The Fall of PBS : My Take

I came across an interesting article in MalaysiaKini that relates the recent Perak Coup with the PBS Fall of 1994. It certainly brought back memories (bitter mostly) about how our version of Camelot collapsed.

I can’t describe the excitement that everyone felt during the time when PBS was at the height of its power. I used to by heart the names and positions of our leaders then. Whenever I saw them in the newspapers I always wondered how would it be like to be where they were: changing the state for the better. 

Anyway as I mentioned in my previous posting, I was inspired in becoming a politician like them most particularly Datuk Pairin, Datuk Bernard, Datuk Yong to name just a few off the top of my head. These 3 were first and foremost in my mind with due respect to the other talented and capable leaders. In my mind these 3 leaders were the ones that matter the most (until today mind you).

They were my heroes and I wasn’t alone by thinking like that.

When PBS fell, it was like someone had just died. Suddenly you got an foreign entity in the form of UMNO ruling the State to this very day.

The 3 heroes that I mentioned began a period of cold war. Dompok and Yong became bitter with Pairin. If I remember correctly Yong was upset about Pairin’s wife meddling in affairs of the state that caused some flip-flops in decision making and Dompok was bitter about Pairin’s denial about his hand in the formation of Parti Demokratik Sabah (PDS). Thus Pairin became very upset when the 2 abandoned him. So many events happened ever since. One thing for certain: the bad blood between them never healed to this day.

After the fall, UMNO wasted no time and shifted the balance of power in the state by restructuring the delineation of its constituencies that transformed an normally non-muslim area into a muslim majority. So with this and from the help of the phantom voters, UMNO ruled Sabah until today.

(Note: bear in mind that the situation in those days was rife with rumours and countless  theories about the causes of the downfall. I am suggesting merely the gist of the whole event. I speak for myself.)

When I look at our world today, the events of 1994 has definitely taken its toll. Money politics is high on the rise, illegal immigrants are rampant and Sabahans are slowly losing their identities through their MyKads. These are just the tip of the iceberg. I always wondered how would it be if the PBS were still in power if they had been a little more humble and tolerant with one another?  I am sure it would have been an amazing era to be in.

Today the world is crueler than ever and on the verge of an economic meltdown. And the 3 heroes that I mentioned earlier are now merely shadows of their former selves. They are aging and weary. I wonder what each of them are hoping to achieve for the people (or we really still on their minds or is it something else)?  Well, it doesn’t matter anymore. 

I am no longer the political romantic of yesteryears.

In fact the whole 1994 episode was far from my mind. Until of course the fall of the PR government in Perak evoked the memories and emotions of which I thought were long gone and forgotten. I might join the political fray one day but that will have to wait. I still got that thing call ‘economic inadequacies’ to look into. 

Below is the article from MalaysiaKini by Joe Fernandez. Enjoy.

Defending Anwar over frog culture
Joe Fernandez | Feb 9, 09 12:00pm
Veteran political activists in Sabah have come to the spirited defence of Anwar Ibrahim in the wake of the “two MBs Syndrome in Perak”.

They point out that the opposition leader, while not strictly against the “frog culture” in politics, draws a line “when legislators, already tainted by corruption charges, go back on their word after resigning their seats and are used by the BN to launch a coup d’état in cahoots with other key players”.

They were dismissing attempts by Parti Bersatu Sabah leaders and Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, among others, to see parallels between the downfall of the Joseph Pairin Kitingan Administration in 1994, when Anwar was deputy prime minister, and ongoing attempts to oust the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government in Perak. 

This follows a spate of reports in the local mainstream media virtually labeling Anwar Ibrahim as the “King of Frogs”, advising him to drop his “holier than thou attitude” and stop “the crocodile tears”. 

Generally, Sabah BN leaders think that Anwar “played with fire and got burnt”, PBS vice-president Herbert Timbon Lagadan credits Anwar for starting “the frog culture in politics”, Deputy Sabah Speaker Johnny Mositun sees Perak as déjà vu, and Taib sees the political crisis in Perak as the result of the “hijack politics” practiced by Anwar, a reference to his oft-stated pledge to take over the federal government by Sept 16 last year. “It (hijack attempts) backfired,” said Taib giving some fatherly advice. “Let this be a lesson.”

Taib himself has bitter memories of the “Ming Court Affair” – a reference to a hotel in Kuala Lumpur where a majority of the Sarawak state assemblypersons gathered in 1987 to overthrow his government but made the cardinal mistake of recruiting his maternal uncle and predecessor, Abdul Rahman Yakub, to lead them. Rahman advised the state assemblypersons to gather in Kuala Lumpur for “brainstorming” and in the meantime tipped off his nephew who dissolved the state assembly and called for snap elections.

Heroic and acceptable

PKR vice-president Dr Jeffrey Kitingan opines that “Anwar is not complaining about political frogging, if there’s such a term, but rather the fact that the three errant state assemblypersons in Perak no longer have seats and are being used by Umno to claim the government.”

“I think political frogging in the national or public interest is heroic and acceptable but doing so for personal and narrow political interests is despicable, unacceptable and should be condemned,” said Jeffrey who won on a PBS state ticket in the 1994 state election and defected within a month to the newly-formed PBRS (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah) for exactly 24 hours with five other legislators before parking his group for a while with Akar (Angkatan Keadilan Rakyat) which has since merged with Umno.

Jeffrey castigated the three errant Perak state reps as “not motivated by the people’s welfare and therefore should be roundly condemned in no uncertain terms”.

His remarks are echoed by PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak) supreme council member, Tedewin Ngumbang Datu, an ex-police officer who has his suspicions about the disappearing act of the errant state assemblypersons before their defection. “It’s for nothing that BN is known as a winners’ club,” said Ngumbang with an eye on history.

“Anwar Ibrahim had nothing to do with it (1994) and neither did Mahathir initiate anything. Let’s be fair,” said one senior PBS activist who has since gone back to the farm. “I remember Megat Junid (then Home Minister) was involved because certain Special Branch officers were used by a Sarawakian businessman to simply barge into the homes of wavering PBS state assemblymen to encourage them to defect to the BN.”

“Mahathir in fact was very surprised that the PBS Government fell just a month after the state elections. He thought that it would last at least six months or so before a clearer picture emerged. He expected some attempts to form a coalition government with BN.”

Pairin was caught in it

The senior PBS activist and others in the know, across both sides of the political divide in Sabah and elsewhere, swear that the frog culture which brought down the PBS Government in 1994 was in fact initiated by two moneybags, including one from Labuan,  “and surprisingly Pairin was caught up in it”.

Bernard Dompok’s Parti Demokratik Sabah, now known as Upko (United Pasokmomogun KadazanDusunMurut Organisation), according to several ex-PBS veterans, “in fact had the blessings of Pairin who chose the party’s name, logo and colour scheme. Pairin was the king maker in those days and even now.”

“Dompok was subsequently labeled a frog by PBS leaders just to pull the wool over the voters’ eyes in the state and general elections. But no one said anything about Dr Jeffrey being a frog when he initiated the crisis by stating in Kuala Lumpur that his brother was going to step down and take up an ambassadorship,” said a veteran who witnessed the defeat of BN in a 1984 by-election in Tambunan when Pairin’s seat was declared vacant and he had to re-contest his seat. “Pairin did not stop his brother (Jeffrey) either from joining PBRS along with Joseph Kurup and five other state assemblymen. He then advised Bernard on the importance of protecting our people and keeping them together.”

“Pairin’s strategy – as a formidable chess player in Sabah – is to kick out Umno from Sabah once the state is developed.”
“Financers of political party activities play a major role in shifting alliances,” explained another veteran politician. “They see legislators as commodities to be traded and an opportunity to re-coup their investments many times over through government projects. The Sarawakian businessmen managed to get a lot of federal contracts in Sarawak and also Sabah after the BN formed the state government in 1994.”

“Subsequently, he was involved in the de-registration of another political party in Sarawak and the near de-registration of another one. These people are mercenaries who use legislators as errand boys, commission agents and gatherers of commercial intelligence available from the government.”

One Anwar critic who sees no parallel between Sabah in 1994 and Perak in recent days points out that “BN went ahead quietly and did it (luring defectors) while Anwar was just talking about it. The BN had Anwar’s script.”

“I don’t think that he was serious about it,” said the critic from Sarawak who has since retired from the media world and now provides consultancy and advisory services. “In fact, I have stopped caring about Anwar a long time ago. Why should anybody give his strategy – Sept 16 – away. It doesn’t make sense.”

The other side of Sept 16

A fellow retiree from the news world suspects that Sept 16 should not be seen as an invite to BN legislators to defect but rather an elaborate ploy to keep the opposition herd together by dangling the prospect of taking power at the centre. 

“When it doesn’t happen as predicted, Anwar was in a situation to blame the BN by pointing at the Taiwan trip for 50 legislators from Sabah and Sarawak,” said the ex-newsman from Kuala Lumpur who lectures at a government university in Kota Kinabalu. “It’s really comical the way that BN fell for the idea of a People’s Revolution on Sept 16. It was pure entertainment. It was like a guy telling a girl how wonderful it was going to be and then, at the end of it, he simply falls asleep without nothing to match his rhetoric.”

Adds a former Sabah editor: “I remember one PBS federal minister referring to Sept 16 as the Frog Revolution. He was really getting worked up over it considering what happened to his party in 1994. He is in fact a member of the inner circle but keeps up this pretence in public on political frogs. He almost became a frog himself but was asked to stay back in PBS at the very last minute.”

“Anwar gambled and lost and that is among the factors that has made him angry,” thinks Malay Mail assistant editor Zainal Epi. “He’s not against anyone leaving political parties.”

Bisaya Chief Lajim Okin, a former PBS strongman from among the KadazanDusunMurut Muslims, makes no apologies for being a political frog.

“If you ask me, I feel it (political frogging) is a democratic practice. Those who jump do not do it for personal gain. They do it for the interest of the people,” said Lajim, a federal deputy minister, with a straight face and wants Anwar to accept his loss. “When I jumped to Umno, it helped the BN to form the state government, and the result was that Sabah was given the UMS (Universiti Sabah Malaysia).”

Among other benefits in his constituency, Lajim mentioned the asphalt road linking Beaufort to Sipitang on the border with Sarawak, and better medical and health services


3 thoughts on “The Fall of PBS : My Take”

  1. Dear Jg,

    I dream one day that we may be able to claim the era of the mid 80’s till the mid 90’s where our own home grown political parties rules the State.

    As of now, I ‘m a fence sitter who might just one day jump into the fray if situation warrants it.

    Just had my Chap Goh Meh meal with the family. No more leave for me for a long time to come.

  2. Dear Pk,

    I’ve a funny feeling that it won’t be long when our political parties can once again rule our State. The next General Election isn’t too far away and changes will occur. And when the changes happens, I trust that our leaders will learn from their mistakes.

    Come the next election, the fence sitters are the ones going to become the political king-makers. The Spirit of 1985 showed us that despite of the odds even a political juggernaut like Berjaya can ‘sink’. That miracle came from ‘People Power’ – the silent majority.

    When the time comes, many fence sitters will make the necessary stand.

    I’m home with the wife and kids watching Playhouse Disney on Astro. Hang in there about your leave and take it easy in these trying times. I had my bouts with my own economic situation which almost drove me crazy since January.

    I let go when I realized that we still have a long, long way to go in dealing with the impending recession. (That’s why I blog)

    Enough of that.

    Which team you’re backing in next year’s World Cup?

    I’m with England (though I’d jump off if they don’t put Beckham back in the English squad)

    Take care

  3. Dear JG,

    England baby, always been an England fan. Beckham can still perform. Heck, if he can stand the taste I’ll send him some Tongkat Ali root if he’ll have them but England won’t be strong enough without Gerard too.

    I’m a Liverpool fan since my schooling days. : ) I’m green with envy my younger brother will be going to England middle of this month just to see a Liverpool game. Yeah, he’s always been the extreme one.

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