At 78 and now suffering heart problems, Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat is the subject of widespread speculation as to when he will step down as menteri besar, as well as the identity of his successor.Interviewed recently at his office in Kota Bharu, Nik Aziz said he is still capable of fulfilling his duties and that there is no need as yet for him to name a successor.
"(My health) is all right. If I stand for too long, I get tired. Doctors have told me not to (go on the ground) if I am tired. I'm old, and the 'battery' in my heart is weakening.
"Other than taking medicine, I pray (for good health). Even the Chinese are praying for me. When they see me, they tell me Jangan mati lagi, (don't die yet), Tok Guru," he said with a laugh.
"Even the Chinese are forbidding me from dying. They are more willing to listen to me than to the people from Umno."
Asked how his successor will be chosen, he said that one of the three deputy PAS state commissioners are likely to succeed him based on the hierarchy in the state and the party.
"It is 'automatic' according to party methodology. It is a form of preparation. We must have an umbrella ready before it rains," said Nik Aziz, who has headed the Kelantan administration since 1990.
Pressed further, he revealed that state executive councillor Ahmad Yakob is the front runner, by virtue of being the most senior of the trio.
"Ahmad is the first layer. Whether or not he is accepted by the people, that is up to God. But he is deputy menteri besar. A lot of my duties have been delegated to him."
The other two are Nik Amar Abdullah and Husam Musa. The latter is widely deemed to be Nik Aziz's protégé, although he has not received such endorsement. Little is known about Ahmad, who like many Kelantan assemblypersons, shies away from the national political limelight. A religious scholar and long-serving state lawmaker, he is the Pekan Pasir state assemblyperson.
However, Nik Amar has publicly endorsed Ahmad, as he wants Nik Aziz to name a successor quickly to prevent the likelihood of a power struggle in PAS.
Willingness to lead Pakatan
PKR politician Zaid Ibrahim, who is spearheading a move to register Pakatan Rakyat as a coalition, has suggested that it be chaired by Nik Aziz.Nik Aziz said he is open to the idea, when asked if he would accept such an appointment.
"I am the spiritual leader elected by the PAS central committee. What is wrong with being the spiritual leader of Pakatan? If you want to listen to me, thank you. If not, then I'm sorry.
"It is not a burden. It will increase my following. I would be happier leading open-minded Chinese than narrow-minded Malays," he said with a smile.
However, he instantly brushed aside any idea that PAS would compromise on its goals, such as the implementation of hudud law and establishing an Islamic state. These policies have been formulated on PAS' religious obligations, he said, and therefore cannot be compromised. He also insisted that these policies have been generally misunderstood, and invited his Pakatan colleagues to clarify the matter with PAS.
"There is no need (to quarrel). Say what you want, but listen to our reply. Don't make accusations and (then) when I reply, you don't listen. Tak boleh! (This won't do). Islam means you should ask questions. If you don't understand (our policies), ask," he added.
Some of the Q & A with Tuan Guru Nik Aziz......
Malaysiakini(MK) -During the Bagan Pinang by-election, it appeared that non-Muslims did not back PAS. Why was that?
TG.Nik Aziz(TGNA) - It was not just a by-election. There were other factors. Blood was spilled. Malaysians must understand that when people get hurt, it is not a by-election. There was assault (on PAS workers) and threats. Umno often threatens people. They threaten (people with) the Internal Security Act and withdrawal of subsidies.
MK - Within Pakatan Rakyat, there is frequent objection to issues like hudud law or the Islamic state. How far is PAS willing to compromise? For example, DAP usually has a different opinion on these issues.
TGNA -No man can have it easy all the time. Some times we fall ill. Even doctors fall ill. God has created the world this way - there are angels and demons, good and bad, heaven and earth. As Muslims, we live by the teachings of the Prophet. When someone is lazy, we preach about diligence. They then become hard-working. Cowards are told tales of bravery. They become brave. The wayward are taught about the pious (and) become religious. There is no need (to quarrel). Say what you want, but listen to our reply. Don't make accusations and (then) when I reply, you don't listen. Tak boleh! (This won't do). Islam means you should ask questions. If you don't understand (our policies), ask.
MK - So you mean that PAS cannot compromise on its position on hudud law and the Islamic state?
TGNA - How can we compromise? This is our ibadat (religious obligation). If we reject the meaning of Islam, we are rejecting our ibadat. God created man to follow ibadat, which is not restricted to just praying.
MK - So how will PAS go about this? Some younger people in DAP can accept PAS, but veterans like national chairperson Karpal Singh, are more adamant about the party's secular position.
TGNA - Tidak apa (It is no big deal). Karpal Singh is someone very senior. Sometimes, when people kacau (agitate) us, we have to look at them first. Sometimes, we look at them at say, 'Let him be. He is old. Let's respect him'. People who speak like Karpal Singh are getting fewer. He is a watak lama (old player).
MK - So Tok Guru, you are willing to talk...
TGNA - Yes. We can discuss. I like it very much when people ask me questions. If I can answer, I will. If the topic is beyond me, I will ask the person to ask someone else.
MK - There is a suggestion by PKR politician Zaid Ibrahim that you should chair the Pakatan Rakyat coalition as spiritual leader, when it is registered. Have you considered this?
TGNA - I am currently the spiritual leader elected by the PAS central committee. What is wrong with being the spiritual leader of Pakatan? If you want to listen to me, thank you. If not, sorry. If they listen and reject, I'll ask them why. This is Islam.
MK - So you are willing to take on this added burden?
TGNA - It is not a burden. It will increase my following. I would be happier leading open-minded Chinese than narrow-minded Malays. (smiles)
MK - How is your health?
TGNA - Alhamdulillah. It is all right. If I stand for too long, I get tired. Doctors have told me not to (go on the ground) if I am tired. I'm old, and the 'battery' in my heart is weakening. Other than taking medicine, I pray (for good health). Even the Chinese are praying for me. When they see me, they tell me Jangan mati lagi, (don't die yet), Tok Guru. (laughs) Even the Chinese are forbidding me from dying. They are more willing to listen to me than to the people from Umno.
MK - Are you going to take a break from politics?
TGNA - I cannot take a rest from politics. I can only take a break from the party. The party and politics are different. In politics, no one can be excluded. But I can take a rest from the party.
MK - How long more do you intend to serve as menteri besar?
TGNA - How would I know? How old am I? Will my body take it? As long as PAS accepts me, I will remain. If PAS ask me to leave this afternoon, I will stop. If Umno tells me to step down, I'd reply: 'If not for you, I would have stepped down a long time ago...'. I feel proud if Umno hates me. It proves that I have kacau (shaken) them (up).
Moga Allah lanjutkan usia Tuan Guru..........