KOTA KINABALU: Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Joseph Pairin Kitingan has, with a heavy heart, relented to the wishes of the party’s grassroots and Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) top leadership to once again defend the Tambunan state seat this coming election.
“It was after many a long talk with the other party leaders and I have said my heart was already made up and I wanted to move on.
“But the grassroots wants me to carry on one more round and, in the end, I relented,” he said after the launching of the party’s supplementary manifesto here today.
The 77-year-old veteran politician, who has held the seat since 1976, will face his own brother, Jeffrey, and possibly another younger brother, Crispin, who could stand as Parti Warisan Sabah candidate.
Pairin, however, will not be defending his Keningau seat as it will be contested by Daniel Kinsik, also from PBS.
The “Huguan Siou’, or Paramount Leader for the Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) community in Sabah, only smiled when asked whether this will definitely be the last election for him.
He also rubbished allegations that he was forced to stand by the BN leadership, saying only it was a decision made after taking into account the ardent requests from the party’s grassroot members.
Mahathir v Najib
Rallying his people, Pairin said, the KDM must remember what had happened in the past when PBS formed the state government and how then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had treated Sabahans and the state government with contempt.
“He was the prime minister for 22 years and, all this while, as far as Sabah was concerned, he treated us as a colony, meant only to serve the central government.
“When we requested assistance, he turned us down. When we asked for justice, he did not deliver.
“He cared not about our safety and security. What a contrast to the current prime minister, Najib Razak,” he said.
For this reason, he said the people should not be influenced by the negative comments coming from the opposition parties and look at the positive changes brought about by BN in Sabah since the departure of Mahathir.
Najib, he said, must be allowed to continue to look after Sabah and Sabahans as he is more sensitive to the state’s requirements and desires.
Mahathir, he said, had the opportunity to do something for Sabah, yet he did not.
“So, why would he want another opportunity now? At his age (93 years old) he can promise everything but we know he has his own personal agenda.
“All opposition leaders think only of their personal agenda,” he said, referring especially to former BN leaders who had left the party because of their own ambitions.
“PBS is not perfect but I think we have shown enough noble intentions, to show the people you cannot go wrong with PBS and BN under the present administration,” he said.
What young voters think
Meanwhile, a survey among Tambunan voters showed a mixed reaction, especially among young voters.
“I am so sad he agreed to stand in Tambunan just because of the grassroots. Why can’t he exit gracefully? What if he lost? I cannot bear to see his downfall,” said self-employed Ringgit Serinus.
Ringgit said Pairin is a good person but his followers are making it hard for the people to approach him as they have to go through several “screenings” before reaching him.
This made Pairin looked like someone very hard to talk to or to meet, he said.
For 41-year-old trader Leon Mathew, Pairin’s decision to stand again might cause him to lose all credibility and even end up like former MIC president Samy Vellu.
“So far, only he and his brother Jeffrey are confirmed to stand in Tambunan. The majority of the young voters support the opposition.
“They don’t remember Pairin’s struggle 30 years ago and his ‘greatness’, facing up to the mighty Berjaya government at the time,” he said.
Whatever it is, Tambunan voters will have the chance to show their preference come May 9 and Pairin and his party are confident they will still prefer him to the other Kitingans.