Bandar Seri Begawan - Several people planning to perform the Haj flocked to the Department of Haj Affairs in Jalan Kota Batu yesterday to find out their fate following the announcement by the Saudi Arabia government that Brunei can only send 400 pilgrims this year.
The Sunday Bulletin approached several intending Haj pilgrims for comments. They all requested anonymity for the interview.
One man said he was preparing for a 'Makan Doa Selamat' for safe passage to the holy land but had to postpone his event as he was awaiting confirmation from the Haj Affairs Department.
He hoped that those 1,000 intending pilgrims who could not make it this year would be given priority next year and in the years to come.
Another man who is expecting to perform the Haj for the first time said he was shocked to hear the news.
It was learnt that officers and relevant authorities held a meeting yesterday to discuss the matter.
One travel agency, Humaira Travel Centre (Borneo) Sdn Bhd said it had informed 217 intending Haj pilgrims about the matter and the cancellation of the Haj 2012 briefing which was supposed to be held today at the Islamic Dakwah Centre. The travel agency was also inundated with calls yesterday inquiring about the situation.
"We are hoping to inform our clients by Monday of who is eligible to go," the Manager, Hj Jamal Abdul Nasir said.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia have expressed regret that they are unable to approve Brunei Darussalam's request to secure more quotas for intending Haj pilgrims for 2012 corresponding to the Islamic year 1433 Hijrah.
Such a system had been in place since 2002, where the Sultanate had been allocated an official quota of 400 pilgrims. However, through annual consultations with Saudi Arabia, Brunei had been allowed to apply for 1,000 more quotas all this while, giving the Sultanate a total quota of 1,400 for each Haj season.
According to the Haj Ministry of Saudi Arabia, the move to cap the number of quotas for Haj pilgrims from countries around the world was due to the increasing numbers of the Muslim population and Haj pilgrims from Muslim countries. Furthermore, the Haj Ministry has received many applications for additional quotas that have put a strain on facilities and places of worship in the holy land, especially in Masyair Mina.
Brunei's Ministry of Religious Affairs has decided that the selection process for intending Haj pilgrims would be based on the following: those who have never performed the Haj, priorities in accordance to age groups such as 60 years old and above, 59 to 50 years old; 49 to 40 years old, 39 to 30 years old and 15 to 29 years old (those aged 15 years and below will not be given priority).
Haj pilgrims who suffer from weaknesses and will need a companion have to forward their application to the Haj Affairs Department for consideration, and according to the registration sequence. Should any problem arise from the implementation of the criteria mentioned above, it will be referred to the Syarak law.--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin