KOTA KINABALU: Jeffrey Kitingan was for a few hours the sweetheart of Sabah politicians. That ended when he decided to throw the support of his Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) to the Sabah Barisan Nasional instead of its rival, Warisan.
Kitingan’s party had won the Tambunan and Bingkor state seats, with 29 seats each held by BN and Warisan and its allies, creating a deadlock in forming a new state government.
Having spent the majority of his time speaking up against the BN-led state government, many people assumed that Kitingan would take the side of Warisan, Pakatan Harapan’s ally, and make the slogan “Sabah Ubah” a reality.
Immediately after the results showed that Kitingan’s support would decide the next state government, he became the target of hasty phone calls from both BN and Warisan, trying to persuade him to back them.
For a few hours at least, especially after news broke that he would support Warisan, he became everybody’s sweethearts with songs of praise being written about him on social media.
However, he decided to do what Warisan supporters would regard as the unthinkable, and felt the wrath of Sabahans, with many calling him a traitor. There was even an attempt at getting the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to check his bank account.
A video of a burning house was spread online with claims being made that it was a STAR command centre in Keningau, which has since been disproved.
Warisan and STAR had never had a good relationship, with supporters of both sides trading insults freely on social media and at the ceramah held by Gabungan Sabah, a local partnership comprising STAR and three other member parties, and Warisan.
Kitingan has since explained his decision to support Sabah BN chairman Musa Aman in forming the next government.
He said it was because he did not want Sabah’s fate to be decided by the federal government any more and backed Musa’s promise to switch to a local party.