Daughter brings late P. Patto’s name to vacant Bukit GasingKUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — A newcomer is expected to defend the DAP stronghold of Bukit Gasing in Petaling Jaya in the wake of former representative Edward Lee Poh Lin’s death in 2011 — fresh-faced outsider Kasthuri Rani Patto.
The 34-year-old daughter of the late DAP strongman P. Patto not only faces an uphill battle to win a constituency with 70 per cent of its voters Chinese, but also to prove the DAP’s resolve to brand itself as a true multiracial party.
“Whenever I go meet the people, they know me as that DAP member who replaced Edward Lee who carries out his responsibilities after he went away,” Kasthuri told The Malaysian Insider.
“They have also asked me whether I will take over from Edward Lee. It pains me to say that I’m taking over, because frankly I’m just continuing his fight.”
Lee won the Bukit Gasing state seat in Selangor during Election 2008 with a whopping 8,812-vote majority, defeating Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Datuk Dr Lim Thuang Seng.
After he died, no by-election was held, and the DAP’s Subang Jaya state assemblyman Hannah Yeoh has been tasked to adopt the Bukit Gasing seat.
Kasthuri conceded that continuing Lee’s work in Bukit Gasing has not been easy, especially when it is her first time campaigning for the party.
“One of the reasons is because I am carrying my father’s name, so people expect a lot of me,” Kasthuri said.
She disclosed that she has been posted to Bukit Gasing for the past eight months, making it necessary to carry out some research to figure out the constituency.
“There might also be the ethnic factor, because the majority here is Chinese while I’m an Indian.”
Patto was a DAP hero in Perak, serving state seat Gopeng, and parliamentary seats Menglembu and Ipoh before his political career was cut short by a fatal heart attack in 1995.
Kasthuri was eight when her father was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) together with veteran party leader Lim Kit Siang in 1978, and as the DAP rallied around her family, she inevitably was exposed to the world of politics.
She worked as a microbiologist for five years, before joining Selangor State Executive Councillor for Local Government, Research and Development Ronnie Liu for two years.
“Lim Kit Siang recommended that I ask for a job at Ronnie Liu’s office,” she said.
“That is where I learnt a lot about the local authorities, about the land office and the functions of the state secretary’s office.”
It was in 2010 that Kasthuri was made Lim’s political secretary, which led to her getting the support from DAP leaders to continue working in the DAP’s service centre in Bukit Gasing.
“In 1999, when I was taking microbiology in Universiti Malaya, my political awareness was awakened, especially during the Reformasi days. But I wasn’t actively involved at that time.
“After the ‘political tsunami’ of 2008, I was inspired to join politics. My conscience told me that it was the best time to continue my father’s fight,” she said.
When asked about Bukit Gasing voters’ acceptance of the DAP, Kasthuri explained that Lee’s impact was still felt around, especially in the “Save Bukit Gasing” campaign which has become one of the party’s main talking points in the constituency.
The campaign is a local initiative by residents, residents’ associations and NGOs to protect Bukit Gasing, one of the last remaining green lungs in the Klang Valley.
“People appreciate what Lee has done ... it was through that initiative that the people began to become aware of the rocket logo the DAP carries.”
She however stopped short from confirming that she will contest the seat in this year’s general election, leaving the decision to nominate her to Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) leadership.
Kasthuri holds dear to her father’s mandate in 1982, who urged Malaysians to not fear change, and expressed how Malaysians are fed-up with an incompetent and corrupt government.
“On August 4, 1982, my father was invited to speak about ‘Malaysia’s Nation Building’ in Universiti Malaya’s Law Faculty. In the forum, my father said that every citizen should call himself a Malaysian first and foremost, and not a Malay, Chinese, or Indian.
“Don’t let your fear stop you from change, Malaysians must have a will for change when they’re faced with the ballot box,” Kasthuri said.
Election 2013 observers are keeping an eye on Selangor, the country’s richest state and engine of economic growth, where talk is that first-term Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s government may not have performed well enough to sustain its 2008 support.
PR currently has tenuous control over the country’s richest state and holds 36 seats in the 56-seat state assembly and 17 of the 22 parliamentary seats.