Tian Chua returns to Batu to keep promise to voters

Lionel Morais

CHUA Tian Chang, better known as Tian Chua, is standing as an independent candidate in a 10-way tussle for the Batu parliamentary seat because of a promise he made to voters four years ago.

Tian Chua was the Batu MP from 2008 to 2018 but failed to defend his seat in 2018 after he was disqualified on nomination day.

He threw his support behind then independent P. Prabakaran,  who went on to win the seat and became the youngest lawmaker to have won election in Malaysia.

“I made a promise to Batu voters that I will continue to serve. I will not leave Batu. I have to keep that promise,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Tian Chua said he did not intend to upset his former party colleague but felt running was the right thing to do.

He said he told party leaders of his decision before nomination day.

“I told Anwar (PKR president Anwar Ibrahim) I was sorry but have decided to take this path,” Tian Chua said.

“I also told him this was never intended to hurt our relationship.”

He said he did not expect Anwar to understand this decision although there were other PKR leaders who tried to talk him out of it.

“But I have to believe that I’m doing the right thing,” said the 59-year-old bachelor.

Tian Chua is among 10 candidates running for Batu. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, November 13, 2022.

The Batu race is the most crowded contest in GE15.

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

The four independents in the contest are Tian Chua, Siti Kasim, Nur Fathiah Syazwana Shaharudin and Too Cheng Huat.

The Batu constituency is estimated to have more than 113,000 voters, after those aged between 18 and 20 are added in the mix with the automatic voter registration.

Its ethnic composition sees Malays making up 43%, followed by Chinese (30%), Indians (20%) and others (7%).

Pakatan Harapan supporters believe Tian Chua has made the wrong decision as he would split the votes for Prabakaran, which could cost the coalition the seat it has held for three terms.

Below are excerpts of the interview:

Q: By contesting again, how do you think you can better what Prabakaran has done?
A: I’m not new here. I have been in parliament for the last 10 years, I have been serving here for 10 years. So people can make that comparison  – my 10 years against Prabakaran’s four. Let the people decide if I or Prabakaran can do a better job. Now is the time for the voters to make the decision. I’m not going for a job interview to say that I can do better.

Tian Chua expects the Barisan Nasional candidate to give him the biggest fight for Batu. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, November 13, 2022.

Q: There is talk you have a rift with Prabakaran.
A. To me this has no relevance. The people have to judge based on our abilities, who has more capability. I have no rift with the rest of the candidates either. It’s just that we represent different facets of Malaysian politics.

Q: Did you speak to Prabakaran before you decided to stand?
A: That decision was made a long time ago. He knew about it. It was known in the party. Prabakaran has decided he is strong enough (to stand against me). He challenged me in the PKR Batu division polls and he won. It means that he is strong enough to tell Batu voters that he is now his own man. He doesn’t need Tian Chua to be his mentor or to campaign for him. I respect that decision; young people have their ambitions. So now, since he has made that decision, let him present to the people what he has and let them decide. I am not here to dispute him and I am not bitter about it. Since he feels his team and machinery are sufficient to see him through, then he should go ahead. He has the right to do that.

Q: Many are saying not to waste time voting for an Independent. What are your thoughts on this?
A: It does not matter. The constitution allows it. Whether independent or a candidate from a party, in the end, it is the decision of the people. Social media is also saying that anything other than Pakatan Harapan is irrelevant. There’s some truth to that also. So let it be.

Q: What do you think of the large field of candidates in Batu?
A: I don’t know why all these people are coming to Batu. But as someone who has been here for a long time, I welcome them. This can only mean a lot of people are interested to serve here. My only advice is, when you lose, don’t run away. Continue to serve.

Some have condemned Tian Chua of trying to split the vote for Pakatan Harapan in Batu. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, November 13, 2022.

Q: Who do you think will be your main challenger? Prabakaran?
A: No, no, not Prabakaran. I think the biggest challenge for me will come from BN (Kohilan) and PN (Azhar).

Q: Why?
A: Kohilan is not a weak candidate, and that’s why MIC and MCA were fighting for this seat. They think it’s a winnable seat. He would be able to pull the Indian votes with their machinery. Furthermore, he has the support of Gerakan and MIC. Kohilan is an experienced and quite likeable candidate; he is also a local boy. I don’t want to underestimate his strength. The… Malay sentiment is not known. Malays are the majority here. It could go to BN if I don’t contest. I have substantial support from the Malays. I’m confident of retaining our traditional supporters.

Q: How are you campaigning? Door-to-door? Ceramah?
A: I’m doing everything. I was able to turn the tide in four days at the last election (when PH threw their support behind then Independent candidate Prabakaran). We were able to reach out to the people and with our machinery, we were able to change their minds and vote for Prabakaran. That was the strength of our machinery then. We had a very strong community-based machinery. Prabakaran does not want to use them now. They are with me now. He has his team, which helped him in GE14, so he has decided to stick with them. (Mine) is the original team from our division and they have been here for about 20 years. They have been serving here since I first came (to Batu). – November 13, 2022.

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