TAWAU: Retiring Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s successor Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili is all ready to take the Kadazandusun-based party to greater heights.
Dr Ongkili said Pairin was his mentor who had set a “very high standard” of leadership, especially in humility, integrity and resilience.
“After 22 years as deputy president, I am confident that we can add value to PBS as we re-invent our machinery and sharpen our focus to meet current challenges,” said the 62-year-old.
Pairin has decided to let Dr Ongkili handle party affairs in the first step towards retiring at the end of the current term.
In thanking Pairin and the PBS supreme council members for entrusting him to manage party matters, the Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister said he anticipated challenging times ahead.
Pairin is widely expected to hand over reigns of the party to Dr Ongkili during the party’s congress in November but will remain Deputy Chief Minister till the end of the current state assembly’s term in 2018.
Dr Ongkili has been deputy president of PBS since 1994 when top party leaders broke away that year to form their own parties.
This followed the collapse of the PBS government three weeks after winning the 1994 state elections.
As a Pairin loyalist, Dr Ongkili has managed to stave off challenges to his deputy position over the years with the last strong bid in 2015 by former party secretary-general Datuk Henrynus Amin.
“I am the longest serving deputy president. I am well prepared for the task,” he said.
He added that in his early years in politics, he was detained for 59 days under the Internal Security Act in 1991 when he was implicated in Sabah Star president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan’s (Pairin’s younger brother) alleged plan to take Sabah out of Malaysia.
He said such experiences strengthened his passion to speak for the truth and renewed faith in God while giving invaluable lessons on political resilience and management.
“My first nine years as MP and state assemblyman were with the Opposition,” Dr Ongkili said.
“I learnt a lot through the hard way, but the last three terms as Cabinet Minister exposed me to decision-making in the central government,” he said.
“So, we have the experience to face the challenges confronting the party.”