Monday, 8 March 2010

Pairin stays as PBS chief

Pairin retirement delayed by PBS power-struggle?

This story from

KOTA KINABALU: Former Chief Minister and Parti Bersatu Sabah president Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan is doing his best to head off a looming vacuum and tussle for his post in the party.
The 70-year-old Huguan Siou (paramount leader of the Kadazandusun community) reaffirmed this week that he has no intention of stepping down from his political posts as yet.

He told reporters that he would embrace retirement "when the time comes".

"The (party) struggle will continue. I will do my part and contribute as much as I can. I don't want to go on forever.

"Sooner or later, I will have to say bye-bye lah, but as long as I'm able to contribute and work with others, I will do so… even after retirement... put it that way."

He was speaking to reporters at a special event honouring him called "Colloquium of Thinking and Struggle of Datu Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan" held in conjunction with PBS' 25th anniversary celebrations.

The colloquium was attended by the party's deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili who is seen as waiting in the wings to take over from the reportedly ailing leader.

Considered something of a hero in his stronghold of Tambunan where he has been assemblyman for more than three decades, Pairin, despite his ouster from power in 1994, commands the utmost respect among the community's elders.

It is a reverence which makes him untouchable within and outside the party though younger Kadazandusuns may have different political views.

Pairin was in fact rudely challenged by Maximus' older brother Victor in 2006 to quit his position and make way for younger leaders.

Maximus supporters fear a drifting away of the younger generation from the party to other community-based political parties.

Since returning to the BN fold in 2002, Pairin has largely been outshone on the community stage by his former party colleague Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, the president of the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation.

"The younger generation find people like Dompok more vocal in articulating the frustrations of Sabahans to the federal government," said an insider who requested anonymity.

Grand old man of politics

Maximus' supporters see him as the person to correct this shift in support from the party.

However, there is an emotional link to the PBS succession chain. Pairin's advisers and supporters believe his younger brother Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, the current PKR chief for Sabah and Sarawak, should be the obvious choice to take over the reigns of the party when Pairin retires.

According to their thinking, Jeffrey as a Tambunan leader should be next in line. Their argument is that as the birth place of PBS is Tambunan, it logically follows that its next leader should also be from Tambunan.

Tambunan is the place where the revolt of Sabahans began in the early 1980s against years of domination by non-Sabah leaders and interference in state affairs.

It began through Pairin and PBS and therefore its next leader should also be from among the community there. Who better than the brother of the Huguan Siou, is the argument his supporters put forward.

Pairin, to the people of Sabah, is the grand old man of politics who had seen it all. He had been at both sides of the political divide.

A lawyer by training, he began his political journey through Parti Berjaya in 1975 contesting the Tambunan seat in the state election the following year, the seat formerly occupied by Anthony Gibon. He has held the seat ever since.

When the Tun Fuad Stephens-led Berjaya Party toppled the USNO government, Pairin was made Assistant Minister to Chief Minister Harris Salleh (1976-1985). He was made a full minister (Local Government and Housing) less than a month later when Stephens perished in an aircraft crash at Sembulan in Kota Kinabalu on June 6, 1976.

He formed PBS and went on to topple Harris' Berjaya government in 1985. He was chief minister from 1985 until March 1994 before he was toppled by BN-inspired defections despite PBS winning the election.

Pairin recently came under attack by the opposition for allegedly being unable to handle the multiple tasks he is charged with. He was urged to vacate his Keningau parliamentary seat and duties as he was already staggering under the weight of holding two ministerial posts as Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Development.

Maximus, the man in his shadow in the party, is currently high up in the Barisan Nasional hierarchy of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's government and is in his cabinet as Minister of Science,Technology and Innovation.

Younger brother Jeffrey

Harvard-educated Jeffrey is Pakatan Rakyat leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's handpicked PKR pointman in Sabah and Sarawak and charged with gearing up the two east Malaysian states for broad political and social reforms. It is an election platform on which he is hoping to woo the Sabah and Sarawak electorate to the opposition fold

He was detained in 1992 under the infamous Internal Security Act on suspicion of plotting to secede Sabah from the federation of Malaysia, but critics say he was just a political prisoner arrested by federal authorities out to topple the opposition PBS government.

Jeffrey's entry into PKR has not been smooth. He quit the post of vice-president last year but accepted to remain in the party as PKR chief for Sabah.

At the time, speculation was rife that PBS leaders, including Pairin, were trying to convince him to return to the BN fold through PBS.

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