Jeffrey hints of possible role in federal govt

STAR leaders and members cheer their president Jeffrey Kitingan (holding microphone) during his address in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah opposition leader Jeffrey Kitingan today hinted of a possible role in the federal Cabinet when addressing party members on the recent political turmoil and his stand to support Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president said he would ensure that Umno leaders who promised they would fully implement the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) if the party returned to power kept their word.

Jeffrey said STAR cooperated with Barisan Nasional during the Kimanis by-election in January, and Umno publicly stated then that it would implement MA63 “100%” if they won the next general election.

“Even if I’m in the Cabinet, I will hold on to their promise so they implement what’s enshrined in MA63,” the Keningau MP said, to applause from about 500 members at his residence at Sokid Villa here.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had pledged during a ceramah in Bongawan, Kimanis, that BN would fully fulfil MA63 if it returned to power in the next elections.

Jeffrey had initially confirmed during the political crisis that he was supporting Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister, only to change his mind the next day to back Muhyiddin instead.

He was among those present during Muhyiddin’s swearing-in as prime minister before the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong on March 1.

He said he decided to support Muhyiddin to put an end to the political uncertainty.

“If I had picked Mahathir or (PKR president) Anwar Ibrahim, this crisis would not have ended, so it was better to support the third candidate,” he said.

He said he was in regular contact with MPs from Gabungan Parti Sarawak during the period.

Another reason for supporting Muhyiddin, he said, was that he wanted to avoid “another round of Mahathir ignoring calls from Sabah and Sarawak over MA63” like he did when he was the prime minister during BN’s administration.

“Who caused a crisis in Sabah back then? Whose rule was it under Umno-BN when our MA63 rights were not entertained?

“So I wanted to seek out a new opportunity under a new leadership, and that’s why I picked Muhyiddin.”

Jeffrey said he also considered who the Warisan-led government supported – which was Mahathir. “If I were to support the same person as they did, how am I going to topple the state government? So who they don’t support, we will.”

On criticisms that he went against his principles to work with PAS and Umno, he said the present BN-Umno “is not the same as the old one”.

“I was called a lot of names – lompat sini lompat sana (hopping here and there) but never mind, call me what you want. But I helped to form the new government and end the political crisis.”

He said he was convinced the present Umno and PAS leaders were not like their previous leaders, adding that he “heard whispers” that they sympathised with Sabah’s predicament.

“They said ‘it’s not fair that you get 5% (oil royalty) all this while and the rest goes to Kuala Lumpur. Hopefully, they are more fair than the previous government.”

Jeffrey also criticised the Sabah government, saying it did not even have a “direction”.

“We want a state government that functions well. Sabah and Sarawak have lots of potential but no attention was given to us. So, we want priority given to the two states when we have a role at the federal level,” he said.