Kitingan plays down ‘Huguon Siou’ ambitions, duel with Ongkili

Sabah Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan speaks during a press conference in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah September 22, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Sabah Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan speaks during a press conference in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah September 22, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KOTA KINABALU, May 6 — Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan has panned a local newspaper report pitting him against Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili in a tussle for the coveted Huguon Siou position, or paramount leader of the Kadazandusun and Murut community.

Kitingan said that it was disappointing and baseless to draw the conclusion just from recent political statements made by him and the Parti Bersatu Sabah president president vying for the same Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) seats, when in fact he had no designs on the position.

"It never occured to me to become the Huguan Siou. I'm not interested in that job. Nor am I interested in any proxy battle for Huguan Siou even if intentions of others may seem to suggest so. I am already the Huguan Siou Lundu Mirongod and I'm happy with the title,” he said in a statement here.

"It is wrong to think that I am vying for the position of Huguan Siou. The report was written in such a way that it appeared that Ongkili and I were greedy and envious of the current Huguan Siou Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan," he said.

Pairin, Kitingan’s elder brother, has held the cultural position since 1984. He is only the second person to be appointed the role after Sabah founder and first chief minister Tun Fuad Stephens. The position, while meant to have no political role, is a reverent role bestowed on only the worthiest of leaders to be the cultural and spiritual native head.

Kitingan said while both STAR and PBS have recently been publicly at odds over the Tambunan state and Keningau parliamentary seats, in reality he said both parties are allies under the same government and any disagreement was to be solved through discussions.

"For me, I just want to be the best version of myself and serve the people, all Sabahans, regardless of race to the best of my ability," he said.

A local newspaper yesterday reported that Kitingan and Ongkili were in a “proxy war” for the role of Huguon Siou.

It said that the two leaders, which had been claiming rights to contest the seats in the upcoming elections, were in fact in an underlying bid for the position.

Tensions escalated between the two KDM majority parties when Ongkili staked his claim on the two seats, saying it has been PBS’ base and stronghold since the 1970s and that the party would work hard to retain its base.

To compound the rivalry, Kitingan is the incumbent in both the Tambunan state seat and Keningau parliament seat which he won in the recent state elections last year and GE 14 in 2018 respectively.

After Ongkili’s “challenge”, Jeffrey insisted that he would defend the Keningau seat in GE15 and said it was understandable that PBS would want the seat back. He said it was a “friendly reminder” to work harder to defend the seat and that the statement was just “politics”.

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