The Party
Historical Background

PARTI BERSATU SABAH (PBS) was registered as a political party on 5th March 1985 amidst an uncertain and turbulent political environment. The founding president The Hon. Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan was only months earlier forced out of the ruling BERJAYA party for his fearless stand against certain party policies that had diverted away from its original struggle.

He bravely faced the might of the ruling government as an Independent candidate in a by-election for the Tambunan seat in December 1984. Against all odds and despite massive threats, insinuations and "vote-buying" through on-the-spot approval of development projects and other private amenities, incumbent Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan retained his State Assembly seat with an overwhelming majority of 3,048 votes.

The triumphant victory of Datuk Seri Panglima Pairin in the Tambunan by-election ignited a fire of political bravery that inspired a new movement of Malaysians in Sabah to push for political change and challenge the abuse of political power, stifling of democratic rights, and disrespect for human dignity committed by the BERJAYA government. These few brave, risk-taking and visionary Malaysians led by the Tambunan Assemblyman, and backed by a silent but grossly dissatisfied majority at the grassroots' level, formed the initial core leaders of PBS in 1985.

The subsequent political records of PBS were amazing. So much so that Sabah's political landscape became a fertile field of research for aspiring, young political scientists.

In the April 1985 State election, PBS won 26 of the 48 Legislative Assembly seats. It formed the new State government with Datuk Seri Panglima Pairin as Chief Minister, but not before one of the leaders of the losing parties made a mockery of parliamentary democracy by attempting to get sworn in as Chief Minister. This incident later became a major court battle with the judiciary ruling in favour of the PBS government.

After 11 months of governing under tremendous pressure, PBS called for another State election in 1986. This time it won 34 of the 48 Assembly seats, thereby forming the State government for the second term.

In 1990 PBS called for the State general election and this time won 36 seats and formed the State government for the third successive term.

In February 1994 PBS faced the general election with unprecedented pressure from the Barisan Nasional, largely because of the party's sudden exit from the national coalition four years earlier. Despite the presence of phantom voters PBS still won the elections for the fourth successive time but with a reduced majority, i.e. 25 seats as against the Barisan Nasional's 23 seats. Datuk Seri Panglima Pairin had to wait for more than 36 hours outside the palace (Istana) gate before he was sworn in as the Chief Minister because of manouvering by Barisan Nasional leaders who could not accept the people's democratic verdict.

The fourth-term PBS government lasted only about two weeks before it was forced out of power through undemocratic manouverings by the Barisan Nasional. The resignation was caused by defections of a majority of PBS Assemblymen to Barisan Nasional parties. Some of the former PBS leaders also formed their own political parties.

Having lost the majority in the State Assembly, Datuk Seri Panglima Pairin resigned as Chief Minister on 17 March 1994 before a shocked Malaysian public. It was unbelievable that a case of a democratically elected government losing power within days after a general election due to party hopping by dishonourable Assemblyman was happening for the first time on Malaysian soil.

In 1994 PBS undertook a major restructuring of its organisation and political machinery. PBS is the only Sabah political party that has won four successive State elections. It has not lost a single general election. This solid record and the undignified way that PBS was forced out of government have kept the party's supporters intact at the grassroots' level. The number of members and supporters is still growing daily.

In the April 1995 general parliamentary election, despite having a new set of leaders, PBS won eight (8) of the 20 parliamentary seats in Sabah. Two seats were lost narrowly to Barisan Nasional candidates by just about 200 votes. PBS remains resilient and true to its political struggle and set to achieve its stated mission and objectives.

In the March 1999 Sabah General Elections, despite all the odds and tainted electoral rolls, PBS managed to win 17 seats with a total votes of 213,432 against the combined BN component which garnered a total of 240,110 votes.

On 22 April 2000, six PBS Assemblymen led by Datuk Dr Jeffery Kitingan defected to PBRS. On 8 June 2001, the High Court concurred with Dr Chong Eng Leong in his Election Petition to declare the State Seat of Likas null and void. A by-election for Likas was held on 21 July 2001.

On 11 September 2001, Datuk Pairin publicly supported the Prime Minister of Malaysia stand in denouncing the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre.

On 12 and 13 September 2001, the 16th PBS Delegates Conference gave a mandate to the Supreme Council to make a decision with regards to the issue of PBS re-entry to the BN. At the Supreme Council meeting held on 13 November 2001, a resolution on PBS's re-admission to BN was approved.

On 15 November 2001, Datuk Pairin led a Supreme Council's delegation to submit PBS application for re-admission into BN to the BN Chairman, YAB Dato' Seri Dr Mahathir bin Mohammad at the Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur.

On 23 January 2002, PBS was re-admitted into the BN's fold.

On 14 April 2002, five PBS Assemblymen who defected to PBRS together with the Deputy Speaker return to the PBS's fold.

On 26 October 2002, Datuk Pairin led the Supreme Council's delegation to make a courtesy visit to the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The 17th PBS Delegates Conference held on 3 and 4 November 2002 was officially declared open by the Rt Hon Deputy Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi.

On the March 2004 Sabah General Elections, PBS won 13 State seats and 4 Parliamentary seats allocated to it. Datuk Pairin was made the Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Rural Development, Dr Yee Moh Chai as Minister of Resource Development and IT, Datuk Radin Malleh as Assistant Minister to teh Chief MInister, Edward Yong as Assistant Minister of Local Government and Housing, Jahid Jahim as Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports, Jornah Mozihim as Assistant Minister of Social Welfare and Services. Dr Maximus Ongkili was appointed as a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department with the Racial Unity and Integration as his main portfolio.

With PBS now as a major partner in the Sabah BN government, the political situation in Sabah has now stabilised. A new chapter for Sabah has now begun.





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First published: 22-SEP-1997   Updated: 25-May-2003 Email: webmaster