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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pairin’s past catches up to haunt his future


Jeffrey’s revelations could well spell the beginning of the end for his brother.
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan may suddenly be in danger of overstaying his welcome in government and politics.
This follows an unprecedented statement on Monday from his brother, Jeffrey, the chairman of the newly formed State Reform Party (STAR).
The younger Kitingan said he loved Sabah more than he loved his brother. That must account for his repeated attempts to get Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) registered before STAR came his way from Sarawak.
Jeffrey virtually told Pairin not only to go, but to go now, not because he wanted the Keningau parliamentary seat as alleged, but because the elder brother stood accused of squatting on the people, and for so long that they were now suffocating.
The younger Kitingan did wash a little dirty linen in public, going back to the 1994 downfall of the PBS government, but it is not clear to what purpose. It is no use crying over spilt milk. Besides, since much of the dirty linen involves de facto prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, it is unlikely that Sabahans would bother to take much interest.
Mahathir is bad news in Sabah given his suspected role in opening the floodgates to illegal immigrants and swamping the electoral rolls with them. Jeffrey himself referred to this when he reminded Pairin that he was part of a state government that was in cahoots with Mahathir.
Mahathir is unlikely to back Jeffrey on his recollection of the events of 1994 against Pairin, who is a key Barisan Nasional leader. The best he might do in Jeffrey’s favour would be to plead one of his temporary bouts of amnesia. At worst, he might engage in selective memories. Mahathir has played out this spectacle before, even in court, and got away scot-free.
Does it really matter at this time that Mahathir initially had no intentions at all to overthrow Pairin in 1994?
In any case, Mahathir really had no business locking out Pairin from the Istana, preventing him from being sworn in as the chief minister for an unprecedented fourth term. Mahathir, according to Jeffrey, wanted one or two Cabinet posts in Pairin’s government for his Umno, which had been humiliated in the state polls.
It now appears that Jeffrey turned down Mahathir’s offer of the chief minister’s post and finally prevailed upon him to allow Brother Pairin to be sworn in. Jeffrey did the right thing. Who is Mahathir to offer the Sabah chief minister’s post to anyone? It defies the will of the people, freely exercised in a state election, defies the State Legislative Assembly, the state constitution and the governor.

Too little too late
Hardly a month later, Mahathir played out both brothers by stage-managing Pairin’s overthrow. Jeffrey appealed, throwing in two Cabinet posts as a carrot if not bait, but it was too little too late. Mahathir was adamant that the brothers and the Dusuns should go. Mahathir’s old obsession about not allowing the Dusuns, Christians in particular, to rule Sabah surfaced in all its ugly manifestations.
The rest is even more history and it would be pointless for Jeffrey to repeat it.
If Jeffrey’s politics is all about making a difference for the better, as envisaged under the opposition’s Agenda for Change and Reform, patently he can no longer afford the luxury of making excuses for his elder brother’s continued involvement in politics.
Indeed, it can even be stated that Jeffrey can no longer afford, at his age (63 years), to continue to remain Pairin’s errand boy in politics. He needs to strike out on his own, as far away as possible from his political master. He should accept that the ageing leader, reportedly the best chess player in Sabah – and not just political chess – has played his game for too long. It’s now time to turn out the lights and retire.
Between now and the 13th general election, the guessing game will be on how the younger Kitingan will help ease out the elder one from the politics of the state. It is a necessary evil. The future of Jeffrey’s politics and STAR will hinge on this core strategy.
One way for Jeffrey to do this would be to appeal directly to the tribal elders in the state – Christians, pagans and others – and non-native communities to help put pressure on his brother to stop politicising his position of Huguan Siou (paramount chief) of the Kadazandusuns.
The Huguan Siou, on paper, is expected to remain above politics. But Pairin, like his predecessor Donald Stephens, has refused to stay out of politics. As a result, the position has been compromised somewhat in the wake of self-serving politics which has seen the natives in a multiplicity of parties and beholden, for no rhyme or reason, to Putrajaya.
Pairin himself should see the writing on the wall and retire gracefully to his ancestral Tambunan home in the high country to reign, if not rule, as a respected Huguan Siou. The ancestral spirits in Nunuk Ragang, the mythological origin of the Dusuns, cry out for this justice.
The Huguan Siou presides not just over the Dusuns but over all Sabahans.
Indeed, it is a great tragedy that the post of head of state is not held by the Huguan Siou in much the same way as the sultans in Peninsular Malaysia. It would have been a unifying factor and a rallying point for the people. This might be food for thought as part of the Agenda for Change and Reform promised by the opposition in the state.

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