Former microbiologist Kashtury Patto talks to KiniTV about her late father, P.Patto and her entry into politics. She also talks about what DAP is doing to serve the Indian community while rising above race-based politics.
GE13: Kasturiraani Patto – Continuing a legacy
PENANG (April 27): One cannot be blamed for missing a small road off the Batu Kawan roundabout adjacent to the stadium; it looks unused, with overgrown lallang on both sides.
The press were told to meet at a kampong house somewhere near the roundabout. Thankfully, a man donning a red ‘Ubah’ t-shirt was standing nearby, waving cars in.
But what lies past the tiny road is shocking to outsiders.
In an island where development is proceeding unabated, with condos, office buildings and shopping malls are vying for space, visitors are greeted by a scene that looks to be straight out of a post-war history book.
A smattering of ramshackle kampung houses are dotted along dirt tracks in a makeshift village, with cow shacks surrounding it. The residents, wearing donated clothes, stare at us with unbridled curiosity.
Welcome to Ladang Batu Kawan, situated just 10 minutes away from the soon-to-be completed Second Penang Bridge. It is home to 30-odd families who are living in deplorable conditions.
The folks, mostly farmers and odd-job workers, have been living here for many decades, in shacks with gaping holes in the roof, and some even without the most basic of needs, such as electricity.
On the morning of April 25, a group of men from DAP Batu Kawan were going door to door handing out leaflets.
Standing out from the sea of red t-shirts was a lady dressed in a white Indian kurti top with a bright rocket brooch on her chest.
“Vanakkam,” the woman greets one of the residents in Tamil, with her hands clasped together.
“This is Patto’s daughter,” one of the male party workers said.
Upon hearing this, the older lady loosened up and smiled.
“Don’t worry girl, you have my vote,” she responded.
Being part of change
Kasturiraani Patto may be just 34, but politics is nothing new to her.
Her foray into politics seemed inevitable, as the adage goes: the apple does not fall far from the tree.
Kasthuriraani seems to have inherited more than just her father, DAP political warrior P Patto’s DNA. This was made obvious as she has no hang-ups about talking to anyone.
“I have many fond memories,” she shared between houses. “I remember helping my dad out a lot during his campaign, especially at his operations room in Sungai Siput, it was such good times.”
“Another one was when we used to visit my dad at the Kamunting Detention camp, on weekends. My mother would cook all of his favourite foods, and of course she would also make enough for all of them there.
“It was a weekend routine a lot of times, we would go up there to visit him,” she said, adding that she was around eight at the time.
Patto, who had served as Gopeng assemblyman and as MP for Menglembu, Perak and Bagan in Penang, was detained twice under the Internal Security Act (ISA), once in 1978, and finally from 1987 to 1989, during the Ops Lallang, which also saw DAP stalwarts Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh, among others, rounded up as well.
Patto was well known as a champion of fundamental liberties. He passed away of a heart attack in 1995.
His daughter Kasturiraani will take on a four-way contest in the Batu Kawan parliamentary seat on May 5, as she aims to win the hearts and minds of the electorate, which incidentally has the highest concentration of Indians in Penang.