Joseph Pairin Kitingan won Tambunan, Sabah, state assembly seat in 1976 (under Barisan Nasional’s component BERJAYA party ticket) and has been holding the fortress ever since. He was then Berjaya’s deputy president. He left Berjaya to form PBS (Parti Bersatu Sabah or United Sabah Party) and managed to get his new party registered, 47 days before the Sabah state election in Apr 1985. On its own, PBS cannot possibly defeat ruling party Berjaya (which won 44 out of 48 seats in 1981), hence Pairin formed a secret coalition with USNO (United Sabah National Organisation), which was headed by Tun Mustapha.
Surprisingly, PBS won 25 seats, USNO 16 seats while Berjaya only had 6 seats in the 1985 state election. Due to communication breakdown (there was only land phones and not cellphones back then), USNO couldn’t contact PBS and out of panic (and greed?), USNO did the unthinkable – they called Berjaya (under leadership of Harris Salleh) to form a new coalition and government instantly, trying to make use of a feature (or rather loophole) in the Sabah Legislature whereby the Governor can grant another additional 6 seats to USNO-Berjaya, thus making them commanding 28 seats compared to PBS’s 25. USNO believed PBS had betrayed them, or was it not?
Pairin thought everything was already cast in stone that he was about to become the next Chief Minister. He didn’t realize his partner USNO had defected and was about to form a new Sabah government anytime soon. Only after his men notified him that there was a huge gathering at the Palace did Pairin realized how serious the matter was. Tun Mustapha was sworn in at 4am after he was rushed to the Palace, but was removed the same day due to legality issue and Pairin was sworn in as the rightful Sabah Chief Minister at 8pm the same night. And so Pairin believed the coup or crisis was over, or so he thought.
Tun Mustapha then filed an injunction against the State Governor. Fish bombs started to go off from May 29, 1985 in Kota Kinabalu. Tun Mustapha, being a Muslim Bajau-Suluk himself, had actually opened the floodgate for Filipino refugees into the state when he served as Chief Minister from 1967 to 1975. Indebted to Tun Mustapha, these foreign illegals were given food and money to demonstrate under his instruction, without really knowing what they were doing. Rumours that PBS politicians were about to quit the party spread. Pairin arrogantly rubbished the rumours when asked by journalists during his Rulers’ Conference attendance.
One day later on Feb 24, 1986, six PBS assemblymen quit the party. Although PBS managed to convince some frogs not to jump, the party was in a shaky position as other frogs could jump at anytime. Pairin announced the dissolution of the state assembly. Abdul Salleh Ghapur filed a writ seeking to declare the the dissolution was null and void. Amusingly, Election Commission said it couldn’t proceed with a new election due to lack of fund (*grin*). On Mar 12, 1986, about 2,000 USNO supporters, mostly illegal Filipinos, gathered in front of the Kota Kinabalu High Court awaiting the verdict. The first bomb went off at 8:45am and subsequently another six such explosions shocked the public. The panic and mini riot started.
USNO and Berjaya appealed to Prime Minister Mahathir to intervene. The next morning, Muslim found State Mosque vandalized with crosses. Over 1,000 Muslims gathered at the State Mosque to protest and accuse PBS of violating their mosque. Nobody believed the culprit was PBS but USNO nevertheless blamed PBS as anti-Islam. On Mar 17, 1986, the Kota Kinabalu High Court rejected Ghapur’s application. As a result, thousands more USNO supporters took to the street with more bombs rocking the city. Fierce confrontation between USNO supporters and police occurred and more cars and warehouses were set on fire.
Finally, Mahathir arrived in Sabah as if he was a hero – offering a “peace formula” with an ultimatum to PBS to share power with USNO and Berjaya. Either PBS accept the proposal or risk federal emergency rule. USNO and Berjaya, of course, were delighted with the power-sharing formula. PBS was unhappy with the condition set by Mahathir that amongst other stated no new fresh election is allowed. PBS used delay tactic in signing the peace formula. They launched a signature campaign to reject Mahathir’s lopsided peace proposal. Pairin even faked his sickness to delay the signing agreement. Needless to say, Mahathir was furious that Pairin dared to embarrass him. Fortunately, the Federal Attorney General Abu Talib managed to talk sense and convinced Mahathir that a fresh election was mandatory.
Pairin outmatched PM Mahathir again when he adopted anti-Federal Government strategy – labeling USNO and Berjaya as pro-Federal Government. As a matter of fact, Pairin even announced PBS decision to withdraw from joining Barisan Nasional on Apr 9, 1986 to fish for local Sabah support. PBS won the 1986 state election with a staggering 34 out of 48 Assembly seats. PBS joined Barisan Nasional after its second victory. In 1990, PBS called for the state election but not before it pulled out of the coalition. This time it won 36 seats. Pairin Kitingan, the “Huguan Siou” or paramount chief of the Kadazandusun Murut community, sworn in as Sabah Chief Minister for the third successive times.
In Feb 1994, PBS called for the state election with huge phantom voters stacked against it. Still, PBS managed to win for the fourth consecutive time but with a reduced majority – 25 seats against Barisan Nasional’s 23 seats. However Pairin Kitingan’s luck ran out this time when he was not only made to wait for 36 hours outside the Palace before he was sworn in, he was also forced to resign on Mar 17, 1994 due to defections (engineered by Mahathir) from his own party’s Assemblymen to Barisan Nasional. It was a sweet revenge on Pairin for publicly humiliated Mahathir earlier. The “Huguan Siou” applied and re-admitted into Barisan Nasional in 2002. And the rest is history.
Now, do you understand why the Sabahan will always be suspicious of Peninsular Malaysia (and vice versa) be it the ruling government or opposition parties? In fact, PBS can never reclaim its former glory ever since Mahathir broke the party into smaller breakaways in the form of SAPP (Sabah Progressive People’s Party), PBRS (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah), UPKO (United PasokMomogun KadazanDusunMurut Organisation) and whatnot through divide-and-rule strategy. And now you have Jeffery Kitingan, Pairin’s own brother, declaring its baby STAR (State Reform Party) has the magic wand to win the coming general election.
Pairin Kitingan was perhaps the only Sabah leader who had the ability to rule Sabah while showing his middle finger to the Federal Government. But the good day is gone for good. Actually, PBS could give Mahathir a run for his money if Pairin wishes to, but he chose to submit to Mahathir post 1994’s defeat. However he was not willing to be a true opposition leader like DAP Lim Kit Siang or PAS Nik Aziz. Pairin may be the smartest politician Sabah have ever had but he was definitely not a Sabah hero. Heck, he may be the only Sabah leader who managed to outfox and humiliate Malaysia PM Mahathir. But he chose to sleep with the corrupted Barisan Nasional. He has since remains an obedient follower within Barisan Nasional coalition.
It’s laughable to hear Pairin and his brother Jeffery Kitingan screamed and cried till their face turn blue that Sabah is for Sabahan. It was his own PBS Assemblymen (read: Sabahan) who betrayed the party and Sabahan when money was dished by the Federal Government. Perhaps Jeffery couldn’t remember this due to his frequent party hopping, but if he can even betrayed his own brother by defecting from PBS in 1994, nobody in their right mind can believe him. He literally begged to be admitted into Barisan Nasional in 2003 but was ignored. Jeffrey has hopped 6 times and if Perkasa Ibrahim Ali is a frog, then Jeffrey is the King of Frogs (*tongue-in-cheek*). If you can trust Jeffrey, then you should believe Rosmah is still a virgin.
On the other hand, you have SAPP’s Yong Teck Lee who is as ambitious as Jeffrey to become Sabah Chief Minister. After served for two years as Sabah Chief Minister (1996 – 1998), courtesy of Mahathir, this Sabah Chief Minister wannabe must be dead hungry for the same position again. In actual fact, Yong still loves Barisan Nasional and would like to sleep and have orgasm again with the federal coalition. It was pure sulking about his unhappiness with former PM Abdullah Badawi that made him pull SAPP out from BN. And he has the cheek to demand for all Sabah state seats while offering parliamentary seats to Pakatan Rakyat in the name of Sabah autonomy.
The fact is SAPP or STAR alone cannot form the next Sabah government. If that is not enough, SAPP and STAR, both being Sabah parties couldn’t even work together to kick BN out of the state since both leaders Jeffrey Kitingan and Yong Teck Lee want to become the Chief Minister. Sabah for Sabahan my foot. They couldn’t repeat what Pairin managed to do in 1986. On the same note, Pakatan Rakyat cannot capture Sabah on its alone either. They have to work together, something which is near to impossible considering the greediness and selfishness on the table. But the major problem in the PR-SAPP-STAR partnership is “Trust”.
When even the cat on the street can tell you that Jeffrey or Yong could defect to BN after the general election, can you blame PR to try their luck by going alone on May 5, 2013 election? The solution – PBS to pull out from BN and join force with PR, which is highly unlikely considering the comfortable life Pairin is enjoying now. With a PBS-PR coalition, SAPP and STAR will naturally join the new coalition to fight against BN. It would be fun to see PBS pull up another stunt similar to 1990 – a final stunt on Mahathir’s face. Nevertheless, that could be just a wishful thinking.
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