Will Pairin charisma hold for polls?

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - FRONT PAGE -

Par Ber­satu Sabah pres­i­dent Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Ki ngan, who cel­e­brated his 77th birth­day re­cently, re­mains a force to be reck­oned with in Sabah poli cs.

KOTA KINABALU: Parti Ber­satu Sabah (PBS) pres­i­dent Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitin­gan, who cel­e­brated his 77th birth­day re­cently, re­mains a force to be reck­oned with in Sabah pol­i­tics.

Known as a gi­ant killer af­ter sin­gle-hand­edly oust­ing the then rul­ing party Ber­jaya from power in 1985, the charis­matic vet­eran leader is likely to play a “prom­i­nent role” to re­v­erse the sag­ging for­tunes of the party af­ter los­ing six state seats and one par­lia­men­tary seat it con­tested in the last gen­eral elec­tion.

As the coun­try gears up for the elec­tions be­fore the mid­dle of next year, Pairin is sched­uled to de­liver an in­spir­ing and mem­o­rable speech at the party’s congress this week­end as a cur­tain raiser to rekin­dle the fight­ing spirit of 1985, to achieve a con­vinc­ing vic­tory at the next polls.

Even be­fore this, Pairin, had upped the ante on the party’s de­sired goal and urged party mem­bers to re­main stead­fast, res­o­lute and united ahead of the cru­cial elec­tions. This in­di­cates that the PBS founder is ready to go the ex­tra mile to cam­paign for all PBS or the Barisan Na­sional (BN) can­di­dates.

In the 2013 gen­eral elec­tion, PBS won the al­lo­cated state seats of Tam­bunan, Me­lalap, Ki­ulu, Kun­dasang, Labuk, Tan­jung Aru, Tan­dek and the par­lia­men­tary seats of Batu Sapi, Tawau, Keningau and Kota Marudu, but it lost to the op­po­si­tion in the Tam­paruli, Matung­gong, Kadama­ian, ApiApi, Inanam and Sri Tan­jung state con­stituen­cies as well as Kota Kinabalu par­lia­men­tary con­stituency.

De­spite the set­back, PBS, a mem­ber of the BN coali­tion, has of late gained con­sid­er­able sup­port among the Kadazan­dusunMu­rut (KDM) com­mu­nity, and is de­ter­mined to re­dis­cover its win­ning touch to wrest back the seats it had lost to the op­po­si­tion in the 13th gen­eral elec­tion.

Many view this “be­low par” per­for­mance as a wake-up call for PBS, the old­est lo­cal party in the state, to right the wrongs of the last gen­eral elec­tion and come back stronger for the 14th gen­eral elec­tion (GE14).

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and se­nior lec­turer of Univer­siti Malaysia Sabah, Dr Lee Kuok Ti­ung opined that Pairin’s charisma is still needed to spear­head PBS in the com­ing elec­tions al­though he had al­ready in­di­cated his wish to re­lin­quish his post as party pres­i­dent.

“To me, it ap­pears that no one is able to re­place Tan Sri Pairin as paramount leader (Huguan Siou), at least for now. He (Pairin) is the peo­ple’s cham­pion and surely in the com­ing GE14, he will again play a sig­nif­i­cant role for PBS and BN.

“His record speaks for it­self; Pairin is con­sis­tent with the party’s agenda in stand­ing up for the rights of the peo­ple of Sabah, es­pe­cially with re­gard to the is­sue of il­le­gal im­mi­grants,” he told Ber­nama.

Lee said all the hard­ships that PBS had gone through or en­dured in the past had only made PBS even stronger.

“PBS has its hard­core sup­port­ers, and it has al­ways man­aged to re­cover and re­spond to all the chal­lenges. For ex­am­ple, the riot in Sabah af­ter PBS top­pled Ber­jaya in 1985 yielded bet­ter re­sults in the 1986 elec­tions, and the fall of the PBS state gov­ern­ment in 1994 due to par­ty­hop­ping only to see PBS emerge stronger in KDM-ma­jor­ity seats in the 1999 elec­tions,” he said.

Lee also views Pairin as a shrewd politi­cian by bring­ing PBS back into BN in 2002 af­ter the party left the rul­ing coali­tion in ac­ri­mo­nious cir­cum­stances in 1990, as well as far-sighted with the in­ter­est of the peo­ple at heart by re­ju­ve­nat­ing the party be­fore he for­mally steps down as pres­i­dent or re­tires from pol­i­tics.

Ear­lier this year, Pairin handed over the reins of the party to his deputy of 23 years, Datuk Seri Dr Max­imus Ongk­ili, and made Ongk­ili the act­ing pres­i­dent with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

Lee said pass­ing the ba­ton to Ongk­ili was timely and ap­pro­pri­ate to en­sure a smooth tran­si­tion of power as well as to re­ju­ve­nate the party.

“Ongk­ili is a loy­al­ist and com­mit­ted to the strug­gle of the party, es­pe­cially when the ma­jor­ity of the then PBS as­sem­bly­men left the party af­ter the 1994 state elec­tion.

“I be­lieve that with his vast ex­pe­ri­ence as a min­is­ter at the fed­eral level, Ongk­ili, be­ing a pil­lar and tested leader, will bring PBS to greater heights... he is a new gem in PBS to carry on the party’s strug­gle,” he said.

In the last elec­tions, Pairin fielded sev­eral new faces, in­clud­ing for­mer Sabah Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Datuk Jon­is­ton Bangkuai, who won the Ki­ulu state seat.

The up­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion is seen as a lit­mus test for Ongk­ili’s pop­u­lar­ity and lead­er­ship, should Pairin de­cide not to de­fend the Tam­bunan state seat and Keningau par­lia­men­tary seat.

“But, in pol­i­tics, any­thing can hap­pen... pol­i­tics is a game of pos­si­bil­i­ties, and I won’t be sur­prised if Pairin will con­test again,” Lee said.

Mean­while, PBS in­for­ma­tion chief, Datuk Jahid Jahim said be­ing a mul­tira­cial party and gen Y-friendly, and Pairin, whom Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Tun Razak had de­scribed as the “true Malaysian pa­triot” when of­fi­ci­at­ing at the PBS congress two years ago, also had the abil­ity not only to lift up the morale of the Kadazan­dusun-Mu­rut vot­ers, but also all the other races to sup­port BN in the com­ing elec­tions.

“PBS’ record of con­sis­tently fight­ing for and voic­ing out Sabah’s rights, within or out­side of BN since its in­cep­tions 32 years ago, is a fact that Saba­hans of all races can trust and rely upon.

“PBS, be­ing a tested and ex­pe­ri­enced party; Pairin in what­ever ca­pac­ity, still has the great­est po­ten­tial of mak­ing sure BN im­proves its per­for­mance in­clud­ing re­gain­ing lost grounds con­vinc­ingly,” he said, adding that the elec­torate should not “gam­ble” away their votes by choos­ing the op­po­si­tion.

Jahid said Pairin could have achieved more for the peo­ple of Sabah had the prime min­is­ter at his time was the present prime min­is­ter (Na­jib) “whom we have seen as more un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­cia­tive of our rights as per Malaysia Agree­ment 1963 (MA63)”.

“This has been proven in terms of se­cu­rity -- the for­ma­tion of ESSCom/ESSZone, cer­tain progress made to the RCI rec­om­men­da­tions, in­crease in Sabah’s par­tic­i­pa­tion at the Cab­i­net level, civil ser­vice par­tic­i­pa­tion, and other in­fra­struc­ture and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment com­pared to Tun Ma­hathir’s era of marginal­is­ing (Sabah) and con­fronta­tional ap­proach,” he said.

Many PBS diehard sup­port­ers de­scribe the up­com­ing elec­tions as a per­fect oc­ca­sion for the peo­ple of Sabah, par­tic­u­larly the “tu­lun tokou” (KDM com­mu­nity) to give Pairin a fit­ting “part­ing gift” in the form of a re­sound­ing vic­tory for BN, say­ing that do­ing so would aptly en­cap­su­late Pairin’s four decades of dra­matic, up- and-down po­lit­i­cal life. – Ber­nama

Pairin cut­ting a rib­bon to mark the launch of the Sepang­gar Road Tun­nel yes­ter­day.

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