Tourism Ministry makes U-turn on new visa application system for pilgrims

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on September 3, 2017, during the annual haj pilgrimage. The Tourism Ministry has canceled a new visa application system for umrah pilgrimages, just a day after it was launched. – AFP pic, December 16, 2017.

PUTRAJAYA has halted a new visa application system for umrah pilgrims a day after implementing the system which drew fire from pilgrimage tour agencies and the public.

The Integrated Manasik Monitoring System (IMAMS) will not proceed, Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin tweeted today, adding that a press conference to explain the matter would be held this evening.

“The IMAMS system for umrah has been cancelled. PC (press conference) to be held at 6pm, at WOW Restaurant, Matic KL,” she tweeted.

The system, which charged an additional RM90.10 per pilgrim was aimed at curbing fraud involving umrah packages.

The breakdown of RM90.10 per pilgrim is RM5.10 for GST, RM40 for insurance and RM45 for the system used by IMAMS, which is integrated and compatible with the Saudi Arabian embassy in Malaysia for visa processing.

But the Umrah and Haj Tourism Agencies Association (Papuh) said it was akin to charging toll on pilgrimages. Papuh added that the rate was unreasonably high, given that there were similar visa application systems that were free of charge as well as cheaper insurance coverage.

It also questioned why the company managing the system appeared to be headed by non-Muslims and asked whether they would be able to understand the needs of Muslim pilgrims.

IMAMS was also criticised by PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, who questioned whether the system and company operating it were meant to benefit government cronies.

“Is there a guarantee by the government that this will wipe out fraud in umrah packages? Or is this project just to fill the coffers of some cronies,” he said, adding that the Tourism Ministry should instead conduct stricter enforcement against umrah and haj agents who cheated pilgrims.

IMAMS was also opposed by Umno Youth exco member Nazir Hussin Akhtar Hussin, who said the appointment of a private company headed by non-Muslims did not make sense.

Pilgrimage fund Tabung Haji should be the body responsible for handing umrah matters instead of a private company, he was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian Online. – December 16, 2017.

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  • All fraud cases with umrah packages has so far been committed by the Muslims themselves, perhaps participation by all regardless of religion can bring a form of check and balance to the system.

    Posted 6 years ago by Xuz ZG · Reply