KOTA KINABALU Mac 1, 2012: Lawyer Yunuf Maringking yesterday confirmed that Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan had been offered the post of Sabah Chief Minister in 1994 by former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohammad.
Yunuf, when contacted yesterday, however clarified that the meeting which Dr Jeffrey said both of them attended was actually held here in the state capital with Mahathir’s emissary and not in Kuala Lumpur with the former prime minister.
“I confirm what Dr Jeffrey said in the newspaper report in so far as me accompanying him to the discussion but I would like to clear the air and disclose here that we met with an emissary of Mahathir at a location here in Kota Kinabalu which was suggested by me,” he said.
According to Yunuf, he had advised Dr Jeffrey not to meet the emissary at their suggested location because he sensed the possibility of the meeting being manipulated to the effect that Dr Jeffrey had ‘jumped’ party.
There was a detailed discussion at the meeting which was held after the 1994 election results, on working towards overcoming the political impasses then, he said.
The emissary confirmed that Mahathir had agreed to offer Dr Jeffrey the chief minister’s post but Dr Jeffrey replied that he could not be appointed directly as chief minister to form the state government since he was not the president of the party which was the requirement under the state constitution, Yunuf said.
He claimed that Dr Jeffrey had actually suggested to the emissary to allow PBS president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan to form the state government and this was conveyed by the emissary to someone by telephone.
Yunuf then said that the person on the other end of the line replied, “… on condition that Pairin forms a cabinet consisting of not more than five elected representatives including himself so that there will be room for negotiations for a coalition government”.
He claimed that the person went on further to say, ” ? after Pairin forms the government of five members only, Mahathir would then make a televised press conference where he would announce the appointment of Pairin and Tan Sri Bernard Dompok to be pulled out of the state Cabinet. Only then will Dr Jeffrey be appointed by the Head of State to be the chief minister to form the coalition government.
“That was the proposal which I conveyed to Pairin as instructed by Dr Jeffrey at the Istana gate where the former was waiting. Pairin in turn instructed me to convey the details of the proposal to Dompok who was waiting at Sri Gaya with the other elected representatives so that they can deliberate over it and I obliged to do so.
“Dr Jeffrey also told me that since they wanted to pull out Dompok, he wants to be cautious. He then instructed me to personally tell the then PBS Youth chief Datuk Wilfred Bumburing that should the arrangement materialize, he has confidence in the latter to succeed him.
“Dr Jeffrey also said that he did not know why he was picked to be the Chief Minister of Sabah. I did convey the message to Bumburing and I left Sri Gaya with the hope that the arrangement could stabilize the then political scenario,” Yunuf stressed.
However, he said, he was made to understand later from the other assemblymen, after the collapse of the PBS government, that the proposal was never brought up for discussion as had been instructed by Pairin.
No one, he claimed, knew about the arrangement until Dr Jeffrey disclosed it recently.
“I also want to put another matter which Dr Jeffrey had said, straight;
- the permission to respond to the call for Dr Jeffrey to listen to the emissary was not given by Pairin but was done with the consent of the elected representatives present at Sri Gaya.
“They said we should just go and listen to what the other side had to say and report back to them,” he said.