling. The Opposition coalition will not want to see its bastion falling into the hands of the other over technical issues. If all else fails, it will either be Prabakaran or Panjamorthy who will have to step up to the plate.