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Umrah scheme scrapped in 24 hours
Published on: Sunday, December 17, 2017

Kuala Lumpur: A controversial system designed to prevent Muslim pilgrims from being conned by fraudsters has been discontinued, one day after it was launched by the Government.

Tourism and Culture ministry secretary-general Rashidi Hasbullah said the decision to cancel the Integrated Manasik Monitoring System (Imams) was made following brickbats from the public and feedback from industry players.

Imams would have been the sole authority for visa applications to perform the umrah.

The scheme charged each applicant a total fee of RM90.10: RM45 for processing, RM40 for a takaful insurance scheme, and 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST). The RM45 processing fee was the lowest among countries with similar systems.

The introduction of Imams led to some complaints, particularly from groups already handling umrah travel and packages, which insisted that there were sufficient safeguards against fraud.

According to reports, Tourism and Culture Deputy Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin had introduced the system on Friday to also better manage the umrah pilgrims, strengthen its regulatory management system as well as snuff out the errant operators.

The Umrah Regulatory Management Council, in an announcement, made it mandatory for all the 65 travel agencies accorded with the Muasassah (umrah special licence) to adopt and comply with the system.

Some critics had said Imams was nothing more than a "middle-man" to collect the fees, duplicating the function of the immigration department.

In a statement, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution questioned if a matter involving Muslims going on pilgrimage was being managed by non-Muslims.

"A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) showed that Integrated Manasik System Sdn Bhd had one Malay director and three Chinese individuals, listed as Company Secretary," said Saifuddin, who is also strategic adviser to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Ermieyati said she did not know it would be managed by a company run by non-Muslims.

She said she did not have information about the company.

"That information was not there (when it was provided to me). I got the letter in the afternoon after my media conference (yesterday) and I asked my officer again. The information was not there and I am very disappointed," she said.

She said after her press conference yesterday when she announced the system, she was told of concerns that one of the company's executives was a non-Muslim.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also tweeted his disapproval of the system.

"I disagree with the Imams system imposed on visa matters for those performing the umrah.

The announcement that is has been cancelled is very appropriate," Najib tweeted.

Ermieyati said the government would find another mechanism that was more efficient to deal with the problem of fraudulent umrah packages.

She said the government would also ensure that Muslims would be engaged to manage it.

"The Ministry will ensure that the new mechanism will be 100pc Islamic. We know how sensitive this is," she said.

Imams' chief operating officer was named as Ryan Loh in a circular announcing the implementation of the system.

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