KOTA KINABALU: Parti Upko president Datuk Ewon Benedick is extending the "peace pipe" to former party stalwarts who quit the party over the years.
Holding a Christmas reunion gathering of the "Upko alumni" on Wednesday (Dec 7) evening, former party strongmen like Datuk Seri Wilfred Bumburing and Datuk James Ligunjang, among others, joined in the celebrations with other senior party leaders.
Among those seen at the gathering were founding president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, his successor cum Tuaran MP Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau and other party veteran leaders.
Ewon, who took over the helm of the native-based party from Madius last year, said he was opening the door to former leaders and members to rejoin the party or play a role in the party's national development agenda.
He said Upko was launched in Ranau in 1999 after it changed its name from Parti Demokratik Sabah.
He said over the years, Upko has matured through its various struggles and whatever reason for the disunity of the past could become a new strength for the party.
"I am open to criticism and suggestions from not only party members but also former party members," he said.
"For me, the presence of our founding deputy president Bumburing and other former leaders means we are back together in the big family of the Upko.
"I will continue to be guided by the previous leaders of Upko to strengthen and empower this party," said Benedick, who is Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister.
Benedick also explained the reason why he and other Pakatan Harapan elected representatives withdrew their suit to recover the 40% return of revenue from Sabah assured under the constitution.
He said that there will be a roundtable discussion to work out a mechanism for the federal government to pay back 40% of the total revenue received from the state.
“The issue of 40% revenue return to the state is the major issue of the people in the state.
"The federal government has set one year from July 2023 to July 2024 to put in place a mechanism to pay the 40% to the state.
"In the meantime, the RM300mil channeled to the state was only an interim payment while waiting for the mechanism to be in place," he added.