Building a better FoRB future in Malaysia

In conversation with Kasthuri Patto, MP Malaysia

Energetic, bright-eyed and racing with ideas, second term MP Kasthuri Patto from Malaysia believes that ‘the way forward for South-east Asia is by strengthening and enhancing FoRB and human rights’.

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MP Kasthuri Patto is the first Malaysian Indian woman to secure a seat in the Malaysian parliament. If this achievement isn’t enough, she was also part of the revolutionary political transformation that Malaysia evidenced a few months back.

‘After 60 years, on the 9th of May, the people of Malaysia came out in droves to change governments, so we are in government now’, she proudly announced.

Pakatan Harapan, the government coalition Kasthuri is part of ousted the former Prime Ministerial candidate and won the general elections in May 2018.

Talking about the status of religious freedom in Malaysia, Kasthuri explained, ‘the previous government used race and religion to their advantage and instilled fear-mongering in the society. We have to reverse 60 years of fear mongering on race and religion to give a more positive and optimistic outlook for FoRB in Malaysia.’

Need to strengthen and enhance FoRB

Born in a political family, Kasthuri is the beacon of hope in Malaysia when it comes to the issue of freedom of religion or belief. She is not only a member parliamentarian of the IPPFoRB network but also has a strong focus on women and children rights.

‘Needless to say, FoRB is an issue not many want to talk about’, she noted and added, ‘coming from a country in South-east Asia, human rights are always misunderstood as a western concept’.

Given the change in Malaysian political machinery, Kasthuri believes that much more can be done now, ‘we have other MPs who have in the past attended FoRB workshops and they will be instrumental in lobbying other MPs who would not only think of stumbling blocks rather come up with solutions for the issue of FoRB in the Malaysian political arena’.

For her, globally, countries needs to engage, interfere and maintain dialogue when it comes to FoRB, humanitarian issues and crimes against humanity.

‘The form of engagement that comes when discussing economic issues, countries should follow the same when it comes to FoRB issues’, she stated.

Future engagements

‘I still remember the time when I was part of the first IPPFoRB event, the signing of the Oslo Charter in 2014. I am one of the old ones in this network’, she said with a laugh and added, ‘after every IPPFoRB event, I go back home with ideas and proposals on how to engage with other MPs on the issue of FoRB’.

Having been part of the first-ever IPPFoRB Academy 2018 in Oxford, Kasthuri believes she is taking a bag-full of experiences, learnings and engagements with her back to Malaysia.

‘When I go home now, I will engage with stakeholders, primarily with the Speaker of the Malaysian Parliament. In the initial proposal, the Speaker seemed very responsive to having dialogue and trainings on the issue of FoRB’, she hoped.

She later added, ‘I would love for IPPFoRB to come to Malaysia and engage with the Malaysian Parliament. Maybe we can have a half-day session with the MPs and find concrete ways of making a better future together!’

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