LEADER.....From left: Musa Aman, Najib Razak and Joseph Pairin Kitingan
WHEN the Huguan Siou speaks, the prime minister listens. It could be his magic touch or charisma. But by his quiet and gentle persuasion, Joseph Pairin Kitingan gets things done for Sabah’s indigenous Kadazandusuns and Muruts who make up about a fifth of the 3.2m people who include Malays, ethnic Chinese and Indians. Most importantly, he has the ear of Najib Razak, the prime minister.
He doesn’t throw tantrums in public or hold the ruling 13-party Barisan Nasional coalition, of which his Parti Bersatu Sabah (unity party) is a member, to ransom. Yet when others in the coalition fail, Pairin, as he is affectionately called by his middle name, succeeds.
The undisputed Huguan Siou, paramount leader of the Kadazandusuns and Muruts, has got the prime minister to set up a royal commission of inquiry into illegal immigrants in Sabah and the first college of higher learning for Kadazandusuns and Muruts, build a water treatment plant and lay 52km (32.5 miles) of pipes to bring potable water to slightly more than 200,000 mostly natives in the Sabah interior.
“Every time we met … he (Pairin) would always raise the water supply problem of the people in the interior,” said Najib during a visit to Keningau to celebrate the Kaamatan harvest festival with the Kadazandusuns and Muruts on June 16. “So I said, ‘just wait till I come to Keningau.’ I haven’t come here empty handed.”
The federal government is giving Sabah a 235m ringgit ($73.5m) loan for the water project. Najib said his government would fund the KDM college. How much that would be will depend on a discussion between him and Pairin.
Pairin has been the lawmaker of the Keningau, a parliamentary constituency five times the size of Singapore, since 1986. It includes his state seat of Tambunan which he has held for 36 years after winning it in 1976.
At 71 the Grand Old Man of Sabah politics, has certainly mellowed with age but he has not lost his effectiveness. And he has drawn much wisdom from his experience in leading a state in hostile opposition to Kuala Lumpur and then working in consonance with the centre as government leader.
His patience and tact have paid off. Events of the past week have put Keningau in sharp focus not just because of the prime minister’s visit. They have announced the massive transformation of Keningau into an economic, educational and cultural hub.
Forestry and vast acreage of oil palms have supported Keningau. But Najib launched Malaysia’s biggest integrated livestock centre in Sook, a small distance from Keningau town, that will draw investments of 763m ringgit. It can produce 6m litres of milk a year. There will be 2,000 cows with 1,600 of them producing milk while the rest will be slaughtered for beef. The centre is expected to produce 2m litres of milk from 500 cows next year.
Najib opened a 30m-ringgit handicraft centre of which 20m ringgit has come from the federal government. It is a one-stop centre that trains artisans, produces and sells handicraft.
So the KDM college fits snugly into Keningau’s economic transformation. Agriculture and agro-industries need lots of skilled workers. It would be fitting for the college to produce agriculturalists, agronomists, veterinarians, carpenters, building technicians and artisans to fill thousands of jobs in Keningau.
“This college is a dream of the KDM community to have a higher learning institution in the interior of Sabah,” said Pairin as Najib launched the college at Kaingaran in Tambuan, about 43km from Keningau.
“Every year, thousands of school leavers from Keningau, Tambunan, Nabawan and Ranau have to further their studies in Kota Kinabalu or the peninsula. The fact is that not many of them can afford to do so.”
It will be built on 20 hectares of a hillock that forms part of 240 hectares of state land. Officials said 200 hectares of it would be planted with oil palms that should in time earn enough money for the college. (Insight Sabah)