CLEO Chats: What Motivates Malaysia’s Youngest MP, P. Prabakaran
It’s been three months since the game-changing #GE14, and we’re still reeling from the many surprising developments arising from Pakatan Haparan’s win. One of the many firsts that came out of the elections was that a relatively unknown 22-year-old became a Member of Parliament.
P. Prabakaran, who won the Batu seat, is now the youngest Member of Parliament in Malaysian history—beating Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Najib Razak, who was elected into the Malaysian Parliament in 1973, at the age of 23. The law student, who initially contested on an independent ticket, was endorsed by Batu’s former MP, Y.B. Tian Chua, after the latter was disqualified from participating due to a legal matter.
At just 22, Prabakaran is proving to be years beyond his age in his drive to encourage the youth of this generation and future generations to be more involved in the political system. With his family and friends by his side, and the support of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) team, Prabakaran hopes to unite the youth and encourage them to speak up.
Since his win in May, and his subsequent first day at Parliament in mid-July, Prabakaran came into the spotlight again in early August, when rumours regarding negotiations involving RM25mil were underway for him to vacate his seat for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
However, Prabakaran has since come out to say that the news is fake and that he cannot comment on something that is fake.
#TeamCLEO reached out to Prabakaran to set up an interview and this is what he had to share with us:
When you first started studying law, did you ever think you would be in politics?
Yes, when I started Law, I became more passionate about politics. I chose Law so that my platform would be strong when I enter the arena of politics.
WE read somewhere that you were gonna be speaking to your professors about coming up with a special schedule for your classes—How has that worked out for you?
I did talk to my counsellors and consultants in my college. There is a course for part timers they can do on weekends, or I could attend night classes during the weekdays. These are more flexible for me.
My law studies are still going on well. It’s just that once I change to a part-time (schedule), … I can also reduce the number of subjects I take a year. So it might get extended another year, if I do choose to reduce (the number of) subjects. If I see that everything is going on well then I won’t reduce anything.
When did you know that you wanted to run for MP? What inspired you to do so?
What inspired me was the lack of awareness among youths regarding politics. Tun Mahathir also inspired me. At the age of 93, he still wants to develop the country and I am sitting here wondering: “What am I doing here?”.
So I told my dad that I think I am going to stand for the election. He asked me a few questions and I (took it) as a joke but he took it seriously. Then he started the groundwork and things just escalated from there.
Do you think people treat you differently now that you’re an MP?
People do treat me differently because now I am a politician, a public figure. Wherever I go, people know who I am, they approach me and take selfies or ask me a few questions. It does affect my private time but I am not that bothered because it is my passion.
My support system before the election was my family and friends. They helped go around and pass flyers, ran my online campaign, and I did some videos about awareness among the youths regarding the system. After the election and after PKR had endorsed me, the PKR team was my support system.
– Prabakaran on his support system before and after #GE14.
I read somewhere that you wanted to encourage youths to speak up. How will you go about convincing them to do it?
It’s all about freedom of speech. When I checked a statistic from the BBC, the median age for the previous parliament is 54 and the youngest was 34. I was so shocked because that means most of them only think about their (own) generations and only two or three parliamentarians care about the youth.
So in that way, I came up with this so-called project to unite all the youth to care about our nation, as well as develop together—to not be ignored by the politicians. One of my plans is to gather up all the university and college students in the Federal Territory and build a council board. That will be my first step.
There is this narrative that only matured and highly experienced people can be in politics, how are you working to dismantle this stereotype?
In my opinion, age is not a barrier. When people come to get help from you, they don’t ask your age first. And according to the law, it states that as long as you are above 21, you can stand in elections.
YB Tian Chua endorsed you as a candidate for Batu, tell more about your relationship with him.
Tian Chua was the MP for the last two terms and I have known him for 10 years. He was my MP. I do see him quite often, here and there, but we were not close before that. When he knew that he was disqualified on nomination day and that he had no other chance—he had to endorse me. This was done so that he can save the seat from other political parties.
Why do you criticise the former government? In your opinion, what do you think they were doing wrong?
They were more like bosses instead of leaders. I don’t criticise them because I don’t want to repeat their mistakes by only criticising. The upcoming generation should have freedom of speech, not only criticise. They must do it the right way.
What have you been up to since #GE14?
I have been doing a lot of programmes. I was very busy during the fasting month and with Raya functions. I also just finished doing a football tournament, a 9-a-side. It went well, extremely well. I also named that tournament Piala Yang Berbahagia Tian Chua. I wanted to give him recognition in Batu and I did. There are some school programmes that I am planning to do and a few more others.
How are you feeling right now about everything?
I am feeling good and excited. I am a bit nervous as well because the new Parliament has started and I believe that everyone is waiting to see what the youngest MP is going to talk about.
How has winning the election affected your personal life?
It does affect my private life. Before this I only focused on my studies, family and my personal time. After winning, there is no such thing called personal time and family time has been reduced, and so has my education time.
But I enjoy doing this. Why? Because, from my childhood, I’ve loved helping people. My family was in that lane, they do a lot of social service. I was also active in a few NGOs and helped out in a few temples, gave tuition to kids in orphanages, and I was a teacher for four months. So all these things, I love to do and it doesn’t affect that much of my private time. Because I feel like that is my private time.
Normally in my private time, I go to the movies or spend time with friends. Now, my friends are hanging around with me because they also love doing this. And I am not alone in this because everyone is here to help each other. I am still learning.
Once a wise man told me, leadership is not about leading but instead about developing others.
– P. Prabakaran.
What is your vision? What do you see happening for this term and the next?
My vision was to create awareness for the youth and bring them closer to the political system, because 3.5 million youth did not register for the election. That was a huge malice (sic) that everyone ignored. And in the last minute, all the top-notch politicians were making videos about the youth coming out to vote for them. I feel like there is a problem in our system where youth are not encouraged properly. They are demotivated. So my vision is mostly for the youth.
Once I won the election, which I didn’t intend to, I’ve become more focused on the Batu people as well as the youth of this nation. Batu has a few problems in terms of the economy, structure, crime and safety. If it rains, I get really worried about floods. This kind of basic daily life things are affected, so I am trying to improve that first.
What sort of politician would you like to be known as?
Previously, if you see, most of the politicians, they’re the boss and they dictate to the people around them, to do their jobs. They fail to develop the people around them. I am trying to develop the people around me, especially the youth and the upcoming generation. So I am more like the people’s leader, not a politician. I get to become a politician, but I am still a baby.
Click the vid below to see what else Y.B. P Prabakaran had to say:
Coordination, videography interview: Meghan Angelica Video editing: Pabs Edits Special thanks to Craft Origin Cafe in Taman Tun for venue assistance