Flashback #Star50: Pairin and the waiting game

And in 1994 covering the drama that was unfolding at the time.

LOOKING back, it is incredulous how history repeated itself for the paramount leader of the Kadazandusun, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, when he won the Sabah election in 1994 and 1985.

On both occasions, nail-biting moments were aplenty in the lead-up to his swearing-in as Chief Minister.

Pairin had to wait 36 hours at the gate of the Istana to be sworn in after winning the 1994 Sabah polls.

Going by convention, there would be no doubts or hitches that a new leader would take his oath after winning the election.

Man of the hour: The front pages of ‘The Star’ in 1985.Man of the hour: The front pages of ‘The Star’ in 1985.

But the drama in Sabah’s roller-coaster politics meant that Pairin, who was then Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president, had to hold a vigil as a way to “pressure” the state governor to open the gates and have him sworn in.

Speculation was abuzz that the delay in swearing in Pairin, whose party had ruled Sabah for nine years, was to buy time to convince PBS assemblymen to switch sides.

It must have been the longest night for the then CM-to-be. Pairin spent that fateful Saturday night in his blue Mercedes-Benz, telling the media that he did not know why the swearing-in could not be held.

“I am going to stay here until tomorrow, ” Pairin told pressmen, as quoted in The Star front page on Monday, Feb 21,1994.

He waited calmly in his car with a growing crowd after his party edged out Barisan Nasional which got 23 seats against PBS’ 25 seats when polling ended on Feb 19.And in 1994 covering the drama that was unfolding at the time.And in 1994 covering the drama that was unfolding at the time.

Pairin was supposed to be sworn in at 8.30am on Sunday, Feb 20, before Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Said Keruak.

A press release was issued at 1.15pm by the governor’s private secretary, saying that Said was indisposed and would only carry out the swearing-in ceremony on Monday morning.

At one point, then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad commented that PBS assemblymen should be allowed to say which side they were really on.

Pairin was eventually sworn in as Chief Minister but his government collapsed after a month when two of its assemblymen jumped to Barisan.

It was mystifying that his 36-hour wait was actually history repeating itself,

Nine years earlier on April 22,1985, Pairin also waited to be sworn in as Chief Minister after PBS won 25 seats out of 48 in the state assembly.

The newly-formed party had defeated the mighty Berjaya party which had ruled Sabah since 1976.

At 10.30am on that day, Pairin went to the Istana for what he expected to be a routine swearing-in. At the palace gates, he was told he could not enter because he had no appointment with the governor.

Unbeknown to him then, Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Adnan Robert was persuaded hours earlier at 5am to swear in Tun Mustapha Harun, the Usno president, as Chief Minister.

Usno and Berjaya, which were Barisan component parties, attempted a power grab.

Later in the afternoon, Pairin met Adnan, who agreed to withdraw the letter of appointment granted to Mustapha.

Pairin was eventually sworn in as Chief Minister at 8.15pm on April 22,1985.

The PBS govt ended the same way as it began with Pairin outside the Istana gates while deals were made to buy up its assemblymen.

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