“I have big shoes to fill. People’s perception and expectations toward me are very high,” admits Kasthuriraani Patto, Batu Kawan Member of Parliament. She retained the seat in the 14th General Elections with a 33,553 vote majority.
As a second-generation politician, and daughter to the late DAP stalwart P. Patto, she is often asked, “Can you speak like him?”
She humbly replies, “Can anyone speak like P. Patto?”.
P. Patto, who was Deputy Secretary-General of DAP, was known for his fiery oratory skills.
Kasthuriraani admits that it's not easy to fill the shoes her father had left behind. P. Patto was highly regarded as a man of integrity and a no-nonsense politician.
I have big shoes to fill. People’s perception and expectations towards me are very high
“The name P. Patto is well known throughout Malaysia.” He served as state assemblyman for Gopeng and Member of Parliament for Nias, Perak and Bagan, Penang throughout his political career.
“Even in Kelantan, when I’d come across fellow uncles from Kota Bharu, they would share their appreciation for my father; saying that he respected and understood the Malay culture and showed what being a true Malaysian was,” says Kasthuriraani.
P. Patto was widely regarded as ‘the people’s man’ - he fought for political justice and racial equality.
In 1978, he was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for exposing the purchase of four Swedish-made SPICA-M torpedo boats, in connection to the Royal Malaysian Navy.
In 1987, Patto was again detained under ISA during Operasi Lalang. He was sent to Kamunting Detention Centre alongside other DAP stalwarts such as Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh, Lim Guan Eng, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw and V. David.
“During the that time, the mainstream media was manipulated by Barisan Nasional and painted DAP leaders, such as my father, as anti- Malay and anti-Muslim. My father did not tolerate discrimination and people who stoke racial and religious sentiments."
P. Patto passed away in 1995 from a heart attack.
Kasthuriraani on Putting the Past Behind Her
I felt a little hesitant at first. I still feel sad and bitter about the arrest of my father under the Internal Security Act. He was put into solitary confinement and prison camp in Kamunting.
In the 2018 General Elections, we watched Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad enter the political arena again. I do wonder what he has to bring to this country now, after what he did to my father. But I need to put my own personal issues in the past and put the success and future of this country above the rest.
DAP have come to understand that we need to work together with other parties. We must put aside all difference and have a clear perspective. We want to save our country. Yes, the term ‘save our country’ may sound cliché but this is a fact. We are in a state of a coma, a critical condition.
As leaders, what can we do for the people? Those who’ve had years of experience, I look up to them as my father figure. They have given me a lot of advise and there’s always room for discussion. We will agree to disagree.
Kasthuriraani on Having More Female Leaders in Politics
The perception is that politics is a ‘man’s game’. So, many men might think they are the best choice to become a candidate. We are sometimes our own worst critics. We will need some time to change this thinking. We need to keep educating and empowering women.
We are in the process of improving women equality. With the help from both men and women MPs - even from opposition - I hope we can improve the situation for gender equality together.
I had a meeting recently to talk about human rights and women issues. Sometimes, there isn't enough time during parliament session to run through everything; we try to squeeze everything in with the limited time we had. There is, however, a sense of friendship among MPs from other parties.
“I see myself as someone who was 'born' into DAP because my father and the relationship he had with his successors. I look at them as my extended family,” Kasthuriraani adds.
Podcast of the interview: