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Is Pairin winding down his political career?

Will simmering discontent among party members and his
waning popularity with the Kota Marudu electorate
dampen minister Maximum Ongkili's takeover
of Parti Bersatu Sabah?
KOTA KINABALU: Speculations are rife that a subtle power shift may be taking place in Parti Bersatu Sabah.

Indication of change came to light with rumours that Kota Marudu parliamentarian Maximum Ongkili was shifting his political base to his hometown in Tambunan where his family is building a big house on an ancestral land, just a stone’s throw from his uncle Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s home.

Pairin is currently Tambunan assemblyman and also Keningau MP.

Pairin, 71, is said to be contemplating winding down his public roles, which have reportedly been quite taxing for him. He’s had to deal with complaints about his productivity and efficiency.

The aging Pairin has been an assemblyman for Tambunan for the past 35 years, uninterrupted since 1976 when he was still with Berjaya.

He also is the ‘Huguan Siou’ or paramount leader of the Kadazandusun, a Deputy Chief Minister-cum-state Minister of Rural Development, president of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), president of KDCA (Kadazandusun Cultural Association) and sits in many committees, including the Asean Eminent Persons Committee.

Maximus, 58, being a senior deputy president of PBS and also KDCA, seems the obvious choice to takeover some of Pairin’s

But observers say there is discontent with Maximus, both within PBS circles and in Kota Marudu, lending credence to rumours that he might be moving to Tambunan or Keningau in the coming general election.

Maximus, who is a federal minister, has held Kota Marudu since 1985 when it was known as Bandau.

His fourth term as MP, has seen a steady fall in his popularity which has been translated into less votes in Dusun majority areas.

Poor track record

In the 1995 general election, when pitted against another uncle, Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, then of Barisan Nasional, Maximus won by garnering 64% of the total votes cast.

In 1999, while PBS was still in opposition, Maximus defeated yet another BN candidate, local boy Maijol Mahap, but garnered only 51% of the total votes.

In 2004 general election, Maximus, who by then was in the ruling BN, retained his seat, defeating his closest rival, the relatively unknown Anthony Mandiau, by garnering 56% of the votes.

In the 2008 general election, he once more defeated Mandiau but his previous popular votes was slashed by 2%.

Maximus has been in the federal cabinet since 2004, but his vast constituency of Kota Marudu is still lagging in infrastructures and economic opportunities.

In many places the roads are in a deplorable condition.

He was also Tandek assemblyman but he did not seek re-election for the state seat in 2008, being under pressure from grassroots to give way to a local.

Tandek has since been represented by Anita Baranting, a close ally.

This year is PBS election year.  Begining this month its divisions will hold their AGMs-cum-elections.

It would be interesting to see if Pairin and Maximus will sent out signals of an imminent change in the party hierarchy.

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