KOTA KINABALU, June 24 — Two top Kadazandusun Murut leaders in Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) will battle it out for the deputy presidency post at the upcoming party elections.
PBS vice-president and deputy chief minister Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam is facing a challenge from party secretary-general and assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai for the number two post.
Bangkuai, a former journalist, said he decided to contest the post following good backing from party members and also due to current deputy Datuk Seri Radin Malleh’s decision not to defend his seat.
“The DP post is now vacant following Radin's decision not to defend his post. In the last party election I received the second highest number of nominations after Radin, but decided to pave the way for Radin to be returned unopposed,” said Bangkuai.
He said he was encouraged by the number of nominations he received despite not having actively campaigned and now he wants to honour their wishes.
“To me, their nominations reflect the maturity and capability of the divisions in making their evaluation of leaders. This ought to be respected,” said the Kiulu assemblyman.
Bangkuai said he had a genuine desire to help party president Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili to further strengthen the party by making full use of the experience and insight he gained while serving as the party's information chief and secretary-general.
“Knowing that this is a family contest and not about ‘unseating’ anybody ... the real winner is the party,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gunsalam, who is five term Kundasang assemblyman, said he would leave it to the delegates to decide who to vote for.
“This is just within PBS to assist the president in discharging his duties to all PBS members. To me it’s another responsibility and not a privilege,” he said.
Ongkili, a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, is expected to retain his post unopposed when the party holds its 36th and 37th Annual Delegates Conferences back to back from June 28-July 1.
The three deputy presidencies are for a non-Muslim Bumiputera, a Muslim Bumiputera and a Chinese slot.
Datuk Jahid Jahim is expected to retain the Muslim Bumiputera deputy presidency while Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai will likely face a challenge from Datuk Yong Oui Fah.
However, the contest for the non-Muslim Bumiputera deputy president’s post is widely seen as the most significant as the holder of the position is the most likely successor of the party.