PETALING JAYA: While the sacking of former PKR vice-president Tian Chua from the party was seen as a matter of course, it was a sad day for the Reformasi icon who had “laid down his life” and been in and out of lock-ups in his fight for justice after Anwar Ibrahim was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998.
Party colleagues recall Tian Chua as among the key drivers of the Reformasi street demonstrations which often turned violent with the police using force to break them up.
Among the most memorable moments was when Tian Chua sat on the road in front of a police water cannon truck trying to break up a demonstration at Dataran Merdeka.
However, another act of defiance – against party orders – led to his downfall.
Many colleagues said the 59-year-old Tian Chua should have known what was coming after he contested the general election as an independent candidate in Batu, despite being advised against it.
He chose to run against P Prabakaran, PKR’s choice for the seat, which Tian Chua had won in 2008 and 2013 before being disqualified in 2018.
A close friend, Pasir Gudang MP, Hassan Karim, described it as a very sad day for him.
“I tried calling him twice on the eve of nomination day in November last year, but he did not answer. I wanted to stop him from standing as an independent as I knew the consequences. I was secretary-general of PRM (Parti Rakyat Malaysia) once and I knew PKR would have no choice but to sack him,” he said.
The two had been close for about 30 years, since the time they were both in PRM.
He said Tian Chua’s act of being “willing to lay down his life, so to speak”, to block the police water cannon truck came to his mind after reading about his sacking.
“It is a real irony when this is happening after the man he fought for becomes prime minister. Politics appears to be cruel when someone breaks party discipline. But the writing was on the wall when he decided to stand as an independent,” he said.
Hassan said Tian Chua’s devotion to PKR could be seen by the fact that he had been its vice-president since its inception in 1999 up to the day he lost in the party elections last year. He said he was sure Tian Chua’s heart was still with the party for which he had fought for more than two decades.
Another party member, who requested anonymity, felt that Tian Chua’s perceived close association with PKR’s former deputy president, Azmin Ali, could have been among the reasons for him being voted out as Batu division chief.
“With the loss to Prabakaran, he could not lay his claim for the party to nominate him for the Batu seat in the last general election,” he said. “But for some reason, he thought he could make it as an independent candidate and return to PKR. But it was a terrible miscalculation.”
The member said it was also a time when the party leadership was seriously getting rid of the last vestiges of Azmin’s influence after Azmin took part in the Sheraton Move of 2020, ditching PKR and causing the fall of the PH government.
In April 2001, Tian Chua was arrested under the Internal Security Act together with five other demonstrators for allegedly engaging in violence and subversive activities and plotting to overthrow the government.
After 53 days of interrogation, he was sent to the Kamunting detention centre for two years before being released.
According to records, he has also been arrested by police at least 20 times for his Reformasi activism related to street demonstrations.
Tian Chua has two weeks to appeal against his sacking. Yesterday, he told FMT he had yet to decide if he will appeal.