As PBS and Star link up, Pairin hopes to never see Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus community divided again

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KOTA KINABALU, April 18 — “Do not disappoint us again,” said Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan in a pointed message as he ended his speech during the ceremony to officially sign a pact between two of the largest native parties in Sabah.

Pairin’s own Parti Bersatu Sabah and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (Star), helmed by his younger brother Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan, signed a locally-significant pact to work together after a long “friendly” rivalry.

The paramount leader of the Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus community — among the many “non-Muslim” native ethnicities of Sabah — said it was time that the community was united again under cohesive leadership.

“I’ve been harping on about this for some time, but now we are here, shows that not just the people, but the leaders, know it too,” he said.

The 83-year-old PBS founding president got emotional when asked about his thoughts about how the community has been fractured.

“I don’t want to go back there. It hurts and saddens me,” he said.

“The fact that we are here now is indicative of the awareness of the need to be united for Sabah’s future,” he said.

Pairin was likely referring to events after the 1994 state election, a black mark in the state’s history. The period saw the beginning of the end of KDM unity with mass defections which cost him the state government, despite having won the election with a slim majority. In the end he was forced to concede, and was left with five seats from the initial 25.

Leaders of his party defected to join or form other parties aligned to Barisan Nasional.

It was a far drop for Pairin who was the local hero behind the 47-day-old PBS that brought the majority of Sabahans together and ended the reign of the BN-aligned Berjaya government.

Attending the signing ceremony today, Pairin hammered home the message of unity and reminder to the two parties to remain cognisant of the fact that the community needed to be united to have a voice.

“The signing of this MoU is just a start. There is a lot of work to be done, but it is what we need. If we don’t get past this, we will never move forward,” he said.

Earlier, both PBS and Star leaders had expressed hopes that the pact would be successful and would end in a merger that was the people’s aspirations.

“I really hope from the bottom of my heart we can prevent another episode from happening again,” said PBS acting president Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam.

“This unity is fragile and fluid. The moment we ink this MoU, someone will be out there, even in this audience might be thinking of forming his own party. If you do that; we won’t be able to move forward.

“Let’s use this MoU as a place to really be united, and remember that the rakyat really wants us to be united. Whenever we are on the ground in the grassroots, the people have time and again said how excited they are and supportive of this, and grassroots are excited and fully supportive,” he said.

Jeffrey in his speech said that the initial stages was crucial as a building block to uniting Sabahans as a whole.

“Not just the KDMR community. Look at Sarawak. They have KL by the balls. We can do it too. We have to take lessons from history and learn,” he said.

He also said that he hopes that the pact will eventually be more inclusive to other parties as it grows and becomes stronger.

“I’ve spoken to others and they are in agreement. After all, we don’t want enemies, it is better to have more friends,” he said.