BY : LUKE RINTODKOTA KINABALU: The Sabah chapter of Sarawak-based State Reform Party (STAR) top leadership has appointed its new state line-up in a presidential-decree style, shocking reform-minded leaders in the party.
With the absence of a clear proviso in the party constitution, Sabah STAR chairman, Jeffrey Kitingan, is apparently left with absolute power ‘to hire and fire’ in the party here.
He began his bid to overhaul the party following its shocking defeats in the recent 13th general election, by not reappointing all his five deputies.
The five who were dropped are Daniel John Jambun, Awang Ahmad Sah Awang Sahari, Paul Voon, Dr Nicholas James Guntobon and Jacob Sadang Chang.
Except for Jambun, the rest, it is understood, have not indicated their intention to stop serving in their capacities.
Jambun has since told FMT that he wanted to concentrate on the activities of his UK-based NGO, Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (BOPIM).
FMT learnt that Kitingan only consulted a few Sabah STAR leaders on his new line-up, notably its secretary Guande Kohoi, leaving even some senior leaders who had stood in the just-concluded general election, in the dark until last minute.
Paul Voon, Awang Ahmad Sah and Dr Guntobon however were among the 60 party divisional leaders summoned to Sunflower Restaurant in Penampang near here to hear the announcement.
Dr Guntobon when contacted said he is now one of the vice-chairmen in the party and has been retained as Kitingan’s deputy head for Keningau.
Dr Guntobon however has been “stripped” of his post as coordinator of Liawan state constituency where he had stood in the recent election.
Keeping genuine leaders
Jambun when contacted only said: “I refused reappointment. I wanted to focus on my NGO that seeks to restore the sovereignty of Sabah as nation”.
He refused further comment on STAR and surfacing rumours of disappointment among the party’s second-echelon of leaders on the new line-up which they claimed included a fresh former Umno leader. The ex-Umno leader has apparently been appointed as vice-chairman.
Guande who was the party’s secretary is now one of the vice-chairmen.
Kitingan reinstated its youth leader Hasmin Azroy Abdullah but replaced women chief Melanie Annol with veteran political activist Rosalind Bion.
Meanwhile, a divisional leader who requested anonymity, told FMT that STAR would go a long way in convincing people if it practices “dictatorial” leadership.
Observers opined that while Kitingan could not entirely be faulted for acting in a “presidential-decree” style due to the absence of constitutional proviso for the Sabah chapter, the least he could have done was carry-out his decisions after some consultation with his comrades who had stood by him in the past.
In the May 5 general election, STAR won only one state seat – Bingkor – through Kitingan. Party members still reeling from the shock, blamed his inner circle of advisors and Kitingan’s poor choice of candidates.
But Kitingan told FMT post-elections that he had “no control” over “at least 15 seats” where the candidates had secured “surat watikah” directly from Sarawak STAR to contest in the constituencies.
He also admitted that while they had effectively achieved their aim of enlightening Sabahans on the Borneo Agenda through the thousands of tea-party sessions held across Sabah, the direct beneficiary unfortunately had been Pakatan Rakyat.
Pakatan wrested 12 state constituencies – through PKR and DAP – and three parliametary seats. (FMT)