It has been 24 years since the passing of P. Patto, former DAP MP and state assemblyperson, national stalwart, a firebrand orator, husband, father, comrade and son of the land, defender of justice, freedom and democracy.
P. Patto, being a political victim himself under a tyrannical Barisan Nasional regime for 22 years of his life in politics, had always been a vehement proponent and advocate of free speech and confronted and challenged the Government that curtailed freedom of speech and freedom of expression as prescribed and protected under the supreme law of the land, the Federal Constitution.
P. Patto was no stranger to the Sedition Act which, in its own right against the very grains of civil liberties which denies one the right to freedom of speech.
In the past, freedom of speech appeared to have been reserved only for Barisan Nasional politicians in and out of the Dewan Rakyat and their sympathisers and this is 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 freedom of expression, freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, freedom from want, freedom from fear must be granted by any Government to her people, as stated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Today, Malaysia again hangs its head with the imprisonment of Wan Ji Wan Hussin under the Sedition Act, a draconian law that will see to its demonic and diabolical implementation for 7 decades from an old Malaysia into a New Malaysia. While P. Patto was a fierce defender to the right to free speech, he never tolerated racists or religious bigots and those who preached hatred, violence or criminal acts.
P. Patto saw these bigots as a hindrance to a harmonious society in Malaysia and a hazard and a menace to nation building. Patto believed 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 type of inflammatory firestarters. He believed that one day Malaysia would have a place in the sun for all, a place where all Malaysians 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 acts of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity.”
However, freedom of speech and freedom of expression must be safeguarded and protected and acts like the Sedition Act and the Printing Press and Publications Act that slashes free speech must be abolished in a new Malaysia in no time.
Although P. Patto’s voice no longer resonates in the Dewan Rakyat, a voice that has consistently and constantly stood up for the voiceless and marginalised, the weak and the poor, a voice that loved freedom, justice and democracy, is a loud reminder today that laws that restrict freedom of speech must soon be a thing of the past and no person should be persecuted for what they think or say in a New Malaysia using archaic, draconian tools to silence voices of dissent.
P. Patto’s principles may be summed up as what the aborigine Iroquois Indians claimed to what their homeland is “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.