KOTA KINABALU, Nov 15 – It was an emotional gathering as veteran Sabah politician Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan delivered his last speech as president of Parti Bersatu Sabah, which he formed and led for 33 years.
The teary eyed 78-year-old told delegates that he was placing the party in the hands of his “loyal and capable” deputy of 22 years Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili and wanted them to ride the current “rough patch” and take the party to greater heights.
“I will not lie, this is emotional for me. PBS has been my life for 33 years, but I am proud to finally make way for Dr Maximus to take the helm,” he said when delivering the party’s keynote address at the opening of the 33rd party congress.
“As the ‘father’ to PBS, I would like to call on the new leadership to continue our party struggles. I trust PBS is in good hands,” he said in urging the new leadership to renew the party and attract the younger generation to meet the fresh political challenges in the state and country.
“We have gone through a lot together and it was not hard for me to let go of leadership because I believe I have trained him (Dr Ongkili) well. He is ready to shoulder all challenges, and I strongly believe he will help bring PBS to greater heights.
“Of course, this is possible if each and everyone of you give him the full support and cooperation, as how you have rendered your services to me for the last 33 years,” Pairin said.
Dr Ongkili, the Kota Marudu, was returned unopposed as party president while the party expected to see keen contests for various positions including the three deputy president posts.
Pairin, who has been a face of Sabah politics over the last four decades, lost his Tambunan state seat held since 1976 to his younger brother cum Sabah STAR president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan in one of the many shock defeats in the May 9 general election.
He reminded members that PBS has been though the ups and downs political struggles from being in government to opposition over the last three decades, but the party’s core struggles must continue.
“Before I step down, I would like to thank everyone who have always been around to assist and help. My advice to you all is to never give up. Stay united in PBS although we are in the opposition now.
“Never be ashamed to fight for our rights. Don’t ever shy away from fighting what is right for PBS, for Sabah and for Sabahans. Always remember that PBS is you and you are PBS, he said amid to thunderous applause.