Prabakaran asks for more time to fulfill Batu’s plan

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P. PRABAKARAN became the youngest legislator in 2018 with big ambitions and plans for Batu constituency.

And although he’s had four years to show off his abilities, nearly half of that time has been spent battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

This meant its plans to provide better and decent housing for B40 areas had to be put on hold, even though talks with developers and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) began three years ago in 2019.

“That’s my main manifesto this time around,” the 26-year-old bachelor told The Malaysian Insight.

“I look at the current accommodation in the B40 areas and I think they are not suitable for this era.

“On the one hand, the houses are so small. They measure between 550 and 600 square feet.

Prabakaran brought in a few developers, but for the first few days the developers had issues with DBKL over their strict standard operating procedure.

“That was one of the challenges I was facing. So now I have to come out with a win-win situation for the developers and DBKL.

He said his instructions to developers were quite straightforward.

“Let’s say the project is on a two-acre lot. One acre will be for housing and the rest the developer can have mixed development. It is to them.

“But homes have to be comfortable, minimum 1,000 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms. This is my major manifesto.

“It’s difficult but doable,” Prabakaran said.

Prabakaran, however, knows it will be a daunting task for him to retain the seat with such a crowded field in Batu for the upcoming elections.

The 10-hit fight in Batu is the most attended contest in the general election.

There are six candidates from major coalitions and political parties vying for the parliamentary constituency. Prabakaran (Pakatan Harapan), A. Kohilan Pillay (Barisan Nasional), Azhar Yahya (Perikatan Nasional), Wan Azliana Wan Adnan (Pejuang), Naganathan Pillai (Warisan) and Mohd Zulkifli Abdul Fattah (Rakyat Party Malaysia).

They will face four independent candidates – Chua Tian Chang (Tian Chua), Siti Zabedah Kasim, Nur Fathiah Syazwana Shaharudin and Too Cheng Huat.

The Batu constituency is made up of more than 113,000 voters, after adding those aged 18 to 20 into the mix with automatic voter registration.

Of the total, Malays represent 43%, followed by Chinese (30%), Indians (20%) and others (7%).

He described Batu as a “mini Malaysia”, adding that its biggest electoral bases are Chinese and Indians.

Prabakaran, however, is confident he can win over Malaysian voters.

“I come from a Malay village (Taman Pelangi). The Malays there know me and have promised me their support.

“I also introduced myself to Taman Batu Muda which is fully controlled by BN. I carried out many programs there, arranging the playground, ensuring the parking of motorcycles.

“In April we took DBKL there and the local authority approved RM3.5m to improve the road and drainage. It’s a great achievement and the people there know it.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

Q: If PKR had dumped you and brought Tian Chua back here, would you have been Independent?

A: No, I wouldn’t. I would have supported Tian Chua 100% because I am a party animal. We don’t want to break the party.

Q: How were you chosen to compete here again?

A: Rafizi (Rafizi Ramli, Vice President of PKR) offered a screening system for the candidate through his Invoke digital platform for research. They researched every candidate. That’s how they identified who the right person was. Also, whoever won the party election a few months ago had more say in who could run. Everyone submitted names of candidates at the division level, and it went to the top, to Anwar (PKR President Anwar Ibrahim) for approval. The system chooses the right candidate. Even at Batu Division – the first level of filtration – Tian Chua’s name was not there. Management knew that Tian Chua wanted to challenge under PH because he held press conferences and released statements he wanted to challenge in Batu.

Q: Did Tian Chua approach you?

A: It happened last week. Tian Chua contacted me through one of my collaborators. We have evidence, screenshots and all. He said that I should return my watikah (dispute permission letter) to Anwar, to be given to him instead. He also said I should go to a state seat. He approached my guy. I have nothing to hide.

Q: But you told Tian Chua in a news article to withdraw his candidacy. Why?

A: Because our agenda is the same. I’m from PKR, and he was a former member of PKR. And we both want Anwar as the next prime minister. I don’t want voters to be confused.

Q: When did this argument between you and Tian Chua happen?

A: During the Sheraton move. Although we are in the same party, political principles separate us. He was directly involved in the Sheraton Move. He held press conferences with Azmin (former PKR vice-president Mohamed Azmin Ali). Although in the end he withdrew, the group was quite unhappy with him. He also didn’t want to give up his job as a GLC (Government Linked Company) until they warned him with action.

Q: What do you think of your chances now with a bigger field?

A: The confidence to win is there but I work harder because I don’t want it to be just because I stand under PH I win. I want to win thanks to me. Even if it’s hard, one against nine, I want to show that it’s thanks to Prabakaran that PH won here. I want it this way.

Q: The last time you did well was because you had the PH machinery behind you and Tian Chua gave support behind you. You are now using your own team and Tian Chua is challenging you. How will this affect your chances?

A. It’s not me against Tian Chua. I admit that Tian Chua helped me. But I can also say that whoever challenged then would have won. Our political principles are now different. He chose the wrong path. I stay with Anwar even though I was tested with many challenges in the party and in the field, and I survived. So why shouldn’t I stick to Batu anymore? I have my own electoral machinery, the machinery of the PH. I don’t have big scandals, why don’t I deserve to win? The people who brought Tian Chua in 2008 and made him win are now with me. His decision to run as an independent is hurting PKR in Batu, and that’s why even his supporters are angry with him.

Q: Who do you think will be your best challenger?

A: Ustaz Azhar from PN. He’s a local boy. Only three locals compete here, the rest are underdogs. Azhar, who is from PAS, is active here. In 2018, PAS had 10,000 votes while Gerakan had 13,000 votes. Now Gerakan is under PN so their votes can go to PAS. But the votes will be split. My majority was then 24,000.

P. Prabakaran says if he wins the next elections and Pakatan Harapan becomes the government, he will bring his services to the people by building more service centers in the densely populated areas.  – Nazir Sufari’s Malaysian Insight photo, November 13, 2022.

Q: What did you achieve during your first term? And what are the unresolved issues?

A: There are many unresolved issues. Due to Covid-19, we were unable to deliver what we promised. In 2018, 2019 and 2022 I was so active that I solved many important issues. The biggest problem was the floods. Worked with DBKL to improve the drainage system. Now we only have flash flooding on the roads due to clogging. The best initiative was the free bus service in Batu. Nobody did that. I proposed it to DBKL. The free bus service is mainly in Kuala Lumpur where foreigners and tourists use them. We offered to bring the free bus service to the residential area where most B40s stay. It was approved. From Batu Muda low-cost housing to the Bandar Baru Sentul urban transformation center, where there are low-cost apartments, five schools, a government health clinic, a mosque and a church. Now Sentul has a free hourly bus service and that’s thanks to me.

Q: What have you learned as an MP?

A: You have to be on the ground to know the issues and problems that people are facing. This is the most important thing. When I’m on the pitch, I know what to do. When I don’t understand and I hear from my team, I don’t understand. You need to meet them personally and talk to them. Commitment is very important. Like what I did in the residential areas, I got involved with the residents’ associations, so most of the issues raised are resolved.

Q: How would you work differently if you won again?

A: I will bring my office and myself more into the field. I will build more service centers in more populated areas. At the moment I only have one. If we win and are in government, I will provide my services to people because I feel like people don’t know where to go for help. I will bring government agencies like DBKL, Housing Department and Welfare Department. This time we have contacts from all government agencies. We will set up mini bases in Bandar baru Sentul, Sentul and Jinjang. – November 13, 2022.

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