Jeffrey Kitingan still breaks down when recalling his ISA detention 33 years ago

KOTA KINABALU: Thirty-three years may have passed, but time has yet to heal the emotional wounds that Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan suffered during his 26 months of detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

During the prelude to the hour-long forum "Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan's 33rd ISA detention anniversary," hosted by Sabah Way Forward and Kupikupifm Sabah, Jeffrey said that he was literally a 'dead' person when kept in a place where he could not tell whether it was day or night.

When one of the journalists asked whether he would do things differently to prevent his detention, the 76-year-old deputy Chief Minister choked back tears and admitted that nightmares of the event still haunt him.

There was no shortage of drama before the arrest, during which he experienced betrayals, had to go into hiding, had his house surrounded by policemen, disguised himself as a driver to evade authorities, and was eventually tricked into meeting with the district police chief but ended up being detained and brought to peninsular Malaysia.

"When you are taken away for no reason and you have no way to fight the government because you are arrested, there is no trial and no charge.

"You don't know when you are going to get out. People around you, your friends, sometimes your family, they think that is the end of you and start betraying you.

"When we reached Kuala Lumpur, they blindfolded me. That was the end of my consciousness of what I saw. I lost the world then.

"In fact, I wrote a song called 'Where Is My Country', 'Numbo No Pogunku' because I was blindfolded."

Jeffrey said he was angry with God in the first week but later became grateful for the experience and became a beacon of hope to prevent other detainees from self-inflicted injuries.

Hesaid he never regretted going through those hardships as he could do something for Sabah and hoped the younger generation would continue the fight for state rights.

The Tambunan assemblyman also said that his detention, from May 13, 1991, until December 1994, was during the administration of the then Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

He said the arrest was to silence him and to stop the then-Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government from pursuing Sabah rights under the 20-point safeguards outlined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Jeffrey's brother Tan Sri Pairin Joseph was the president of PBS.

He also denied that he was plotting for Sabah to secede from Malaysia.

As for whether he still holds grudges against Dr. Mahathir, Jeffrey said he has forgiven him and has moved on.

Jeffrey also said that when he got out of detention, Dr. Mahathir had called him to apologise for the cruelty inflicted through the arrest.

"I am happy Mahathir still lives to see the end of the fight. When he became the Prime Minister for second time) he set up the special committee and everybody is at the MA63 table now.

"Although this was good and is still in progress, I am disappointed because the issue of financial revenue sharing has yet to be complied with. They still haven't complied with (financial revenue sharing) for the last 60 years.

"I am not happy until we get back our autonomy, we get back our oil, we get back our revenue that has been promised," he said.

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