THERE was confusion as “independent” Bingkor assemblyman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan sat among Barisan Nasional government backbenchers amid questions over whether he was a member of any of the coalition’s parties.
His position was immediately queried at the start of the Question Hour by Herbert Lagadan (BN – Kadamaian), who wanted to know if Dr Jeffrey was a member of any Barisan party.
This prompted Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman, the Sabah Umno chairman, to say he was just told that Dr Jeffrey’s application to join Umno had been accepted.
However, just before tabling amendments to the Zakat and Fitra Enactment, Musa retracted his statement on Dr Jeffrey’s membership status in Umno, leaving in doubt whether Dr Jeffrey had been accepted or not.
Musa, who sat in the assembly as Chief Minister for the first time since his appointment to the post on March 27, said there was a “minor mistake”, which would be clarified by Umno secretary general Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob soon.
He said he was initially informed by Speaker Datuk Juhar Mahiruddin that Dr Jeffrey was already a member. But when he spoke to Khalil later, he was informed there was a minor mistake.
“The Umno secretary-general will write to me on the actual position of Dr Jeffrey very soon,” Musa added.
Juhar, who became Speaker in December last year, said he received a copy of Dr Jeffrey's membership certificate with an accompanying letter from him.
“As far as I am concerned, he is a member unless proven otherwise.”
Dr Jeffrey, when approached outside the house, said he received an Umno membership certificate late last week and he was member of a branch in Sook, in the Keningau constituency.
He then thanked the Umno leadership for accepting him and spoke on the importance of Sabahans looking at national-based parties.
“I am relieved that Umno has accepted me,” said Dr Jeffrey, who had been without a party since he quit Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) after an unsuccessful attempt to unseat its president, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.
The initial announcement that Dr Jeffrey was a Sabah Umno member took many senior state Umno leaders by surprise. They said they were in the dark over the matter as his application had not been discussed.
Dr Jeffrey, the younger brother of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan, has joined and quit three parties – PBS, PBRS and the now defunct Parti Akar – at least five times over the last nine years.
A high profile controversial Kadazandusun leader, Dr Jeffrey quit PBS to join Akar in 1994, leading to the collapse of his brother’s three-week old government. He left Akar after a leadership tussle to return to PBS in 1996.
He quit PBS again in April 2000 to join PBRS but quit late last year after abandoning a bitter and protracted leadership struggle with Kurup. He applied to join Umno last month.
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