Monday, October 1, 2007

My successor should be a professional ulama, says Nik Aziz

Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat is on the lookout for a successor and the ageing politician wants the candidate to be both a professional and an ulama (religious scholar).

In a recent interview, he said his decision to rope in former parliamentarians Nik Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah and Husam Musa to contest for state seats in the last elections was the first step of his succession plan.

Nik Amar is the former Pengkalan Chepa MP and now Pancur state assemblyperson while Husam is the former Kubang Kerian MP and now Kijang state assemblyperson.

“Yes, my efforts to bring them back from Parliament was to groom them to replace me later but their future also lies in the hand of the voters in future general elections,” said Nik Aziz when met at his office in Kota Baru recently.

“The people that I have brought back today cannot become menteri besar overnight, they must be trained first, learn how to become a ‘student’ in the state legislative assembly and learn how to generate financial revenue for the state,” added the PAS spiritual leader who has helmed the state since 1990.

However, Nik Aziz when questioned declined to pinpoint his successor. “I can’t say it now, it is not even the (next) general election yet.”

The 73-year-old politician, popularly referred to as ‘Tok Guru’, also did not state specifically when he would step down.

“If the rakyat agree with me and my health condition allows, there is no reason for me not to contest in the coming general election... but this also could be my last term,” he asserted.

Horse riding accident

Quizzed about his health condition, Nik Aziz said he goes for regular check-ups and recalled how a horse riding accident when he was eight had affected his health.

“I won in the horse competition with my brother. I was too excited and raised my hands. Suddenly a lizard crawled across, I was shocked and then fell off the horse,” he reminisced.

Following that, Nik Aziz said he came down with fever that lasted for about four months and even lost his hair.

“So my life is actually hidup mati balik,” he said.

Returning to the succession plan, Nik Aziz said in future there should be no distinction between the ulama and professionals in the party.

He said the schools administered by PAS in Kelantan placed equal emphasis on religious and academic subjects.

“We demand that an ulama is also a professional. It doesn’t matter that we lag behind now, but those who will take over later would not have a division between the two groups,” he added.

Nik Aziz quipped that he belonged to the ‘golongan lama’ (old group) who need the assistance of professionals to run the state.

“So we need professional-ulama who have combined knowledge of both - like graduates from the Al-Azhar university - and this is definitely the party’s future direction,” he added.

He said this would also resolve the ulama - professional divide in the party, which if left unchecked could destroy PAS.

In recent years, professionals who have moved up the hierarchy are seen as indirectly challenging the ulama’s hold on the party while the latter blamed the former for downplaying the Islamic agenda, resulting in PAS’ miserable showing in the last polls.

However, Nik Aziz is convinced that these two factions must work hand in hand.

“Islam says the ulama is needed as well as the professionals. Ulama are to enact policy while professionals are tasked to implement them, politics and religion are undividable,” he said.

DAP should return

Asked about development in Kelantan, the menteri besar said he was grateful to see more investors willing to invest in the state despite of “political pressure”.

“We can see more buildings now and let’s not forget that we have flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Baru every day. How can people say Kelantan is not developed?” he asked.

To another question on the relationship between PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in the Barisan Alternatif, Nik Aziz said the two parties should ensure the continuance of the alternative front.

“We have to continue the coalition. Even for DAP, I don’t think they should have withdrawn from BA, I hope they would come back and join us,” he added.

The Chinese-predominated DAP pulled out from the coalition in 2001 after crossing swords with PAS over the latter’s insistence to establish an Islamic state. (Malaysiakini)


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