Describing him as a staunchly loyal PAS member, Nik Aziz said Mohamad Sabu, better known as 'Mat Sabu', had long been regarded as UMNO's arch enemy.
He said Mat Sabu's sacrifices in the long years in PAS had been proven, and his ups and down in political life had not caused him to compromise his commitment to the Islamic struggle.
"Mohamad Sabu has never shied away from his struggle, but continued to be in PAS," said Nik Aziz in his address at the PAS base in Taman Melewar, Gombak, during the 57th Muktamar, last night.
"Mohamad Sabu's election as the deputy president will cause UMNO to lose sleep. We are grateful for having a deputy president hated by UMNO. We pray Allah will give protection to Mohamad Sabu," he added.
PAS president Tuan Guru Abdul Hadi Awang described the newly elected party executive line-up as “his election cabinet” to face the next general election.
“Members have chosen a leadership for the election. That’s why I said this is our election cabinet,” said Hadi when asked to comment on the new line-up.
|NEW TOP DUO ... Abdul Hadi and his deputy Mat Sabu|
Hadi said the new line-up would enable the party to be "more relevant to replace UMNO".
Mohamad Sabu won the deputy presidential contest, beating incumbent Nasharudin Mat Isa and fellow challenger Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man. For the party vice president’s posts, incumbents Salahuddin Ayub and Mahfuz Omar retained their seats, with seat vacated by another former vice president Tuan Ibrahim being filled by Husam Musa.
Hadi brushed aside suggestions that the so-called 'ulama group' had not been elected for the top posts of deputy and vice presidents.
“I am grateful that the unity exists (in the party). Although people differ in deciding the winners, in the end, we have been bestowed with a result which is full of compassion.
"Every quarter respects the decisions made by the delegates and accepts anyone who is chosen as leader, especially in facing the 13th general election,” said Hadi, adding that having non-ulamas to lead the party was nothing new.
“This is nothing new. PAS had once chosen Haji Abas Alias who was not among the ulama as the party's second commissioner.
"Take a look at the new PAS Central Committee members, eight of them are ulamas, two doctors, others engineers and community leaders,” he told reporters in a joint press conference with his new deputy Mat Sabu and three vice presidents Salahuddin Ayub, Mahfuz Omar and Husam Musa.
Meanwhile, Mat Sabu expressed his commitment to help Hadi widen the Islamic party's appeal among non-governmental organisations and other parties.
Sabu also stressed that he would give importance to leadership of the ulama in PAS.
“I will help the President to widen PAS’s influence to non-Malays, other parties and NGOs. The leadership of the ulama will be strengthened, unlike UMNO who relegates the ulama in a bureau. In PAS, the ulama are in the Shura [consultative] council and the Ulama wing gives guidance to the party’s direction,” he said.
Mat Sabu said among his immediate priorities was to ensure the success of election reform group Bersih's rally in the capital next week.