KOTA KINABALU: Sabah's political parties must unite and cooperate as a team to get back state's rights lost or eroded over the past 60 years, says Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) founding president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.
He said close and sincere cooperation among all parties would strengthen Sabah in its efforts to protect state rights for the benefit of the future of the people in the state.
Pairin, who is premier advisor to PBS, said this when asked about Sabah STAR led by his younger brother Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan’s proposal for a merger between the parties under the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition.
"In Sabah, we have to protect Sabah rights and Sabah's democracy and its future as a team of Sabahans," he told reporters after officially opening the 38th PBS Congress at Dewan Hongkod here Sunday (Sept 24).
Pairin, who is a former Sabah chief minister, said that it would be "wise" for PBS to cooperate with Sabah STAR so that they can move together as a team.
"Cooperation does not mean merger, you can work together and support each other in respective constituencies without sabotaging each other," added.
Pairin said that it was more important for such cooperation to achieve the people's wishes to see state rights protected and returned, especially those laws that were taken away under the Malaysian emergency.
"It is wise for them to work together, we have other groups who don't support our noble intention. If you think logically those laws passed during emergency rules are now rendered invalid.
"So working together is a good thing, discussing with each other on how to protect Sabah and its future especially in Parliament in the context of brotherhood and love for Sabah is important.
"We must move together as a Sabahan team," Pairin said, adding that the issue was not just about Kadazandusun or Murut communities but every community in Sabah.
"We are not just looking at the Kadazandusun or Murut community cooperation, we want to see everyone uniting and working together for the sake of Sabah," he added.
Delegates at the congress are expected to discuss the issue of cooperation of merger between PBS and Sabah STAR.
PBS leaders have left the issue to its grassroots members to air their views over the merger issue before making a decision on it during the party Congress.
PBS president Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili did not touch on the merger issue during his policy address at the meeting although party deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam told the party's Youth and Wanita wings to discuss the matter on Saturday (Sept 23).
Ongkili in his policy speech said that the party intended to amend the party constitution to allow for triennial meetings instead of annual, create a new Puteri wing to accommodate the new teen voters of 18-year-old and above.
Ongkili's speech was delivered by Dr Gunsalam.
Ongkili, who was present at the Congress, is avoiding making public speeches as he is undergoing speech therapy following his recovery from a long bout of health related issues.