KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam has placed himself in the best position to take over from Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili when the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president retires in three years.
This follows his razor-thin victory over Datuk Joniston Bangkuai for the No. 2 post under the non-Muslim bumiputra quota of Sabah’s oldest party.
Rather than staking a claim to the leadership, the 64-year-old who is Kundasang assemblyman, 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,” said Dr Gunsalam, 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), 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,” added the Sabah Deputy Chief Minister, a vice-president prior to the latest party polls.
However, when pressed if he was ready to helm the presidency if required, Dr Gunsalam said he would do his best for PBS.
“Ready or not, I’ll do what I can as I love and live for the party,” he said.
Dr Gunsalam garnered 339 votes to defeat Bangkuai, the former PBS secretary-general, who secured 334 votes in the PBS polls that wrapped up in the early hours yesterday.
The deputy president for the non-Muslim bumiputra quota is widely seen as the most likely successor to the president in the multiracial party which draws its strength from the Kadazan Dusun Murut Rungus community.
Bangkuai, 60, said it was a creditable result for him despite being an underdog.
“As a party man, I’m always prepared to help the party in whatever capacity that’s given to me,” added the state Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister who is also Kiulu assemblyman.