It is now an open secret that the KadazanDusuns in Keningau and even Tambunan are clamouring for change, but Joseph Pairin Kitingan refuses to acknowledge the shift.
PENAMPANG 23/11/2012: Embattled Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Joseph Pairin Kitingan has increased his attacks on his brother Jeffrey. He sees Jeffrey as the man who will send him into retirement.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the recently-concluded PBS congress here, Pairin accused the younger Kitingan of not loving him and of breaking the unity within the KadazanDusunMurut communities.
He also said Jeffrey was uncooperative and hurled half a dozen more accusations against his younger brother.
For the record, as of yesterday, Pairin, 72, seemed to still want to be renominated as Barisan Nasional candidate in both the Keningau parliamentary and Tambunan state seats.
It is now an open secret that the Kadazandusuns in Keningau and even Tambunan are clamouring for change.
But Pairin, being the longest (and uninterrupted) serving state assemblyman in the country, refuses to acknowledge the shifting ground. In fact, he loathed to entertain the idea of people wanting change.
“I am ready to contest both seats,” said Pairin, who is also a deputy chief minister and Sabah’s minister of infrastructure development.
On his chances in the election, he said: “Are the people ready to chuck me off?”
He said that while it was up to the people in Keningau and Tambunan to decide, it must be noted that he has “done a lot more in terms of fighting for the people” via PBS.
“I would say that I have a lot going and I have done a lot more in terms of fighting for the people in the context of our [PBS] struggle all this while. And that is something which needs to be considered…,” said Pairin, obviously already on the defensive about his chances in the coming general election.
But he quickly qualified that he, however, would be guided by the requests from the constituents and the party.
Asked about rumours and reports that he would only contest one seat this time, the seasoned politician retorted: “Did I say that? No, I did not. I have always been open for these two [seats] and of course I am also guided by requests from the ground, my division and the party.”
Which means to say, it is still very much an option. He may go for both, or may go for only one.
Many local observers from Tambunan claimed that it is Pairin’s trademark to be seen as open to any option, and that like other wise politicians, he could be saying one thing and doing another thing later.
“I won’t be surprised at all that Pairin would eventually contest in Tambunan only. I am not even surprised if he does not contest at all at the coming general election. Once the truth set in him, he would be guided by it,” said one seasoned observer who wished to be known only as Mark.
Pairin, meanwhile, said he had taken note of Jeffrey’s signal “to send him into retirement by contesting against him”.
“Well that is Jeffrey’s wish all the time; right from the time he has been against me, that has been his wish. He wants me to retire and now he doesn’t care anymore.
“He doesn’t love his brother, he doesn’t have any feeling, any consideration, he just wants a place to go to because he is now the leader in STAR [State Reform Party], an imported party from Sarawak. Now he is happy leading a party,” Pairin said.
Jeffrey has on numerous times and in his speeches before this told the people that he had nothing against Pairin as a brother and that he loved him like any brother does to his own brother.
“It is not that I love Pairin less, but it is because I love the people and Sabah more…,” Jeffrey had said everytime such accusations were hurled at him by Pairin or PBS leaders.
But Pairin did not let up on Jeffrey yesterday. He said: “That is why Jeffrey has been changing parties all the time because he is not wanted in all these parties and he cannot work with anyone.”
Jeffrey always popular
But the facts, however, tell a different story.
When in the AKAR party, Jeffrey was very popular. He was in fact appointed as the “president’s representative” by its late president Mark Koding when the latter left for a theology study in Australia.
That appointment was challenged by another deputy president of AKAR at that time, Pandikan Amin Mulia, who saw himself as more senior. This threw the party into turmoil, and eventually Pandikar dissolved the party for Umno.
In Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), Jeffrey got the highest number of nomination for the presidency, leaving incumbent Joseph Kurup with only two nominations from the party divisions.
With the writings on the wall obvious for Kurup, he engineered the suspension of Jeffrey’s membership, and therefore a democratic process was disrupted, splitting PBRS.
PBRS remains a tiny party in the BN coalition to this day.
In the coming general election, PBRS could well be wiped out as it has only one parliamentary seat in Pensiangan and a state seat in Sook, both in the interior.
In Sabah PKR, Jeffrey was again a sought-after popular figure with a majority of its divisional heads voting for him to be the state chief. But this was thwarted by the PKR national leaders who went ahead to appoint its own favoured man to head Sabah.
Jeffrey certainly has more bullets to fire at Pairin, a stalwart supporter of Umno hegemony in Sabah.
In the past, Jeffrey has refused to be dragged into personal attacks on his brother, preferring to focus on his view of the future of Sabahans and the state in Malaysia, something that he feels PBS and Pairin have failed to achieve.
But Pairin is stubbornly refusing to accept Jeffrey’s views. He is adamant of his own inclinations.
“He [Jeffrey] has his idealism… Yes we have our idealism; we, my colleagues in PBS and myself have been fighting for the people. This is the idealism for Sabah.
“It is up to the people to decide, I am not there to contest just for the sake of contesting.
“It is to serve the people. In my own way I have served the people. In his [Jeffrey's] own way he has served the people or has he succeeded in breaking up unity among the KDM communities, breaking up more relationship and confusing the people?” asked Pairin.
The fights for Keningau and Tambunan seats are to be closely monitored and any further exchanges by the Kitingan brothers would surely fire up the election fever in Sabah.