KOTA KINABALU, April 27 — After a weeklong war of words over the Keningau parliamentary and Tambunan state seats, incumbent Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan said that the two parties involved should be working together instead of arguing over which party is better qualified to contest them.
Kitingan, whose Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) has been at odds with Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) over the seats, said it was not appropriate to be seen tussling over the seats.
“We belong to the same government and we need to work together, and anything different from that is only politics,” he said during a press conference today.
“We are in the same government at the federal and state level, so the focus should be how to work together and increase synergy, and not issue statements that will divide us,” he said.
Both parties are under the federal Perikatan Nasional alliance and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) state governments.
He was asked about the escalating tensions between the two parties since PBS president Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili staked his claim to the two seats, saying it has been PBS’ base and stronghold since the 1970s and that the party would work hard to retain it.
Former PBS president and paramount leader of the Kadazandusun, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, previously held the Tambunan state seat since 1976 and the Keningau parliamentary seat since 1985 when younger brother Jeffrey wrested the seats from him in GE14.
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, adding that it was a “friendly reminder” to work harder to defend the seat.
However, STAR’s Kota Marudu division secretary said that the party would retaliate if PBS went ahead and contested the Tambunan state seat, and would challenge the Kota Marudu parliamentary seat — held by Ongkili — and Tandek state seat.
Clashes in the upcoming election would not be new for the two parties or others in the GRS alliance, as they went head-to-head during last year’s state elections, in no less than 17 seats. PBS and STAR clashed in at least seven seats officially.