KUCHING: The rift among Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) grassroots leaders on who they should back to succeed president Datuk Amar Leo Moggie in the September party elections is now in the open.
Leaders from three of the branches in Julau district in central Sarawak said party deputy president Datuk Daniel Tajem should be nominated as president if Moggie retires, and treasurer-general Joseph Sallang as deputy president.
Sallang, who is MP for Julau, is a close aide to Moggie, the federal Energy, Communications and Multimedia Minister.
Moggie, who has led PBDS since its formation in 1983 by a breakaway Dayak group from Sarawak National Party, announced early last year that he would not seek re-election at the forthcoming party triennial general assembly.
But leaders from six other branches said they would support information chief Datuk Dr James Masing and vice-president Datuk Sng Chee Hua to run for the partys number one and two posts respectively.
The verbal war between the two groups started when Julau Proper branch chief Desmond Sunok Jamba, Pakan Lemunjan branch chief Andrew Unguan and Bayong branch chief Mathew Tibu said they did not support the Masing-Sng team to contest the president and deputy president posts as reported.
Sunok said members who had backed Masing and Sng did so in their personal capacities, and their views did not represent that of the majority of Julau party members.
Their remarks immediately drew a rebuttal from chairmen and secretaries of the Entabai, Bekatan, Engkamup, Meluan, Rayah and Sungai Rusa branches who said in a joint press statement on Saturday that they had supported the Masing-Sng alliance because they believed the two leaders could make the party a strong partner in the Barisan Nasional and ensure its future in the government.
One Akin Sylvester Meling has claimed that he, not Sunok, is the elected chairman of Julau Proper branch at a general meeting sanctioned by the partys central working committee.
Forty-six branches in Sibu and Lundu, which jointly held their annual general meetings in the past two weeks, were reported to have backed Dr Masing, also state Social Development and Urbanisation Minister to contest for the president post.
They have supported Sng, the most senior Chinese leader in PBDS, to be Dr Masings running mate for the deputy presidency.
Tajem, who warded off a strong challenge from Dr Masing to retain his deputy presidency in a bitter fight in the 2000 party elections, has declared his interest to go for the presidency.
The 66-year-old Tajem has clarified that he had never backed Dr Masing as his running mate should he contest for the president's post.
Dr Masing received more support to contest for the partys top post from branches in Sri Aman, which held their joint general meeting yesterday.
All branches should hold their meetings by March 31.
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