Joachim not thinking of becoming PBS president just yet

Dr Joachim (left) and Bangkuai were involved in tightly-contested battle for the No 2 post in the PBS polls.

KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam (pic) has placed himself in the best position to take over from Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili when he retires in three years’ time.

This is following his razor-thin victory against Kiulu assemblyman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai for the No 2 post for the non-Muslim bumiputra quota on Friday (July 1).

But rather than stake a claim to the leadership in Sabah’s oldest party, the 64-year-old instead chose not to be drawn into the issue, saying he doesn’t necessarily have to be Ongkili’s successor.

“It could be anyone as there are two other deputy presidents at the moment,” he said, referring to Datuk Jahid Jahim and Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai who retained the deputy presidencies for the Muslim bumiputra and Chinese quotas respectively.

“The president’s post has no colour, neither blue (non-Muslim bumiputra quota) nor red (Chinese quota) nor yellow (Muslim bumiputra quota).

“The person can also come from one of the vice presidents or even among the newly elected Supreme Council members. I can see some of them very capable,” said the Sabah Deputy Chief Minister.

However, when pressed if he was ready to helm the presidency if he was required to do so, Dr Joachim noted that he will do his best for PBS.

“Ready or not, I’ll do what I can do for the party as I love and live for the party.

“But personally, I would say that I wish the president’s health could become better as you never know what could happen in three years.

“We would try to persuade him to continue on as he’s still quite young but life is like that,” he said.

In what was a neck-to-neck tie, Dr Joachim garnered 339 votes to defeat Bangkuai, the former PBS secretary-general, who collected 334 votes in the PBS polls that wrapped up in the early hours of Friday.

The deputy president for the non-Muslim bumiputra quota is widely seen as the most likely successor to the president of the multiracial party which draws its strength from the Kadazan Dusu Murut Rungus (KDMR) community.

Commenting on his slim-majority win, Dr Joachim reiterated that the contest had always been a “family affair”.

“If you look at the results, the way I see it, both of us are needed in the party. I think both of us will do our best to help the president to improve the party,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bangkuai, 60, said it was a creditable result for him despite being an underdog in the contest.

“It was close. And there’s always another chance at another time so, I will continue to fight for the party.

“This was my first time contesting a senior position in the party. It was an honour to have that opportunity to be elected as a deputy president.

“As a party man, I am loyal to the party. I’m always prepared to help the party in whatever capacity is given to me,” said the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister.

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