Pairin Stays Put As Party Chief; Dr Max Has To Wait Longer To Helm PBS

Pairin, fifth from left, about to strike the gong, to launch PBS’ 31 annual congress in Penampang on Tuesday, Ongkili is seen third from right on the front row. Speculation was the Kota Marudu MP would be endorsed as the acting President after the Congress.

PENAMPANG – Although he repeated his intention to retire from active politics, long-serving Parti Bersatu Sabah president, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan does not seem willing to pass the reins of the leadership just yet to his deputy, Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili.

File photo of Pairin in 1976 when he was first elected as Assemblyman for Tambunan.
File photo of Pairin in 1976 when he was first elected as Assemblyman for Tambunan.

Pairin on Tuesday told reporters that he will not defend his Tambunan state and Keningau parliamentary seat in the 14th general election, but he has stopped short of stepping down as party chief.

Instead the septuagenarian, who entered first won Tambunan state seat in 1976, wants to lead the party, he formed nine years later after being booted out from Berjaya, into the next elections scheduled for anytime from now until 2018.

Although Pairin spoke of his intention to retire from politics, saying that he wants to focus on family and write a book, he also quipped: “Ninety nine per cent, I will not contest in the general election.”

Dr Max Ongkili
Dr Max Ongkili

It was widely anticipated that Pairin would announce that he was stepping down as party president to facilitate the smooth switch-over to Dr Maximus at the party’s 31st annual congress held at the Hongkod Koisaan Tuesday.

The move was seen to allow Dr Maximus to lead the party into 14GE, but the Kota Marudu member of parliament’s supporters expressed disappointment that this did not take place.

They have however declined to comment for the moment.

PBS will now defer its leadership change only after the general election, when PBS holds its party elections, just like most of the Barisan Nasional component parties.

“The plan is there, a recent supreme council meeting in July is a part of the preparatory step in the party’s succession plan,” said Pairin who is also Deputy Chief Minister cum Infrastructure Development Minister.

But Pairin and Maximus, who are relatives, had nothing but praise for his nephew, stressing:

“He (Dr Ongkili) has a heavy burden to shoulder and I am sure he can handle it.”

“Dr Maximus will oversee party affairs while I will continue to carry out my ministerial duties.”

Pairin said Maximus is well suited for the top PBS post, having been his deputy for about 20 years.

In July, the PBS supreme council endorsed Pairin’s decision to go on leave from the party and for Maximus to take over the duties of the president.

Pairin who formed PBS in 1985 has been its undisputed leader since then and is the longest-serving elected Assemblyman in Sabah, having first won Tambunan in 1975 under a Berjaya ticket.