President Yameen ‘lied’ to senior citizens

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.


Updated Hajj regulation will help prevent fraud: Deputy Islamic Minister

Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Aishath Muneeza has said that the updated regulations for Maldivian Hajj pilgrims would help prevent Hajj-related fraud cases in the future.

Muneeza told Minivan News that the new regulations published in the Government Gazette today would make the whole Hajj process more transparent and accessible.

“We have brought major changes to the existing Hajj regulations,” said Dr Muneeza, who also serves as Chair at the state owned Hajj Corporation – officially inaugurated last week (January 20).

Dr Muneeza said one of the biggest improvements to the regulation was the introduction of a new bank guarantee to be held at the Islamic ministry paid by the Hajj agencies, requiring the agencies to deposit 25 percent of the price per head when submitting proposals.

The regulation states that the deposited money will be used to cover any required expenses which have not been paid for by the agency such as airlines or hotel payments. It also states that the money will be taken to the ministry if it receives news that the agency has taken more customers than the quota assigned to the company.

While the Hajj Corporation is to handle 50 percent of the quota given by the Saudi Arabian government, the remaining slots are equally distributed to three private companies after a bidding process.

“We have also changed the requirements of agencies submitting proposals to the ministry,” explained Dr Muneeza. “The managing director of the company should now have five years’ experience of taking people to Hajj compared to the previous one year of experience”.

Under the new regulations, the license will not be released to the company if “anyone convicted or suspected fraudulent Hajj transactions are present in the board of directors or management,” requiring the companies to hand in the criminal records of all board members while submitting the proposals.

“The new law would also require the agencies to submit a timeline to the ministry giving itself deadlines such as the dates by when tickets are brought, money is taken from customers. This allows the ministry to keep track of the agencies while giving them some leeway to construct their own timeline,” said Dr Muneeza.

Speaking at the ceremony inaugurating Hajj Corporation last week, Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed – while pledging to reduce the cost of the pilgrimage  – said that the government has become more involved in the Hajj grips after the activities of unscrupulous Hajj companies.

Last year, the government covered the expenses of 121 defrauded customers of the Al-Fathuh Hajj Umra Group with an amount in excess of US$500,000.

Dr Shaheem revealed to the press that Al-Fathuh only informed the ministry that it would be not be able to take the customers to Mecca the day prior their departure.

Related to this story

Government sends defrauded pilgrims to Mecca

Hajj corporation inaugurated, Shaheem pledges to reduce cost of pilgrimage

Police arrest al-Fathuh Hajj group managing director for fraud

Hundreds queue to submit forms to Hajj Corporation


Hajj corporation inaugurated, Shaheem pledges to reduce cost of pilgrimage

President Abdulla Yameen last night officially inaugurated the Maldives Hajj Corporation, with Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed pledging to reduce the cost of the pilgrimage.

Shaheem told those in attendance at the ceremony held at Hotel Jen yesterday evening that MVR110 million (US$7.1 million) had been deposited with the corporation so far, noting that government had become more involved in the Hajj trips after the activities of some unscrupulous companies.

The state-owned Hajj Corporation was established during the presidency of Dr Mohamed Waheed in 2013, after legal wrangling over whether the Islamic Ministry should be forced to reevaluate several unsuccessful bids by private Hajj groups.

Of the 1,000 pilgrim quota afforded to the Maldives by Saudi Arabia last year, 500 were reserved by the Hajj Corporation while the rest were divided amongst Hajj groups chosen after a bidding process.

Sun Online has reported that the corporation’s quota is now filled until 2017.

Source: Haveeru, Sun Online


ICD to assist in strengthening Maldives Hajj Corporation

The Islamic Development Bank has confirmed its support in strengthening the Maldives Hajj Corporation, reports the Islamic Ministry.

The Islamic Corporation For The Development of Private Sector (ICD) – a branch of the IDB – informed the government of its willingness to assist Maldivian pilgrims journey to Mecca.

Discussions on the matter was held during Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed’s visit to Saudi Arabia to attent the IDB’s annual gathering.

During the visit talks were also held on broadening ICD’s business ventures in the Maldives, and provision of budget support to the country.


Islamic Minister states MVR 35 million deposited in the Hajj Corporation to date

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has stated that to date, MVR35 million has been deposited in the accounts of the Maldives Hajj Corporation.

Speaking at the launching of PPM Parliamentary Candidate Ahmed Nihan’s campaign, Minister Shaheem stated that the “large amount of money deposited in the corporation in such a short period of time shows the level of trust that the citizens have in the corporation”.

The minister further revealed that both the previous and the incumbent administrations have provided financial aid to the corporation, detailing that the Yameen administration has so far provided MVR5 million.


Hajj Corporation reaches quota limit, begins registration for 2015

The Hajj Corporation has reached the limit of its quota of 370 slots for this year’s Hajj pilgrims as hundreds continued to queue outside its registration offices in Dharubaaruge.

The announcement that the limit has been reached in the early hours of Tuesday led to voices of discord among the hundreds in line. Police later assisted in dispersing the crowds of would-be pilgrims gathered at the location.

The state owned Hajj Corporation has reserved 30 of the 400 slots it received – half of the total quota allowed to the Maldives from the Saudi Arabian government – for the security forces and other officials who will be performing Hajj while assisting pilgrims.

The remaining 400 slots are reserved for those who wish to apply to join the pilgrimage through private hajj groups, though the Anti Corruption Commission has called for the groups’ bidding process to be revised.

Each pilgrim needs to pay MVR 69,965 (US$4,537) as total payment to the Hajj Corporation. Those who have previously performed the Hajj pilgrimage are not eligible to apply via the state corporation.

On Tuesday morning, the Hajj Corporation commenced accepting applications and payments from those who wishes to perform Hajj pilgrimage in the next year.

Under a programme termed ‘Long term initiative to fulfill Hajj pilgrimage saving package’, the corporation will be accepting applications for 2015 until 2pm on Wednesday afternoon (March 5).


Hundreds queue to submit forms to Hajj Corporation

Additional reporting by Ahmed Naish

Hundreds of would-be pilgrims have been queuing outside Dharubaaruge since last night to submit forms to the Hajj Corporation.

The corporation began accepting application forms at 9:00am this morning.

Of the 800 pilgrim quota afforded to the Maldives by the Saudi Arabian government, 400 were reserved by the Hajj Corporation. The remaining 400 pilgrim quota are to be divided among local Hajj groups selected through a bidding process.

The bidding process for the remaining allocations was halted last week, however, as the Anti-Corruption Commission last week ordered the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to revise the criteria for awarding quotas.

As of this morning, the number of people queuing outside Dharubaaruge reportedly exceeded 400 people.

The government-owned corporation announced last week that its rates for the pilgrimage were MVR69,965 (US$4,537) per person. Maldivians who have performed the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in the past would not be eligible.

Chairwoman Dr Aishath Muneeza told the press that the corporation will accept application forms for a one week period. The selected individuals will be announced after processing the forms and verifying information, she said.

Muneeza said the corporation’s goal was to provide quality service for the 400 pilgrims.

The corporation signed an MoU with the Maldives National Defence Force earlier this year for officers to assist pilgrims during their trip to Saudi Arabia.

According to the corporation, the hotels chosen for accommodating pilgrims will have ATM machines, internet, hot and cold water, coffee and tea at all times and room service at least once every day.

Other amenities and services include loading and unloading of luggages, 24-hour religious lectures, and laundry services. The corporation said it would allow a maximum of four people in each room.

For those with long-term Hajj plans, the corporation has introduced a “saving package” which can be purchased with an initial payment of MVR500.

The clients of this package will be allowed to make the Hajj pilgrimage when 75 percent of the total payment is completed on an installment basis.

Performing the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime is one of the five pillars of Islam.


MNDF officers to travel with hajj pilgrims for assistance

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.