MP SPEAKS | On the anniversary of his passing, P Patto’s voice resonates as a reminder that in New Malaysia, people should not be persecuted for what they think or say.
It has been 24 years since the passing of Patto, former DAP MP and state assemblyperson, national stalwart, firebrand orator, husband, father, comrade, son of the land and defender of justice, freedom and democracy.
Patto, being a political victim himself under a tyrannical BN regime for 22 years of his political career, had always been a vehement proponent and advocate of free speech.
He confronted and challenged a government that curtailed freedom of speech and expression, as prescribed and protected under the supreme law of the land, the Federal Constitution.
He was no stranger to the Sedition Act 1948, which goes against the very grains of civil liberties, denying one the right to freedom of speech.
In the past, freedom of speech appeared to have been reserved only for BN politicians in and out of the Dewan Rakyat and their sympathisers – solely because they knew that they would not be able to hang on to power so easily should the Sedition Act be abolished.
Patto firmly believed that “freedom should not be seen as a commodity of the anarchists; it should be seen as a tool of the people to demand an honest and open government”.
He held firm to his principle that the freedom of expression, freedom of every person to worship God in his or her own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear must be granted by any government to its people, as the late US president Franklin D Roosevelt once said.
Today, Malaysia again hangs its head in shame with the imprisonment of Wan Ji Wan Hussin (photo) under the Sedition Act – a draconian law that has seen seven decades of demonic and diabolical implementation, from the old Malaysia into New Malaysia.
While Patto was a fierce defender of the right to free speech, he never tolerated racists or religious bigots and those who preached hatred, violence or criminal acts.
He saw these bigots as a hindrance to a harmonious society, and a menace to nation-building.
Patto believed that as a son of the land, he was and will always be Malaysian first, before anything else.
He had in him a burning passion to fight against these types of inflammatory firestarters.
He believed that one day, Malaysia would have a place in the sun for all, a place where its people are judged not by the colour of their skin or religion, but by their character.
Hate speech today has not only become a serious threat to freedom of opinion and expression, but has also led to devastating human rights violations and crimes against humanity.
However, freedom of speech and of expression must be safeguarded and protected. Laws such as the Sedition Act and the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984, which curtail free speech, must be abolished in New Malaysia now.
Although Patto’s voice is no longer heard in the Dewan Rakyat, the voice that has consistently and constantly stood up for the voiceless and marginalised, the weak and the poor, and those who love freedom, justice and democracy, is a loud reminder today that laws restricting the freedom of speech must soon be a thing of the past.
In New Malaysia, no person should be persecuted for what they think or say using archaic, draconian tools to silence voices of dissent.
Patto’s principles may be summed up by what the Iroquois said about their homeland: “The land doesn’t belong to us but… we belong to the land”.
Malaysia mourns the loss of her true son of democracy.
Rest now, Papa.
May we all have grace, strength and righteousness to make your dream of a Malaysian Malaysia come true.
KASTHURI PATTO is the MP for Batu Kawan.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.