KENINGAU: Parti Bersatu Sabah’s (PBS) Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s charisma is still needed to defend the Keningau parliamentary constituency in the coming polls.
Local political observer Kaipin Rosmin said despite having announced his intention to retire from politics, Pairin, the “Huguan Siou” or “paramount leader” of the Kadazandusun Murut community, was still preferred by many Keningau folks.
“Pairin is still needed to lead Barisan Nasional (BN) to victory in the Keningau parliamentary constituency and state constituencies of Liawan, Bingkor and Tambunan under it,” he told Bernama.
Pairin, 77, is the incumbent for the Keningau parliamentary seat, which he has held since 1985, and Tambunan state seat, which he has held since 1976, making him Sabah’s longest-serving elected representative.
He had announced his retirement from politics when his term ends. Earlier last year, he handed over the reins of the party to his deputy, Maximus Ongkili.
But talk is rife that Pairin, who is Sabah deputy chief minister, would defend both seats in the GE14.
He had told the press at the end of last year that there was a “99% chance” that he would not contest in the next general election, while the remaining 1% will determine whether he will retire or be back in the race.
In the event that Pairin does not contest in GE14, among the names suggested to stand in the Keningau parliamentary seat is PBS vice-president Daniel Kinsik. Ongkili had hinted that he might contest in Tambunan.
“It might be tough for a newcomer. But even so, Keningau and Tambunan have always been a stronghold for PBS and BN,” said Kaipin.
However, the challenge that BN has to overcome in order to retain the Keningau parliamentary seat and state seats of Tambunan and Liawan, as well as winning back the Bingkor state seat, is the indecision of the young voters.
According to Kaipin, BN has to work extra hard to approach the youths in Keningau. They make up about 40% of the new voters.
Although faced with a heavy task, BN still has the upper hand in Keningau and its three state seats — Tambunan, Liawan and Bingkor.
In GE13, Pairin garnered 15,818 votes in a three-cornered fight to win the Keningau parliamentary seat over his brother, Jeffrey Kitingan, who contested on a Sabah State Reform Party (Star) ticket, and PKR’s Stephen Sandor.
A resident, Fuad Dulasim, of Bingkor, said a rematch between the two brothers, Pairin and Jeffrey, was possible. He said Parti Warisan Sabah’s Jake Nointen, a former PBS Youth chief, will also give a fierce fight but predicted Pairin would once again emerge the victor if fielded.
Another resident, Sidiq Kuntagil, of Tambunan, said Pairin’s position as the “Huguan Siou” was an important factor in gaining the people’s support towards BN if Pairin remained as the coalition’s candidate in Keningau.
He said Pairin’s nomination for the Keningau parliamentary seat in the GE14 would not only give a glimmer of hope to its constituents, but one that would inspire success in all PBS-allocated seats throughout the state.
In the last general election, PBS, the second largest component party in Sabah BN, won four out of the five parliamentary seats and seven out of 13 state seats.