PENAMPANG: Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, who is known for being vocal and firm in his stand on issues that are close to the hearts of Sabahans, such as the illegal immigrants and the Allah issue, is finally retiring from active politics soon.
His decision came after months of thoughts and soul searching, which he admitted was not easy to make, especially with continuous requests from members to stay on.
But believing that the decision is made in the party’s best interest, the 65-year-old former chief minister yesterday announced his decision to step down as the United Pasok Momogun KadazanDusunMurut Organisation (UPKO) president, with effect from March 21 this year.
The date also marks an important history for UPKO, as it signifies its ‘birth’ when he led it to be registered as a political party 20 years ago.
“There is no particular significance to announcing my decision today (yesterday). But the press has been asking me, and after some articles carried in the papers, I do not intend to keep the people waiting for me to give an answer, so I decided to go public, to avoid speculations.
“I actually decided to make my announcement today as UPKO was registered as a political party 20 years ago. As the founding president, I have therefore served 20 years as the president of the party.
“I have given my decision to step down a lot of thought and soul searching. It is not an easy decision for me, but I am convinced that the time has come for me to pass the baton to the new next echelon of leadership,” he said during a press conference to announce his retirement at the Nabalu Putru Lodge in Putaton, near here, yesterday.
As such, his deputy Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau, who is also the Tuaran member of parliament, will step in as the acting president as provided for in the party’s constitution until the next party polls. UPKO holds its party election once in three years, and the last election was in October last year.
“Members of the party are fully aware that I have, on many occasions in the past, expressed the view that the president must not outlive the party, as we have seen in some other parties in Malaysia. An overstaying leader can stunt the growth of the party. A change brings with it the opportunity for change, to try out newer ideas.
“A long stewardship brings with it the problem of stagnation. This is even more important today with the changing political landscape in the country. As the oft-quoted adage goes: ‘doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the height of madness’.
“What this means is that we must not fear trying new ways of approaching a problem. For example, a cook who does not experiment with new menus runs the risk of being outdated. Then imagine this cook staying on for decades in the same eating establishment. The customers are getting younger, the tastes are changing,” he said.
Dompok’s political stint began in 1985, and he took part in the general election for the first time the following year and won the Moyog state seat and the Penampang parliamentary seat under the Parti Bersatu Sabah ticket.
He was then appointed as the State Finance Minister, and in 1990, he again defended both seats.
Dompok had gained several victories, served several portfolios before becoming the chief minister in 1998. He also joined the federal cabinet as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and was the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister for four years since 2009.
Married to Puan Sri Diana Alip, they are blessed with five children. He was born in Penampang on October 7, 1949 and received his education in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan St Michael, here, and Sekolah Menengah La Salle in Kota Kinabalu, before pursuing a Bachelors of Science degree at the University of East London.
He is a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Fellow of the Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia.
Prior to his involvement in politics, Dompok was a valuer of the Sabah Land and Surveys Department in 1978, but left to work as a private valuer for five years from 1980.