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Jeffrey says paid heavy price for pursuing Sabah rights
Published on: Wednesday, May 15, 2024
By: Mohd Izham Bin Hashim
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Jeffrey says paid heavy price for pursuing Sabah rights
 Jeffrey (left) said Dr Mahathir (centre) never accepted PBS led by his brother Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan (right), which formed the government after winning the state election in 1985.
Kota Kinabalu: Three decades after his 26-month detention under the now-repealed Internal Security Act (ISA), Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan maintains there was no such Sabah pullout plot for which he was detained. 

According to Jeffrey, his detention in May 1991 under the ISA was politically motivated by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration to prevent the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) State  Government from pursuing Sabah’s rights in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and its 20 Points safeguards.

“Linking me to the 20-Points to secede Sabah is totally wrong,” said the Deputy Chief Minister cum Sabah Star President.

 Jeffrey said Dr Mahathir never accepted PBS led by his brother Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, which formed the government after winning the state election in 1985.

 Pairin’s month-old party toppled the Berjaya administration of Tan Sri Harris Salleh, who was a close ally of Dr Mahathir.

 “It was a move to silence me,” Jeffrey told the online forum on Dr Jeffrey Kitingan’s ISA detention anniversary, which was hosted by Sabah Way Forward and KupiKupifm Sabah, and moderated by journalist Philip Golingai.

Jeffrey said he brought up the 20 Points safeguards for Sabah which was interpreted by the Federal Government as an attempt to secede Sabah. 

He still remembers the phone call from Dr Mahathir who warned him against “teaching the people what they didn’t know”

According to Jeffrey, the Federal Government used various methods to apply pressure on the state government. 

“The state government had difficulty getting federal allocations because of the new development office which was set up to prevent funds reaching the State,” said Jeffrey, who was also Yayasan Sabah Director at the time. 

In response, on Jan. 1 1987, Jeffrey questioned Kuala Lumpur about its unfair treatment towards the Sabah Government and treating the State like a colony. 

This was the start of the problems with the Federal Government, which escalated when PBS pulled out of the Barisan Nasional in the middle of the 1990 general election. 

PBS switched camps and was in alliance with the national opposition under the leadership of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah at the time. 

“For this reason, they labelled me a troublemaker because, at the time, no one remembered the 20 Points and MA63 which were all kept secret,” said Jeffrey. 

Jeffrey was among seven people detained for the said plot. He was released from ISA at Kamunting in December 1994.

“There was never any plot or involvement by the PBS government to secede Sabah from Malaysia,” he said, only expressing dissatisfaction over how Kuala Lumpur treated Sabah.  

However, Jeffrey said he does not harbour any ill will towards Mahathir. “I forgive him and have no problems with Mahathir. I don’t keep anything because if you tie yourself to the past, you will never move forward. I let go, I move on,” he said.  

Recounting the days leading to his arrest, Jeffrey said he had first been the target of a corruption probe before the use of the ISA.

Prior to his arrest, a large number of policemen turned up at a Kaamatan festival in Tambunan with a letter telling him to report to the police station on May 13, 1991.

“When I was released... I met Dr Mahathir and he apologised to me,” Kitingan said.

He said he still has nightmares about his detention and gets very emotional just thinking about how he was betrayed.

Jeffrey also denied he fled the country when police were looking for him. He had to move from place to place as he was being followed right to his home. At one point, he managed to escape by pretending to be “Jeffrey’s driver”. 

“I finally gave myself up, not because I wanted to, but because I thought it was not right that they were chasing me.

“I have no regrets. I was ready to die for my country.

“They took my freedom. They took everything from me. But I know I was right. I am glad I could do something for Sabah,” he said. 

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