Malaysian political party's Everest hopes crash

KOTA KINABALU - Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah's hopes of having its flag planted on the world's highest peak crashed with the avalanche that swept down Mount Everest and killed 13 Nepali sherpas (mountain guides) last week.

This was because the sherpa who was picked to carry the PBRS flag to the top of the mountain was among those who died in the high altitude avalanche on April 18.

The death of Dorje Kharti, a ­veteran sherpa who has made it to the peak 10 times, has dealt a blow to the plans of the party led by Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.

Expressing the party's condo­lences to the sherpa's family, Api-Api PBRS division chairman Dr Jay Rahman said they were saddened by the tragedy that took Dorje's life and shattered the party's project to plant the Jalur Gemilang, the Sabah state flag as well as the party flags of Barisan Nasional and PBRS at the top of the mountain.

"We wanted it (the flag project) to symbolise peace, unity and patriotism and we asked Dorje to help us," said Dr Jay, who headed the RM32,000 (S$12,300) project that drew cri­ticims from some groups in the party as the task of unfurling the flag was given to a sherpa.

Dr Jay said no one was allowed to unfurl flags and banners atop the mountain but Dorje, as a senior mountain guide, was given some leeway and he had been sending progress of his climb right up till Labouche (6,000m) on April 16.

Meanwhile, it is not immediately ascertained if Sabahan Doris Jetirin Sitaun, who is attempting to be the first woman from the state to reach the Everest summit, was continuing her bid amid reports that many sherpas and climbers had cancelled their expeditions following the avalanche.

In an email sent to the party on April 21, Doris said she was continuing the climb and heading from Labouche East towards the Everest Camp.

"I was at the Labouche peak (6,119m) for acclimatisation when the avalanche occurred. I was lucky to be at another location," said the draftswoman at an architect firm here.

She said it would take her another 50 days to reach the 8,848m peak.