Datuk Ewon Benedik

KOTA KINABALU (May 16): United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (Upko) vice president Datuk Ewon Benedik is ready to challenge Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau for the party presidency if the members wanted him to do so.

The Kadamaian state assemblyman said that his record and leadership in the district should speak for itself and he would let other party members dictate whether he should accept the challenge.

“I am not challenging anyone’s leadership but I would like to offer my own leadership record here in Kadamaian to the other party members.

“If they feel this record can be made into inspiration for the party, and if they feel the time has come, I am ready to take up the challenge,” he said during his speech at the Upko Kota Belud triannual meeting in Taginambur here.

Also present were Upko deputy president Datuk Donald Peter Mojuntin, secretary-general Nelson Anggang and the party’s Youth chief Felix Joseph Saang.

There has been political talk that the 40-year-old Ewon would challenge Tangau for the presidency amidst waning support for the party.

“I know people have been saying there will be an announcement today. I leave it to the party, specifically to the Upko divisions to interpret my statement today. I am ready to take on the challenge if they want me to lead this party,” he said.

Ewon said that the members of the party would be the best way to gauge interest and judge what the next move of the party should be.

“We cannot contest in the next election if our members are divided and leave the party. We will not be able to compete against the government bloc without fresh inspiration that can rebuild support towards the party,” he said.

It was previously reported that Tangau was said to have been offered a “president mentor” position by senior party leaders and subsequently make way for Ewon to take over the reins.

The party polls are expected sometime in October this year. However, there has been no indication from Tangau on whether he was willing to step aside and allow for fresh leadership in Upko.

An aide to Tangau said that he is currently in the United Kingdom to attend his daughter’s graduation, adding the latter’s statement could be expected after his return to Sabah.

Upko’s constitution requires the contender for the presidency to obtain at least one-third, or nine, nominations from the 25 divisions.

Ewon, who was a first-time assemblyman in the Warisan-led administration in 2018, was Minister of Rural Development. He won again in the 2020 snap polls.

The party, with a local Sabahan native base known as KDM, seems to have lost the support of its voters in the 2020 polls with Ewon the sole representative in the 73 seat state assembly, after the party contested 12 seats.

Tangau, who is Tuaran MP, contested the Kiulu state seat but lost to PBS’s Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.