Is PBS Heading Towards Change Of Guard?
By Alan Ting
KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 (Bernama) -- For
the past two weeks there has been speculation that Parti
Bersatu Sabah (PBS) may see some changes in its leadership
as its top leader is said to be preparing a transition plan.
The talk became intense after PBS deputy president Datuk
Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili was reported to be shifting his
political base to his Tambunan hometown where his family
is said to be building a big house on ancestral land, just
a stone's throw from the house of his uncle and PBS president
Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.
Pairin is currently Tambunan assemblyman and also Member
of Parliament for Keningau.
Pairin, 71, is said to be contemplating winding down his
public roles as he has been an assemblyman for Tambunan
for the past 35 years, uninterrupted since 1976 when he
was still with Berjaya.
He also is the "Huguan Siou" or paramount leader
of the Kadazandusun, a Deputy Chief Minister-cum-state Minister
of Rural Development, president of the Kadazandusun Cultural
Association (KDCA) and sits in many committees, including
the Asean Eminent Persons Committee.
Maximus, 58, being a senior deputy president of PBS and
also deputy president of KDCA, seems to be the obvious choice
to take over, should Pairin decide to wind down his role.
However, in an interview with Bernama, Maximus said the
party was not heading towards a change of guard as Pairin
had not indicated that he would step down as president of
"There is no issue about party leadership. I will
continue serving as deputy president," he said.
Political analyst and lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Dr Bilcher Bala also concurred that the current PBS leadership
was still very much relevant.
"So far, Huguan Siou (Pairin) is still healthy. He
still can lead PBS for another term. Like PBB (Parti Pesaka
Bumiputera Bersatu) president Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud,"
He said should Pairin decide to step down, it would put
the party in a difficult position as to who should succeded
him, a situation similar to the PBB on who should take over
"How long Pairin plans to serve as president is not
an issue for the party. So far, the PBS leadership is quite
harmonious. He (Pairin) still can go for another term,"
But observers say Maximus, who is also Minister of Science,
Technology, and Innovation and who has held the Kota Marudu
parliamentary seat since 1995, is definitely the front runner
to take over from Pairin should the latter decide to retire.
Maximus has been a four term Member of Parliament and is
still popular among the party grassroot, they said.
In the 1995 general election, he was pitted against another
uncle, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, then with the Barisan
Nasional (BN) but Maximus won by garnering 64 per cent of
the total votes cast.
In 1999, while PBS was still in the opposition, Maximus
defeated yet another BN candidate, Maijol Mahap, for the
Kota Marudu parliamentary seat.
In 2004 and 2008 general election, whereby PBS had returned
to the BN fold, Maximus retained the seats both times.
It would be interesting to see if Pairin will sent out
signals of any imminent change in the party hierarchy.