PBS-Star merger not so soon, says Gunsalam

PENAMPANG: There is no merger between Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (Star) yet.

PBS deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam yesterday said although the grassroots members of both Sabah-based parties had given full support to the idea, but to him, a merger might not happen at this point of time.

"Before we merge, we need to understand each other. But we (each party) do have constitutions as a political identity. We need to look into them and refine the constitutions, then we can talk about it, why not?" he said prior to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between both parties at Hongkod Koisaan here.

Dr Joachim, who will become acting PBS president from June 1, said a merger or MoU would be meaningless if members did not honour its objectives in unifying the people.

He said that when there were misunderstandings, members would cross over to other parties.

"It is our rakyat who are at the losing end. They look up to leaders to be united to look after the rights of the people."

Star president Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said both parties were not in the rush for a merger despite it being their ultimate goal.

"Let us get 'engaged' first, we learn to work together. We would also invite other local-based parties which would be contesting (against) us. But for now, let us both become an example to them in working together, and they will follow suit."

The cooperation between PBS and Star was on an agreement basis and not legally binding.

Jeffrey, who is deputy chief minister, said in case of a fall-out, both could mutually withdraw from the pact.

As for state election seat allocations, both parties had indicated their existing 13 state seats as non-negotiable with the other five component parties in the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah coalition.

In the 2020 state elections, PBS won Kiulu, Tamparuli, Bandau, Tandek, Kundasang, Telupid and Lumadan while Star won Tambunan, Bingkor, Liawan, Tulid, Sook and Paginatan.

Earlier, Huguan Siou (paramount leader of Kadazandusun) Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan was described by Dr Gunsalam as the person who had been promoting cooperation between both parties.

When asked whether the agreement was to amend the disunity among leaders since 1994, Pairin said those memories hurt him. Since that year, the former PBS leader had faced many betrayals from other leaders in forming and maintaining the government.

"I do not want to go back to what happened in 1994, it hurts and saddens me. But this is an indication that there is awareness about the need to be united for the sake of Sabah and its future."

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