PBS to go for orderly leadership transfer
Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) Deputy President Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili has more or less ended speculation on any imminent transfer of leadership in PBS when he announced on Sunday he would only defend his post of Deputy President at the Party elections next year. Although there has been a call for PBS President Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan to hand over the leadership, Ongkili stood firmly behind the Deputy Chief Minister and maintained that it was needless to have an early leadership transition. But when Ongkili, who is Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, said he would serve his “final term” as PBS Deputy President after next year’s Party elections, it raised the question of his political future. Local political pundits see his announcement as an early indication that changes in the top leadership are in the offing but they may not happen at least until the end of the next electoral term. “I think Dr Maximus is a very, very patient and far-sighted leader who prioritises unity in the Party above his own interests. That’s why he decided not to challenge Pairin in the coming Party elections. “It seems to me that Dr Maximus also prefers Pairin to hand over the leadership to other leaders in PBS in an orderly manner for the sake of unity,” said Political Analyst Clarence Sinsua of Ongkili’s final-term announcement. Sinsua said Pairin had done a lot for the people and the state, especially in fighting for the rights of the local people including the people of Tambunan when the district status of Tambunan was abrogated in 1984. “Many young people are not aware of Pairin’s struggles all this while. In my own view, Pairin as the Huguan Siou (Kadazan Dusun Paramount Leader) deserves to retire gracefully and in style from politics. I observe that Pairin is still the pillar of strength for PBS, and even Dr Maximus acknowledges this. “We hope that when Pairin ultimately retires, PBS will remain strong and united and continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the country’s political arena,” he told Bernama. He said several political parties were dissolved in the past due to infighting or a split in the leadership, and this should be a lesson for PBS, a component party of the Barisan Nasional (BN) in Sabah. Although PBS leaders suchasDeputy Presidents Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai and Datuk Pengiran AK Aliuddin, Vice-President Datuk Micheal Asang and Secretary-General Datuk Radin Malleh are capable of taking over the leadership, Ongkili remains the overwhelming favourite to helm the Party. The issue of leadership transition in PBS came to the fore recently when PBS Kiulu Division Chief Sindin Ranggangon called on Pairin to resign as Party President, saying it was time for someone with more energy, calibre and charisma to take over the leadership. Suggesting that Ongkili was the most appropriate person, Sindin claimed that PBS was undergoing a deadline as was evident from the drop in the number of votes garnered by PBS candidates and the loss of two of its candidates in the March 8 general election. Pairin had responded by saying that “the leadership change will definitely take place at the right time but the handing-over must be done in a very cordial and democratic manner”. Now, Sindin’s fate in the Party is banging in the balance following the “outburst” as the Party disciplinary committee will meet on Thursday to decide on the action to be taken against’ him. At least two PBS leaders, Radin and Kadamaian State Assemblyman Herbert Timbun Lagadan, wanted. Sindin to be referred to the Party disciplinary committee while Sindin maintained that he bad merely expressed the views of most divisional members on the matter. According to a PBS insider, there is already an arrangement for a smooth transfer of leadership to avoid a split in the Party. Party members hope that their leaders can come up with a panacea for the leadership issue and ensure that PBS emerges stronger by the time the next general election is due.