KOTA KINABALU: Delegates of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), the state’s oldest party, will discuss a possibility of merger with fellow native-based Sabah STAR.
Leaders of PBS, who have remained non-committal over the merger, are leaving it to the delegates at the 38th party congress to decide on a mechanism that might see a merger or closer working relations with Sabah STAR, led by Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.
Opening the party’s Youth and Wanita wings’ annual general meeting here yesterday, PBS deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam left it to the floor to have an open discussion for any decision towards the merger proposal by Sabah STAR.
“I leave it to you (delegates) in the Youth and Wanita wings to discuss the best mechanism to look at the merger or a working relationship,” said Dr Gunsalam, who is currently heading the party’s special force.
Dr Gunsalam, who is Deputy Chief Minister II, is handling party affairs in the absence of PBS president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, who is unwell.
Dr Gunsalam said that PBS, as a member of the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), was already in a working relationship with Sabah STAR, which is also a GRS component.
“What is clear is that we in PBS will give our unwavering support on cooperation within GRS, of which PBS and Sabah STAR are important components.
“I suggest that we cooperate more closely with Sabah STAR because it actually started (breakaway) from PBS and its struggle is also not far from our struggle,” he told the delegates.
He said the political situation in Sabah was no longer like the past where one single party could rule the state.
“Now we have to be realistic that most likely, there is no longer one party that can dominate the entire state like in the era of Usno (1967-76), Berjaya (1976-1985) and PBS (1984-1994).
“We have to accept that we need to have comrades in arms to lead the government together in the future.
“We need to strengthen our collaboration with GRS and the top leadership of PBS is fully committed to working with GRS in the next state election.
“This approach is important so that we convey it to the grassroots level to prevent confusion among PBS and GRS supporters,” he said.
In March 1994, the PBS state government under Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan collapsed to a spate of defections by its leaders who formed their own parties to support the Umno-led Sabah Barisan Nasional in forming the state government.
Jeffrey, Pairin’s younger brother, had also left for several other parties before forming Sabah STAR.
Currently, PBS holds seven state seats and a single seat in Parliament. Sabah STAR holds six state seats and also a seat in Parliament.
The seats are mainly non-Muslim native-based seats, but both parties are multiracial based.
In their opening speeches, both PBS Youth chief Christopher Mandut and Wanita chief Datin Malianah Ugau told delegates to hold important discussions on the matter.
The main PBS congress will be opened by Pairin, the party’s adviser, while Dr Gunsalam will read out Ongkili’s policy speech during the congress today.