KOTA KINABALU: Some Upko members are calling for Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau to remain as the party president after it won two parliamentary seats under Pakatan Harapan in the recently concluded general polls.
This is despite Upko vice-president Datuk Ewon Benedick being set to take over the presidency under a power transition plan agreed on by the party leadership last September.
Tangau had retained his Tuaran seat in the Nov 19 general election.
He had also pulled out of the presidency race at the time to pave the way for Benedick to assume the top position in what was supposed to be a smooth transition.
Benedick had wrested the Penampang seat from Parti Warisan in the polls.
Responding to the call for Tangau to continue helming the presidency, Kota Belud Upko division coordinating secretary Dr Rizoh Bosorang instead reminded all Upko members to respect the party’s constitution and its election process which had already been completed.
Rizoh said the decision on the leadership transition had already been finalised in the Upko supreme council meeting on Sept 28.
He added that the new leadership to be headed by Benedick was supposed to take over during its triennial general meeting on Oct 15-16 but said that it was postponed due the 15th General Election (GE15).
The Upko divisions, he said, had already submitted their candidates for the president’s post as well as other positions in the supreme council.
“It’s no secret within the party that Benedick received more than two-thirds of the candidacy from the (27) Upko divisions,” he said in a statement on Monday (Nov 28).
“(Then) Tangau made a diplomatic statement of him not defending the position. (So) the party’s election process in line with its constitution has already concluded and we ask for all members to respect the process,” added Rizoh.
Rizoh said that Pakatan chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had also invited Benedick to deliver the welcoming speech as the Upko president-elect during the Pakatan presidential meeting at Parliament on Oct 5.
Tamparuli Upko liaison chief Jeffrey Teo was quoted by a local daily earlier on Monday as saying that Upko’s two seats in GE15 and Tangau’s appointment into the Pakatan presidential council was ample justification for the latter to hold the president’s post for now.
Teo said Tangau’s experience as a former federal minister as well as deputy chief minister would be a waste if he backed down from the top seat.
He said when Tangau spoke about stepping down, it was before GE15 but the situation was far different now after Pakatan’s performance in the polls.
In GE15, Pakatan won five seats in Sabah through DAP (two), Upko (two) and PKR (one).
Towards this end, Rizoh said unity in the party was important in order to grow the support from various segments of the society including former members who wished to return to Upko due to the new leadership.
“We congratulate Tangau for defending his Tuaran seat but we are also proud of Benedick who took the risk (by contesting in Penampang) and succeeded in adding to Upko’s strength.
“We at Upko Kota Belud were taught to build a team and to make decisions based on the party’s interest.
“We must respect the decision that was made together instead of just one person making decisions,” he said, adding he hoped Upko’s triennial general meeting scheduled for Jan 14 to 15 will run smoothly.
The delayed leadership transition is expected to take place during the event.