Charles overwhelmed by show of support amid GE15 candidacy drop speculation

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Incumbent Klang MP Charles Santiago is surprised and overwhelmed with the show of support shown toward him by various groups of his electorate, following speculation that he might be dropped from contesting in the 15th general election (GE15).

With such a show of solidarity, Charles is now wondering if his party, DAP, would listen to the electorate.

“Everyone has come forward to pledge their support. From all the Chinese business communities, the Indian and Malay NGOs and business associations, national Indian NGOs and even the workers’ trade unions.

“I am surprised and overwhelmed by their support in social media as well. They are from all spectrums of communities and people I know and don’t know,” Charles told Malaysiakini.

His remarks come following speculation in recent weeks that he could be dropped from contesting in Klang in the coming election, and be replaced by either V Ganabatirau (Kota Kemuning assemblyperson) or Ean Yong Hian Wah (Seri Kembangan assemblyperson).

With DAP’s candidacy announcements imminent, Charles told Malaysiakini that he is ready to bow out, provided the candidate who replaces him has a good track record.

Elaborating, Charles recalled that he was with an NGO that dealt with water concession agreements when he was invited by DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang to contest in Klang in the 2008 general election.

“I joined DAP for its values of serving the people, hard work and meritocracy.”

Amid talks of him being dropped as a GE15 candidate, Charles said his meeting with Selangor DAP chief Gobind Singh Deo on Oct 17 did not reveal any shortcomings on his (Charles’) part.

“He (Gobind) told me there was no decision yet (on the candidacy) and that things were evolving.

“So, I asked him, where did I go wrong? And he did not have an answer for me,” Charles said, adding that he also pointed out to Gobind that Klang needed someone (an MP) who could give special attention to issues that threaten the lives and livelihoods in the constituency, such as the effects of climate change.

According to Charles, he had already made headway into addressing drainage and infrastructure issues in the constituency, through meetings and seminars with stakeholders and the state government – and, if the wrong person is put in charge, all the efforts “will go nowhere”.

Malaysiakini has contacted Gobind for comment. As at press time, there has been no reply.

Among the show of support shown toward Charles is a petition launched by voter Wesley Lau, 21, addressed to DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke and calling for Charles to be fielded as the candidate in the Klang again.

At press time, more than 5,900 people have signed the petition.

For the record, Charles, who is also the Asean chairperson of Parliamentarians for Human Rights, has been enjoying an increasing majority margin in the past three general elections – from 17,701 in 2008 to 24,685 in 2013, and 78,773 in 2018.

A group of Pakatan Harapan-friendly voters recently conducted a poll to see if dropping Charles would affect the coalition’s chances of defending the seat.

In the survey of 410 respondents, conducted by a commissioned independent pollster, the group found 54 percent of respondents were familiar with Charles, as opposed to 28 percent who knew Ganabatirau, while 17.5 percent said they knew Yong.

Meanwhile, a coalition of 12 Indian NGOs known as I-25 held a Deepavali luncheon yesterday to show support for Charles’ leadership.

Coalition spokesperson SP Nathan said he was baffled as to why DAP would sideline Charles, who is known for his “competency, parliamentary performance, community service and local initiatives”.

Nathan recalled that Charles was recommended to DAP when the party approached Indian NGOs to recommend potential Indian candidates to represent Klang following the Hindraf rally in 2007.

“We recommended Charles based on his records and performance as a professional and activist.

“The community is baffled, particularly since the party that approached the Indian NGOs to nominate a competent candidate is now marginalising the same person who has remained competent and acknowledged as such by colleagues and voters alike,” Nathan told Malaysiakini. – Malaysiakini