KENINGAU: Parti Bersatu Sabah’s (PBS) Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s charisma is still needed to defend the Keningau Parliamentary constituency in the 14th general election (GE14).
Local political observer Kaipin Rosmin said despite having announced his intention to retire from politics, Pairin, the ‘Huguan Siou’ or ‘paramount leader of the Kadazandusun Murut community, was still preferred by many Keningau folks.
“Pairin is also still needed to lead Barisan Nasional (BN) to victory in the Keningau Parliamentary constituency and state constituencies (of Liawan, Bingkor and Tambunan) under it,” he told Bernama.
Pairin, 77, is the incumbent for the Keningau Parliamentary seat, which he held since 1985, and Tambunan state seat, which he held since 1976, making him Sabah’s longest serving elected representative.
He had announced his retirement from politics when his term ends and earlier last year, he handed over the reins of the party to his deputy Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili.
But talk is rife that Pairin, who is Sabah deputy chief minister, would defend both seats in the GE14 and in fact, he had told the press at the end of last year that there was a “99 percent chance” that he would not contest in the next general election, while the remaining one percent will determine whether he will retire or be back in the race to the polls.
In the event that Pairin does not contest in the GE14, among the names cropped up to stand in the Parliamentary seat of Keningau is PBS vice-president Datuk Daniel Kinsik, while Ongkili had hinted that he might contest in Tambunan.
“It might be tough for a newcomer. But even so, Keningau and Tambunan had always been a stronghold for PBS and BN,” said Kaipin.
However, the challenge that BN has to overcome in order to retain the Keningau Parliamentary seat and state seats of Tambunan and Liawan as well as winning back the Bingkor state seat is the indecision of the young voters.
According to Kaipin, BN has to work extra hard to approach the youths in Keningau, that make up about 40 percent of new voters.
Although faced with a heavy task, BN still has the upper hand in the Parliamentary seat of Keningau and its three state seats — Tambunan, Liawan and Bingkor.
In the GE13, Pairin garnered 15,818 votes in a three-cornered fight to win the Keningau Parliamentary seat over his brother Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan, who contested on a Sabah State Reform Party (Star) ticket, and Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s Stephen Sandor.
Meanwhile, Fuad Dulasim of Bingkor said a rematch between the two brothers — Pairin and Jeffrey was possible while Parti Warisan Sabah’s Datuk Jake Nointen, a former PBS Youth chief, would surely give a fierce fight, and predicted Pairin could once again emerge the victor.
Sidiq Kuntagil of Tambunan opined that Pairin’s position as the ‘Huguan Siou’ was an important factor in gaining the people’s support towards BN if Pairin remained as the coalition’s candidate in Keningau.
He said Pairin’s nomination for the Keningau Parliamentary seat in the GE14 would not only give a glimmer of hope to its constituents, but one that would inspire success in all PBS-allocated seats throughout the state.
In the last general election, PBS, the second largest component party in Sabah BN, won four out of five parlimentary seats and seven out of 13 state seats. — Bernama