KOTA KINABALU, July 14 — Following the rebranding of the Sarawak State Reform Party (REFORM) last month, the Sabah chapter of the party under Sabah’s Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan will now be known as Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR).
Party president Jeffrey said that the newly packaged Sabahan party, is breaking away from its former identity and no longer has ties to REFORM, nor is it involved in the new coalition Gabungan Rakyat Saksama.
“We are now a full-fledged independent Sabah party but we will maintain the same acronym,” he said, adding that the party will have its own new logo that was already approved by the Registrar of Societies.
He said the party’s mission is to fight for Sabah’s rights as enshrined in the constitution, as it has been his struggle during his journey through at least five political parties in over three decades.
“Finally after 25 to 30 years, I finally have my own party, even though I’m at retirement age. After moving from party to party, exploring and bringing my own perjuangan (struggle). It wasn’t easy and I was called ‘katak’ (frog). But there’s no need to move anymore. I’ve got my own vehicle now,” he said.
The term ‘katak’ is often used to describe politicians who switch parties.
REFORM and its Sabah counterpart announced that they were going their separate ways after the Sarawak chapter changed its name last month in order to carry out more regional interests.
REFORM has since joined up with six other parties -Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDS Baru), Parti Sejahtera Angkatan Perpaduan Sabah (Sapu), Pertubuhan Perpaduan Rakyat Kebangsaan Sabah (Perpaduan), Sabah-based Malaysia United People’s Party (MUPP), Parti Kebangsaan Sabah (PKS), and the People’s Alternative Party (PAP) — to form Saksama.
Jeffrey, a long-time advocate for autonomy for the State, said that STAR would work with other local parties with the same agenda, namely the United Sabah Alliance (USA) comprising Sabah United People’s Party and Angkatan Perubahan Sabah, and would consider working with former Umno vice president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal if their agendas aligned.
“We have watching and listening — the chairman of USA was at Shafie’s house during his speech. As far as STAR is concerned, if they are working for state interest and not personal struggle, we will work with them,” he said.
He however invited other existing local parties to work with them and be united under the STAR symbol of a seven-point star.
Jeffrey, whose party could not reach a consensus with the opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance in the last 2013 general elections, said that they still welcome cooperation with the latter, provided they gave way and compromised for the local parties to contest where they had the local vote support.
“We’d like them to focus on Semenanjung (peninsular Malaysia) but if they wanna [sic] contest here, they are welcome but in residual seats where we don’t have the strength to go. Our focus is interior. Let us have that, while we are not too inclined in urban areas.
“If you are sincere in working towards changing the government and policies then let’s share our strengths. We don’t want to be under them. We want to be partners,” he said.