Monday, October 1, 2007

Media-friendly duo slated to lead Kelantan

Reme Ahmad

KOTA BARU - At the annual general assembly of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) at the weekend, two Kelantan leaders spent time at the large media booth mingling and trading jokes with reporters.

One of them, Mr Mohd Amar Abdullah, left a box of name cards on a table so that everyone can have his mobile phone number.

The other leader, Mr Husam Musa, invited reporters to the beach to ride his four horses.

In their shiny baju Melayu outfits, both were at ease with journalists despite the often negative local media coverage of PAS. Unlike some of the top PAS leaders, the two did not shun the press.

The two 45-year-old men are the front runners to take over the Kelantan leadership from the Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat, 73, who had a heart attack on July 22.

Although they are viewed on the ground as being well suited for their posts, both made it clear that the final decision must be made by the party's top leadership.

Said Mr Mohd Amar, who is a cleric: 'We abide by whatever the leadership decides.'

He is a former lecturer at the International Islamic University and delivers sermons regularly on Islam.

Carrying the title of ustaz (religious teacher), he was often asked to appear on behalf of Datuk Seri Nik Aziz at religious functions. He also served as an MP for two terms.

When the Menteri Besar was seeking a successor last year, Mr Mohd Amar was brought in to contest a state seat in Kelantan. He is now the state executive councillor for information, science, education and technology.

Asked about his stand on women going to work and entertainment for the masses - two issues often raised by Datuk Seri Nik Aziz - Mr Mohd Amar said: 'Women can work but must ensure their families do not lose out. Singing is okay but we must have certain guidelines.'

Mr Husam, who is an economics graduate and a former MP, was also brought into Kelantan recently and is now the state executive councillor for finance. He shone in his role as an MP, asking government ministers tough questions about financial issues.

But he has no chance of being a Menteri Besar because he is not a cleric.

In the party's succession plan, Mr Mohd Amar will become the Menteri Besar of Kelantan while Mr Husam is slated to be the deputy.

In a party dominated by old clerics, the duo represent a crucial generational change being engineered in the background by the leading PAS players.

Kelantan is the only state ruled by PAS and it cannot afford to make a wrong move.

'The leadership change in Kelantan is important for the party. But let us wait and see what comes up,' said a guarded Mr Nasharudin Mat Isa, the PAS secretary-general. Unlike the strict Datuk Seri Nik Aziz, the duo, who are both fiery speakers, are seen as being less uptight about issues.

The popular Datuk Seri Nik Aziz will be a tough act to follow. He is mobbed wherever he goes by people who respect his simple lifestyle and views on Islam. 'We are willing to wheel him around in a wheelchair if that is what it takes for him to continue leading us,' said Kelantan assemblyman Abdul Patah Mahmood.

Umno has a stronger presence in Kelantan now and PAS must work harder if it wants to retain control of the state assembly in the next election. (Asia Media, 30/8/2007)


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