KOTA KINABALU: Sabah deputy chief minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan continues to be evasive on whether he will defend his Keningau parliamentary and Tambunan state seats in the coming election.
The Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) founder and president said he was aware many people were eyeing his seats, including from within his own party, particularly PBS deputy president and Pairin’s nephew Maximus Ongkili.
More recently, even his younger brother Jeffrey Kitingan, who is the president of local-based opposition Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (Star), said he might consider contesting the Tambunan seat if Pairin decided to retire.
Pairin, 77, has been the assemblyman for Tambunan since 1976, but his winning margins have declined steadily since the 2008 election. He first won the Keningau seat in 1986.
He is also the Huguan Siou or Paramount Leader of the Kadazandusun Murut community in Sabah.
Last year, Pairin said there was a 99% chance he would not be contesting again but his political rivals were wary of the remaining 1% which could quickly become 100% at the last minute.
He has said that he would like to retire and spend more time with his grandchildren and write a book.
Whether or not he will stand in the next election, Pairin said those who are already eyeing the Tambunan seat must wait a while as everything will only be made clear on nomination day.
“If the opposition are already talking about the seat, that is within their rights. I heard there are many people who want the seat. But I don’t know if it is true because I only read about it in the media,” he said.
He also advised Jeffrey to wait like everybody else but, more importantly, to honour Pairin as the elder brother.
“Tell him not to fight with me all the time, please,” he said.
Jeffrey had stood against Pairin in the last election in Keningau. Pairin won, obtaining 15,818 votes against Jeffrey’s 11,900.
Jeffrey, however, took the Bingkor state seat under the Keningau constituency by a slim majority against Upko candidate Kennedy Jie John.