The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has slammed President Abdulla Yameen for “lying” to senior citizens about sponsoring 142 Maldivians to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.
In a meeting with senior citizens on Sunday night, the president pledged to send 142 pilgrims to Hajj this year on government expenses. But president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told local media two days later that the president’s remarks were misunderstood.
Muaz said the president had not pledged to cover the expenses for 142 pilgrims but to secure placements for 142 senior citizens through the government-owned Hajj Corporation.
“The main essence of the president’s remarks is that the government will give the necessary attention and care fully for senior citizens going to Hajj,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.
But President Yameen had said that the government would “facilitate the opportunity for 142 people to go to Hajj under free government aid”. The number could increase manifold if the economy improves and stability prevails, he said.
He noted that many senior citizens could not afford to perform the pilgrimage.
The MDP meanwhile said in a statement yesterday that the party is “extremely concerned that the president gathered senior citizens and told a big lie in front of them regarding the holy Hajj worship”.
“We are equally concerned about [Muaz] saying that it was senior citizens who were confused after President Yameen told such a big lie,” he said.
The MDP appealed to the president not to “diminish the dignity and respect” of senior citizens.
President Yameen also said Saudi Arabia had increased the Hajj quota for the Maldives from 1,000 to 2,000 this year and that the government is working to sponsor more Maldivians to perform the pilgrimage.
Last year, the Hajj Corporation reached the limit of its quota of 370 slots while hundreds were in line to register. Police later assisted in dispersing the crowds of would-be pilgrims in the queue.
Each pilgrim needs to pay MVR 69,965 (US$4,537) to the Hajj Corporation. Those who have previously performed the Hajj pilgrimage are not eligible to apply via the state corporation.