PENAMPANG: Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan made a surprise appearance at the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) here for the first day of the Pesta Kaamatan (Harvest Festival) celebrations on Thursday (May 30).
The Huguan Siou (paramount leader of the Kadazandusun community) - who is a long-time fixture at the annual two day state-level Kaamatan celebrations - was missing from the opening ceremony earlier the same day, as well as absent during last year's festivities.
His no-show last year raised speculation of a rift between Pairin, who is KDCA president, and the Kaamatan main organising committee chairman Datuk Peter Anthony, who is also part of the Parti Warisan Sabah-led government.
Peter, however, reportedly said both he and Pairin had agreed to a proposal on uniting Sabah's indigenous ethnic groups regardless of political leanings.
When met at KDCA on Thursday, Pairin also assured that all was well between him and the organising committee.
"This year, we are able to work together with the organising committee to foster better understanding and rapport.
"We would like to see this every Kaamatan," said the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) premier adviser.
On how he felt to be part of the Kaamatan celebration in KDCA again, after sitting it out last year, Pairin said he had "always been around".
"Even though I'm not always present physically, I'm always around spiritually," he said.
When asked if he would be attending the celebration's closing ceremony on Friday (May 31), Pairin jokingly said there was no need to announce whether or not he decides to show up.
Pairin was welcomed with great fanfare from patrons and vendors at KDCA, with many flocking to take photos with the former Chief Minister.
Accompanied by PBS president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, he also had lunch at the Papar cultural house with several state lawmakers from Sabah DAP and Warisan.