Top posts

Featured Posts

Jeffrey ‘clears’ Pairin on ‘infamous’ PBS pullout

KOTA KINABALU: There are serious gaps in the on-going polemics in Sabah and literature on those responsible for the “infamous” Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) pullout from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) on the eve of general election in 1990 and, subsequently, “making the economy suffer in the process”.

The issue has arisen in the wake of “disclosures” on Sabah in former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s controversial memoirs, “A Doctor in the House”.

“Sabahans are going at each other hammer and tongs without being privy to the real story behind the pullout,” former PBS adviser Jeffrey Kitingan said in an exclusive interview here.

“It’s not right to blame Pairin for the pullout although as the PBS president many people will ultimately hold him responsible,” Jeffrey said.

However, it would be fairer if collective responsibility was taken for the pullout, he added. “The pullout idea did not originate from Pairin.”

Jeffrey was “defending” his elder brother in politics, Joseph Pairin Kitingan, against incessant attacks in the local media for “Mahathir making Sabah suffer after the pullout”.

Drawing on his recollections of “a dark period in Sabah history”, Jeffrey remembers that it was then PBS deputy president Yong Teck Lee who first raised the pullout idea with him.

“He dropped by my Sabah Foundation residence very early in the morning on the day of the pullout,” said Jeffrey, who was then director of the state-owned foundation. “I was then discussing some office matters with Joe Leong – later Yong’s press secretary – who handled media matters.”

Public knowledge

Yong’s idea, according to Jeffrey, was that PBS should pull out from BN. The two men did not go into the reasons as it was public knowledge that the party’s position in the ruling federal coalition had become increasingly untenable under Mahathir.

Apparently, the last straw was a speech that Mahathir gave here on Oct 13, 1990 during which he did not respond to Pairin’s earlier speech on development funds for Sabah.

“I cautioned Yong on the pullout idea. My take was that the pros and cons must be weighed carefully,” said Jeffrey. “All this was in a position paper that I had prepared for Pairin about three weeks earlier.”

Jeffrey, at that time, prepared position papers quite regularly for Pairin in his capacity as party adviser and chairman of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), the state government’s think- tank.

Briefly, Jeffrey felt that BN would still prevail in the 1990 general election. Hence, any idea of a PBS pullout from the coalition “should only be considered after the general election had been concluded”, as Jeffrey wrote in the position paper. At the post-general election juncture, he said, “the party could assess what purpose, if any, would be served by it continuing to remain in the coalition or otherwise”.

Jeffrey also warned Yong that if the pullout indeed took place, he (Jeffrey) would be blamed for it and he might even be arrested for it and other reasons. A PBS pullout from BN, Jeffrey surmised, would be seen by Kuala Lumpur as “equivalent to Sabah’s pullout from Malaysia”.

Yong, as Jeffrey reports, responded that even detention under the Internal Security Act – if it came to that – would be “a small sacrifice” that Jeffrey would have to make for the sake of Sabah.

Asked why Yong should approach him with the pullout idea when he was not even a PBS member, Jeffrey thinks it may be because “Yong wanted my support. He knew Pairin always discusses various issues with me”.

Unenviable reputation

Jeffrey, following up on Yong’s visit, went to Pairin’s residence the same day to “caution him against a hasty PBS pullout from BN”. It was too late, however, as Pairin had already announced the pullout by the time he returned to his residence to find his younger brother waiting up late for him. Jeffrey had been delayed by a dinner appointment in town with a visitor from Papua New Guinea.

Jeffrey did not want to discuss the purported key role of then PBS leaders Bernard Giluk Dompok and Tham Nyip Shen in the PBS pullout from BN. He could only say what he knew, he pointed out, “although it’s more than probable that the party’s supreme council members discussed the idea”.

“I gave my version of the pullout to Mahathir when he summoned me from house arrest in Seremban three or four days after my release from ISA detention in early 1994,” said Jeffrey who was detained on May 13, 1991. “Mahathir apologised for my detention but described it as necessary although very cruel.”

Jeffrey also remembers Mahathir advising him then not to educate the people on anything, especially history, “and make them smart”, “or otherwise, it would be difficult to control them”.

The former PBS ideologue disclosed that his version of the pullout was in a completed manuscript “which was confiscated by the Special Branch (SB) before I was released”.

Jeffrey plans to re-visit his ISA detention and the pullout in a book which he has in mind. He doesn’t think that the SB would ever return his manuscript to him.

Media reports, before and after Jeffrey’s detention, had Mahathir then blaming the former for the pullout. Mahathir even went so far, subsequently, as to link Jeffrey with a move to pull Sabah out of the Malaysian Federation “so that he could be president”.

The PBS pullout, at that time, was also described as “uncharacteristic of Pairin”.

The PBS chief and Huguan Siou (paramount chief) of the KadazanDusunMurut has the unenviable reputation of “preferring not to make any decisions on anything” despite being the “best chess player in Sabah”.

“He (Pairin) doesn’t like to make mistakes,” said a veteran party insider from that time in absolving Pairin of any blame. “So, he rather squat on people like now than make a decision.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog