KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 15 — P. Prabakaran remains confident of his chances of winning the Batu parliamentary seat even against nine other competitors, based on hardcore voters who only want to vote for his coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) and his service to the community here over the past four years.

Prabakaran won the Batu seat in the May 2018 election as an independent candidate and joined PH’s component party PKR soon after, and now has an advantage over his other nine candidates as PH had given its official blessing for him to be its candidate in the 15th general election (GE15).

Met after almost one week of campaigning in the Batu seat for GE15, Prabakaran is also counting on his track record of having served the community in the limited time that he could and even under constraints during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The response so far, the grassroots is favourable to PH and another important thing is I’m quite popular in Batu because I have served one term here and people have recognised me. And they have appreciated my support and help to the community.

“So I think it’s not a complicated thing. But the 10-corner fight might give people options, but still, we don’t think the PH supporters and voters will choose any other candidates other than PH.

“I predict they will vote based on party, because the bigger picture is about the nation, not about Batu only,” he told Malay Mail.

While predicting that the votes will definitely be split in the 10-candidate fight for Batu, Prabakaran said those who have decided to vote for PH “will not change” and he will be focusing more on fence-sitters or voters who are still undecided.

Perikatan Nasional candidate for Batu Azhar Yahya flags off Armada Bersatu’s convoy at Markaz PAS Batu November 12, 2022. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

PN is the one to beat for Prabakaran in ten-corner fight

While Batu used to be a seat held by the country’s longest-ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) via its party Gerakan for five terms before coming under PKR for the past three terms, Prabakaran views the new coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN) to be a stronger threat to him as compared to BN.

“My biggest competitor for now is PN, because PN’s base is strong in Batu.

“BN, I can say, yes, but Umno never contested in Batu before, so now MIC is contesting and MIC grassroots is very weak compared to Umno. Umno’s grassroots is strong, but Umno is not contesting. I think they can cater votes, but not as much as PN,” he said.

He said the scenario in Batu also matches surveys that showed that PN is in second place nationally.

PN is slightly over two years old, featuring the relatively young party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia; PAS; Gerakan which left BN in June 2018 and joined PN in 2021, and two Sabah-based parties SAPP and STAR.

BN’s candidate is MIC vice-president Datuk A. Kohilan Pillay who used to be in Gerakan for 28 years; while PN’s candidate is Federal Territories PAS commissioner Azhar Yahya.

Both Prabakaran and Azhar will be contesting in Batu for the second time, while former PKR vice-president Chua Tian Chang who was a two-term Batu MP is entering the fray again.

During their first attempt at the Batu seat in 2018, Prabakaran won 38,125 seats, which represented a 24,438 vote-majority over Gerakan’s current president Datuk Dominic Lau who garnered 13,687 votes for BN, while Azhar who won 10,610 votes, and independent candidate Datuk VM Panjamothy won 383 votes.

Asked how he will win over voters who may favour Chua, Azhar and Kohilan in the GE15 fight, Prabakaran said he would do so by going to the ground and engaging and talking to voters, while also leveraging on his ceramah or political talks, his social media influence and his PH machinery. He said he has 500 volunteers helping to campaign for him.

Having been the youngest candidate in Malaysia in the 2018 election at age 22, Prabakaran, who is now 26, says he is still the youngest candidate in the Federal Territories. He sees his own youth as an edge in reaching younger voters.

“I’m reaching them through social media, and I’m also engaging with lots of NGOs, lots of clubs, sports clubs, and resident associations which have youth wings. And another advantage I have is I’m the youngest candidate in Batu,” he said.

Out of the 113,863 registered voters in Batu, 5.78 per cent or 6,580 are aged 18 to 20, while 20.4 per cent or 23,221 are aged 21 to 29, while those in the 30 to 39 age group form the single biggest chunk at 26,104 or 22.9 per cent.

Those in the 40 to 49 age group number 19,968 or 17.5 per cent, followed by 16,391 or 14.4 per cent (50 to 59 age group), 13,409 or 11.78 per cent (60 to 69 age group), 5,915 or 5.2 per cent (70 to 79), 1,840 or 1.6 per cent (80 to 89), 435 or 0.38 per cent (90 and above).

Party flags and banners are seen in Sentul November 11, 2022. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Past, present and future

Asked if he is confident he had done a good job in his previous term as Batu MP, Prabakaran pointed to his track record of serving the voters in the constituency.

“I don’t have any scandal, I don’t have any controversy, I don’t have any major issues with me. I’m always engaging to the ground, people are seeing me, I think there’s no issue.

“Confidence level is there, but not overconfident. I’m working twice harder, if I win, I will work even more harder to solve issues,” he said, pointing out that his service in Batu and ability to bring major changes had been hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic years.

“I will work even harder because the Covid-19 scenario is not like last time, and I will be more focused on welfare, redevelopment, infrastructure improvements and overcoming traffic issues,” he said.

Prabakaran said, however, that he had continued to serve during lockdowns or movement control orders (MCO) period in Malaysia, noting that more than 10,000 food packs were delivered to Batu residents — especially those living in B40 or the lower-income rung areas — during MCO.

Apart from food baskets, he said aid such as gas tongs, vegetables, fruits, and toiletries were also given.

As for the three areas in Batu that came under a total lockdown or the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) — Taman Koperasi Polis, PPR Batu Muda and the Pasar Borong Selayang area, Prabakaran said his team had also successfully delivered what aid it could give and said residents there remember these things.

“Even today I went to Selayang, where I was caught by the police last time, enter the EMCO area, and they all remember and appreciate it. One Chinese man told me, if that day you never came and help us, we wouldn’t have survived there, because they had no food at all, because every day we deliver food as well. So I think, generally, it’s positive,” he said.

He said his team had also gone down and searched for white flags — which was the #BenderaPutih movement amid the Covid-19 pandemic where those in financial need could signal for help subtly without being humiliated — and delivered food aid to those who put up these flags.

He said he had worked with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to reduce the number of hotspots for flash floods in Batu through the changing of infrastructure and improvement of drainage for areas such as Jalan Ipoh, Pekan Batu, Taman Million and Taman Batu Muda.

He also said he had spent RM500,000 in 2019 alone to help improve the quality of education in Batu, listing the number of each type of school in Batu which had been helped.

He also listed the number of all the places of worship in Batu and said he too had provided support and service to them previously as Batu MP.

Party flags and banners adorn a road in Sentul on November 11, 2022. Picture by Firdaus Latif

Prabakaran already has his manifesto for Batu ready but plans to release it nearer to voting day on November 19.

Prabakaran placed more importance on what he can deliver first and on his past service, pointing out that the manifesto would also be dependent on his coalition being part of the government.

Prabakaran however gave some hints of what he intends to do if voted in as Batu MP for a second term.

“One of my manifestos is to give free bus service to the B40 category like previously, I successfully brought in free bus services from PPR Batu Muda towards UTC Sentul, Bandar Baru Sentul in 2019. So now, if I win, I will make sure the whole wilayah (Federal Territories) gets free bus service, mainly focused on the underprivileged people, B40 category,” he said.

He said he had managed to introduce this free bus service via Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) as PH was the federal government then, adding that this free bus service continues to operate even now and on an hourly frequency.

“Only when you are in government you can achieve all this. Or else you can only raise in Parliament,” he said while noting that coalitions that rule like BN would not listen or engage when issues are raised in Parliament by the federal opposition.

“Because I brought up many issues, PPR issues, welfare issues, youth issues, education quality, women empowerment, children, food security, racial issues, I brought in a lot, but you think they hear that? They just give standard answers and they just move on, but what happens after that? They don’t brainstorm with us, the government agency doesn’t engage us to solve the problem,” he said.