KOTA KINABALU: A medical doctor and a former journalist are set to square off for the deputy presidency of Sabah’s oldest party, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS).
PBS vice-president Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam, 64, and secretary-general Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, 60, will lock horns at the coming party congress to claim the No. 2 post for the non-Muslim bumiputra quota.
Dr Gunsalam is a deputy chief minister while Bangkuai is the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister.
Both confirmed yesterday that they will be contesting the post.
Incumbent Datuk Seri Radin Malleh has opted out.
The 36th and 37th annual PBS delegates’ conferences will be held back-to-back from June 28 to July 1, with the party elections scheduled for June 30.
The contest for the non-Muslim bumiputra deputy president’s post is widely seen as a chance for party delegates to put in place the second echelon leadership.
The holder of the post is widely seen as the most likely successor to the president of the multiracial party which draws its strength from the native Kadazan Dusun Murut Rungus (KDMR) community.
PBS president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili is tipped to be returned unopposed, according to party officials.
Bangkuai said this was not the first opportunity afforded to him to contest the post as he had received the second-highest number of nominations after Radin in the last party polls.
“But I decided to pave the way for Radin to be returned unopposed,” he said when contacted.
He said his decision to vie for the post now was also in response to the openness practised within the party.
“I am encouraged by the good number of nominations (this time) despite having not openly sought to be nominated, which to me reflects the maturity and capability of the divisions in making their evaluation of leaders. This ought to be respected,” he added.
Bangkuai said he had a genuine desire to help the president further strengthen the party by making full use of his experience and insights to “refresh, revitalise and rejuvenate PBS”.
In a brief text message, Dr Gunsalam said he had trust in the delegates to make their best judgment.
“I leave it to their wisdom. This is just within PBS to assist the president in discharging his duties to all party members,” he added.
Ongkili took over the reigns of the party from founding president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan in 2017.
A contest is also on for the deputy president’s post for the Chinese quota with incumbent Datuk Seri Dr Yee Moh Chai being challenged by former Tanjung Aru assemblyman Datuk Edward Yong Oui Fah.
Datuk Jahid Jahim is expected to retain the deputy presidency for the Muslim bumiputra quota uncontested.
Besides the battles for the deputy presidencies, keen contests are also anticipated for various other positions including the vice-presidencies.