Indications within PBS are that its president Joseph Pairin Kitingan is ready to retire but is being held back by worried party leaders.
TAMBUNAN September 21, 2012: It is almost certain now that Sabah’s longest- serving assemblyman and Deputy Chief Minister, Joseph Pairin Kitingan, will not be defending his parliamentary and state seats in the coming 13th general election.
Although Pairin, who is president of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), has in the past said that he was prepared to defend both his Keningau parliamentary and Tambunan state seats, signals from within his PBS indicate otherwise.
Pairin, 72, has been the Tambunan state assemblyman since 1976 when he first won the seat for Berjaya at the age 36. Ten years later in 1986, he started winning the Keningau parliamentary seat.
Party insiders note that the old man of PBS is said to be slowing down and had in fact given signals to his close family members and inner circle that he might forego the larger Keningau seat which covers Tambunan, Liawan and Bingkor state constituencies.
The Keningau parliamentary constituency covers a huge area of 3,533 sq km, equivalent to the combined size of Penang, Malacca and Perlis.
PBS insiders, however, said the ageing Sabah deputy chief minister is still keen to be renominated as Tambunan assemblyman, the place that holds many sentimental values to him personally and politically.
In 1984, in defiance of then ruling Berjaya, the Tambunan electorate, in a by-election forced against Pairin, voted him again as an Independent candidate against Berjaya’s candidate.
Autocratic chief minister Harris Salleh punished them by abrogating the district status of Tambunan and withdrew funds from it.
A PBS leader met after attending a meeting at PBS headquarters in Donggongon recently told FMT that while many, including in state Barisan Nasional circle, still wished Pairin to stand in both seats, the man himself thinks it is unwise to do so.
Pairin, who is also the “Huguan Siou” or paramount chief of all the Kadazandusuns, is also said to be concerned about a possible negative impact on the morale within PBS if he completely withdraws from the state political scene.
“The mere mention by Pairin of that possibility to retire in PBS meetings is enough for the whole PBS supreme council leaders to come on their feet to advise him not to pursue the matter.
“That is how they hold Pairin in high esteem,” said the leader who requested anonymity.
Family members eyeing Keningau
Lagadan, a PBS vice-president and Kadamaian assemblyman, like others in PBS, is one who openly believes Pairin commands total unity within multi-racial PBS, but which had seen a decrease in popularity among the Kadazandusuns.
In fact, almost all PBS leaders believe so and said this in their speeches at the party’s recently-concluded annual general meetings at divisional level.
Pairin’s staying power is expected to be once again highlighted and appreciated at PBS coming annual congress which has been scheduled either at end of next month or in November at the famous Hongkod Koisaan complex.
PBS supreme council is meeting later today, among others, to discuss the party’s upcoming congress and also preparations for the general election.
Meanwhile, a PBS Youth leader, also met recently, confided that Pairin was very likely not going for both Keningau and Tambunan seats at the coming polls.
“No, no, I don’t think he [Pairin] will go for both. Only one this time…” said the Youth leader.
The issue of Pairin foregoing the Keningau MP seat is expected to heat up with many names already popping up to take his place as PBS-BN candidate for Keningau.
Among the names are Dr Maximus Ongkili (currently MP for Kota Marudu), Daniel Kinsik, Peter Jino Aliun and Alexander, Pairin’s eldest son. Interestingly, all the names proposed are close family members of Pairin.
Pairin formed PBS in March 1985 and has led the party to victories in four successive state elections in 1985, 1986, 1990 and 1994.
He was Sabah chief minister from April 1985 to March 1994, when his nine-year term ended abruptly on March 17, 1994 when PBS, then outside of BN, lost its majority in the State Legislative Assembly to Umno-led BN after 26 or almost all of its own assemblymen defected.