PKR attacks Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan

After months of trying to work out a reconciliation with the top PKR leadership, Kota Kinabalu division chief Christina Liew who had ‘hero-worshiped’ Jeffrey in politics, was forced to throw in the towel. In the end, Jeffrey’s own emperor-sized ambition was his undoing.

Written by  K Suresh, Malaysia Chronicle 

Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan is a complex character with many sides. His critics say for sure at the very least, he is two-headed and can be counted to back-stab, desert and betray his benefactors at the very last moment.

Indeed, his supporters in Sabah have been trying to spread the mirage that Parti Keadilan Rakyat is eagerly awaiting its former vice-president’s return, but sad to say, no one in the party’s central leadership has any inkling of it. Jeffrey, the former PKR veep and Sabah chief, had quit in a huff in 2010 along with his close associate Zaid Ibrahim, who has since formed KITA – the newest political party in the country and linked to Umno.

Therefore, it must have rankled when PKR President Wan Azizah Wan Ismail last week stepped down as Sabah chief, only to allow the Libaran PKR Division Chief Ahmad Thamrin Jaini to resume his former position. Having jumped parties once too often, PKR had been Jeffrey’s biggest hope to keep one leg in the opposition boat. The other leg will always find safe refuge in PBS, the party he co-founded with big brother Joseph Pairin.

Fading star

After months of trying to work out a reconciliation with the top PKR leadership, Kota Kinabalu division chief Christina Liew who had ‘hero-worshiped’ Jeffrey in politics, was forced to throw in the towel. In the end, Jeffrey’s own emperor-sized ambition was his undoing.

The Harvard-educated Sabah leader has been in too many parties, heard too many promises, witnessed too many “unsavoury” happenings, and been involved in too many activities to be confined to just one party like PKR or any other party, or so he says.

But it is not for no reason that he has referred to, by friends and foes alike, as the “King of Frogs”.

Even so, Jeffrey did meet with PKR leaders – Anwar Ibrahim and his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – to try to hammer out a framework for co-operation amongst opposition parties in Sabah and Sarawak, but to no avail.

Apart from Jeffrey’s nonsensical demands, perhaps the memory of Zaid Ibrahim was another obstacle for Anwar and the PKR central leadership council. Whatever it was, when someone demands control over both Sabah and Sarawak while holding only miniscule grass-roots support, that is when Anwar and PKR would need to be really careful.

Jeffrey is well-known to be hugely wealthy but is regarded as a political pauper, having lost the respect of many Sabahans and unable to win a seat despite his abundant resources.

Hopping again

The latest development is that two political parties, one in Sarawak (Star) and another in Sabah – Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) – both ‘want’ Jeffrey to be their Ketua Umum or Supreme Leader. Both are BN-linked parties.

So far, the details remain sketchy but there should be something in the news soon unless the Home Ministry tells the Registrar of Societies to hold back the certificate of registration on PCS. Jeffrey was supposed to accompany a PCS delegation last week to Putrajaya to collect PCS’s certificate of registration.

If the Putrajaya green light comes, it confirms that Jeffrey – like Zaid – would have returned to the BN fold. Meanwhile, Jeffrey’s camp is trying to spin his move to be both Ketua Umum at Sabah and Sarawak, as enabling him to ‘satisfy’ the many sides of his character.

Jeffrey also heads the Common Interest Group Malaysia (CigMA), an ad hoc NGO, which works in the international theatre in association with Hindraf Makkal Sakthi, and, among others, the Borneo Heritage Foundation (BHF), and the All-Borneo Forum.

Secession and Corruption

Jeffrey’s supporters also say they fear the Special Branch may block his bid for a political party since he stands accused of plotting to pull Sabah out of Malaysia just hours before he was nabbed on May 13, 1991 under the ISA.

But though Jeffrey likes to give the impression that he was nabbed for trying to pull Sabah out from Malaysia, there is just as much speculation of alleged massive corruption. Apparently, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad blew his top after he found out that Jeffrey had allegedly creamed billions away from timber contracts while heading the Sabah Foundation.

So far, Jeffrey’s accounts on his ISA detention have raised more questions than provided answers. He has skirted around the issue. The latest was earlier this month before United Borneo Front (UBF) gatherings – tea parties – in the interior. UBF is an NGO headed by Jeffrey since late last year.

Ultimately, what does Jeffrey want that PKR or other parties cannot provide? Or how much does Jeffrey want that no one can provide?

According to Jeffrey, he is all about Sabah and Sarawak rights which he accuses is not the main focus of the Peninsular Malaysia-based political parties. He has also insisted that the local-based parties are too much under the thumb of their peninsular-based central leadership to strike out on their own.

Strange though, despite Jeffrey’s eye on Sarawak, it would be hard to find a Sarawakian who would be willing to say Jeffrey has any right to be Ketua Umum  in their state. While he resists what he perceives to be ‘expansionary’ moves by peninsula parties into Sabah, he himself does not appear to have any qualms to wish to ‘colonize’ Sarawak.

In his latest statements and speeches, Jeffrey has said his aim now is to translate the across-the-political-divide gains made by UBF into seats in the Sabah and Sarawak state assemblies and the Malaysian Parliament. Again, this is most strange for someone who keeps insisting he has lost interest in politics.

Perhaps, there are grounds for the current swathe of suspicion against this King of Frogs. Once the licenses for the Sarawak-based party and for Parti Cinta Sabah kick in from Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Putrajaya, he can be expected to spout the BN line even louder than brother Joseph Pairin Kitingan. As they say, blood is thicker than water!