It could be his magic touch or charisma. But by his quiet and gentle persuasion, Joseph Pairin Kitingan gets things done for Sabah’s indigenous Kadazandusuns and Muruts who make up about a fifth of the 3.2m people who include Malays, ethnic Chinese and Indians. Most importantly, he has the ear of Najib Razak, the prime minister.
He doesn’t throw tantrums in public or hold the ruling 13-party Barisan Nasional coalition, of which his Parti Bersatu Sabah (unity party) is a member, to ransom. Yet when others in the coalition fail, Pairin, as he is affectionately called by his middle name, succeeds.
Pairin has been the lawmaker of Keningau, a parliamentary constituency five times the size of Singapore, since 1986. It includes his state seat of Tambunan which he has held for 36 years after winning it in 1976.
Forestry and vast acreage of oil palms have supported Keningau. But Najib launched Malaysia’s biggest integrated livestock centre in Sook, a small distance from Keningau town, that will draw investments of 763m ringgit. It can produce 6m litres of milk a year. There will be 2,000 cows with 1,600 of them producing milk while the rest will be slaughtered for beef. The centre is expected to produce 2m litres of milk from 500 cows next year.
So the KDM college fits snugly into Keningau’s economic transformation. Agriculture and agro-industries need lots of skilled workers. It would be fitting for the college to produce agriculturalists, agronomists, veterinarians, carpenters, building technicians and artisans to fill thousands of jobs in Keningau.