Bandar Seri Begawan - Some of the intending Haj pilgrims who couldn't make it to Saudi Arabia to fulfil one of the five pillars of Islam when Saudi Arabia reduced Brunei's quota from 1,000 to 400 last September, are now trying to get their deposit refunded from some of the government-appointed Haj operators.
A few approached the Bulletin to air their grievances as they alleged that some of the travel agencies were uncooperative and owed them their refund running into the thousands.
Several efforts have been made, they claimed, to negotiate over the refund, but some of the Haj operators have remained silent.
Frustrated and dissatisfied with the response, a few who have yet to get their deposit back approached the Bulletin to air their woes hoping that their grievances will be heard.
One of them, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had tried negotiating with one of the managers of an agency they intended to follow. He said a few days before the intending Haj pilgrims left for Medina, "we contacted the manager and was told that he was not in the country and had left for Saudi Arabia to handle the pilgrims before their arrival".
"With no other option, we waited patiently until the Haj pilgrims returned. On November 5, I tried to contact the agency to remind them on the refund that they have yet to settle and I was informed by the agency that a decision cannot be made at the moment as the manager has not yet returned from Haj," he recalled.
"It has not only happened to me but others too have encountered the same problem and are frustrated with the response from the agency.
"For some of us, the amount is meaningful as after much sweat and hardship we finally raised enough money to go to the Holy Land to perform the fifth pillar of Islam.
"For example, my wife and I have deposited almost $13,000 of our own money for the packages that were offered by the agency," he said.
Some travel agencies have fully refunded the money to their respective intending Haj pilgrims who couldn't go due to the cut in quota, while some have paid only quarter of the total amount that should be refunded.
"At least the travel agency has provided us with details and breakdown of their expenses such as deposits, transactions such as hotel bookings, tickets, Haj agents and so on. They should provide us with a specific date when we will receive the balance of our money. At the same time, we are seeking support from the government authorities especially the Department of Haj Management to assist us in solving the matter," he said.
They hoped that they will get definite answers as they are ready to negotiate with the travel agencies to discuss the problems.--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin