The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the state enterprise Hajj Corporation have signed an agreement under which officers of the MNDF will attend hajj pilgrimage to provide assistance to pilgrims.
The memorandum of understanding was signed at an event held at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs on Tuesday – signed by Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam and Hajj Corporation Managing Director Yamin Idrees.
Speaking at the event, Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed revealed that a similar agreement will be signed with the police force in the near future.
The minister further revealed that the Hajj Corporation would be covering all expenses of the officers who will be attending the pilgrimage. He stated that he aimed to eventually have all MNDF officials attend hajj prayers under the initiative.
The corporation is sponsoring seven MNDF officers this year.
An official of the Hajj Corporation stated that the idea behind the initiative was not to have MNDF officers conduct menial tasks for the pilgrims, but rather to facilitate a means for soldiers to engage in the prayers of Hajj.
Hajj Corporation Chairperson Dr Aishath Muneeza stated that 400 pilgrims would be taken to Mecca for the pilgrimage this year. She added that a delegation of the corporation is soon leaving for Saudi Arabia to seek ways of increasing convenience for Maldivian pilgrims, including the renting of a separate hotel solely for the use of Maldivians during the hajj season.
MNDF Spokesperson Major Hussain Ali told Minivan News that they have not decided a criteria under which officers who will get the seven pilgrimage slots this year will be selected.
“So far, we have just signed the memorandum of understanding with the Hajj corporation and announced it. We have not yet drafted a selection criteria, though it will be done under some form of selection process,” Major Ali said.
Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed stated that the ministry would not be directly involved in either the selection of officers, or in the compilation of criteria for selecting officers. He said that the target was to allow officers selected by the Hajj Corporation and the MNDF to be able to attend pilgrimage completely free of charge.
The MNDF also concluded a Quran recitation ‘Qari’ course on Monday, held in alliance with The Centre for Holy Quran. Twenty MNDF officers participated in this course.