Selamat Berjuang Dr Jeffrey
A large gathering was held in Tambunan, Sabah, today to herald the entry of Sabahan politician Dr Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan into his new political party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
Often dubbed a political maverick, Jeffrey has now made PKR his fourth political base after joining Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Parti Angkatan Rakyat Bersatu (Akar) over the past two decades.
Speaking to malaysiakini's Kuching correspondent Tony Thien several days ago, Jeffrey said he would be bringing some 4,000 members with him into PKR.
“I am joining PKR to fight for justice for Sabah,” he said, adding that the Barisan Nasional-led federal government had long neglected the plight of Sabah’s populace.
The state government, on the other hand, is too “arrogant and corrupt beyond reform” and thus requires a change of government, added Jeffrey, on his reasons for his decision.
Jeffrey is the younger brother of Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan. The duo were the founding members of PBS which governed Sabah for nine years from 1985-1994. The elder brother also served as chief minister over that period.
Today’s event was held in the Tambunan Village Resort and was attended by thousands of Jeffrey’s supporters and PKR’s top brass which included party advisor and former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.
When contacted, PKR Youth executive committee member Faisal Mustaffa, who was in Tambunan, said 17,870 membership applications were received during the event.
The event also saw the launching of Jeffrey’s new book, Justice for Sabah.
Kitingan vs Kitingan
Jeffrey has been a state assemblyperson for various constituencies and last won the Bingkor state seat in 1999 on a PBS ticket.
Subsequently, he suffered a narrow defeat in 2004 when he took on PBRS president Joseph Kurup for the Sook state seat as an independent candidate.
National newspaper New Straits Times and Sabah’s Daily Express have both speculated a possible showdown in Tambunan between Jeffrey and his elder brother Joseph Pairin come the next general election.
During the 2004 elections, Pairin narrowly hung on to the Keningau parliamentary seat by some 200 votes while his majority was also reduced for the Tambunan seat.
It is no secret that PKR is eyeing Sabah and has been actively recruiting disgruntled Barisan Nasional component party members. Anwar was also instrumental in bringing Umno to the state in 1994.
The party is hoping to capitalise on Sabahan’s discontent with the federal government and the rising problem of illegal immigrants in the state.