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.


Over 70 unable to perform pilgrimage after paying dues

Families of 76 expectant pilgrims who made payments to the al-Fatuh Hajj Group protested outside the company’s offices today after they were unable to depart for Mecca.

According to local media, the group was provided a quota of 118 by the government, but charged 76 additional people.

Online news outlet CNM reported that the group agreed to reimburse the disgruntled clients within 10 days. About 25 families reportedly gathered outside the group’s offices this afternoon.

Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed declared this week that Hajj groups that accepted payments from people in excess of their quotas would be disqualified next year.

Of the 800 pilgrim quota afforded to the Maldives by Saudi Arabia, 400 were reserved by the government’s Hajj Corporation while the rest were divided amongst Hajj groups chosen after a bidding process.

The government-owned corporation charged MVR69,965 (US$4,537) per person. Performing the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime is one of the five pillars of Islam.


Over 1000 Maldivians set for Umra pilgrimage

An estimated 1,120 Maldivians are expected to take part in a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, later this month in celebration of the Islamic holy month of Ramazan, according to local media.

Miadhu reports that 10 different organisations within the country are said to be involved in providing Umra packages that include transportation to Saudi Arabia, as well as accommodation and food. Each year, around two million people are said to take part in the Ramazan Umra pilgrimage.

According to the report, packages are believed to cost around Rf30,000, though these costs are thought to have increased by 15 percent since changes imposed to the fixed US dollar exchange rate came into effect earlier this year.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs was unavailable to confirm the figures when contacted by Minivan News at the time of going to press.