Royal consent to partly fund pilgrims’ Haj fares
Rokiah Mahmud

THE Ministry of Religious Affairs yesterday announced that His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has consented to grant financial aid amounting to $564,206 to partly cover the total Haj fare that need to be paid by the intending Haj pilgrims for this year.

This assistance is only given to a total of 104 intending Haj pilgrims that comprise those whose names were not listed last year to perform the fifth pillar of Islam due to the reduction in Haj quota by the Government of Saudi Arabia.

This was disclosed by Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Bahrom bin Pengiran Haji Bahar, in his capacity as the Advisory Chairman for Haj Committee during a press conference yesterday at the Ministry of Religious Affairs building in Jalan Menteri Besar.

The Deputy Minister said the assistance that will be provided is deposit money that has been paid by the ‘unlisted’ intending Haj pilgrims last year for their Haj packages and fares to respective Haj operators. However, since some of these Haj operators have not refunded the money to these ‘unlisted’ intending Haj pilgrims, it was seen as a financial burden for them to raise the money to pay the deposit.

Therefore, the royal gesture will ease the intending Haj pilgrims’ journey to the Hold Land.

“We are very thankful and would like to express our gratitude to His Majesty for granting assistance to intending Haj pilgrims who could not perform their obligations last year.

“However, at the same time, the Ministry of Religious Affairs will still be collecting the refund money that has not yet been paid by some of Haj operators.

“Instead of these Haj operators repaying it individually, they will pay back the government either by instalments or in a lump sum depending on their financial abilities,” said the Deputy Minister.

“This deposit assistance is limited to those who wanted to perform Haj only,” he reiterated.

Pg Dato Paduka Hj Bahrom said one of the primary aims in providing such assistance is to fulfil these intending Haj pilgrims’ wish to perform the obligation hindered due to the reduction of Haj quota. Aside from that the assistance also serves to extend the Islamic eminence in the country and at the same time maintain the number of pilgrims performing the Haj.

“This noble intention of His Majesty portrays the ruler’s concern and care towards his subjects in looking after their welfare and well-being, especially in encouraging his subjects to perform the fifth pillar of Islam and as part of investment that will benefit in ‘akhirat’ (hereafter),” he added.

The Deputy Minister also said that the Ministry of Religious Affairs would like to inform the increase in 1434 hijrah Haj fares. The fares are $3,500 for an adult and $2,800 for a child. To offset the fares, the Government of His Majesty through the Ministry of Religious Affairs has increased the top up or subsidy for this year’s intending pilgrims.

The initial top up or subsidy given was $600, which has now been increased to $800 per adult and from $475 to $775 for a child.

The additional top up or subsidy that has been allocated is to offset the fares to be paid by intending pilgrims that is $2,700 per adult and $2,025 per child.

Only intending pilgrims that meet the guidelines and criteria that have been outlined will be eligible for the top up.

Also, Bruneian citizens and permanent residents performing the Haj for the first or second time are only eligible for the top up.

Foreigners who have been granted with His Majesty’s Haj passages, Haj passages that have been allocated for government officials and staff already serving the government for 12 years; pensioners and widows, Haj passages granted by His Majesty for Muallaf and champion qari and qariah of the National Al-Quran Reading Competition are all not eligible or qualified for the top up.

Dato Seri Setia Haji Abdul Aziz bin Orang Kaya Maharaja Lela Haji Mohd Yusof, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and Haji Abdullah bin Haji Mohammad, Acting Director of Haj Management Department, were also present at the press conference. - Borneo Bulletin (20 September 2013)