From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, Muslim Leaders Cry Foul over New Hajj Policy
By Aruna Turay
Aug 30, 2010, 17:24

Following the dramatic decision by the APC government to centralize Hajj arrangements by banning all former organizations from dealing with intending pilgrims to the Muslim holy land of Mecca, members of the Sierra Leone Hajj Committee on Saturday 28th August 2010 expressed their grave dissatisfaction, and vowed to challenge the decision if government does not include them in the process.

In a press briefing convened at the committee’s, 70 Fourah Bay Road headquarters in Freetown, Chairman Alhaji Ahmed Swaray Deen informed that the decision by government was not in their interest, and that it aimed at undermining their credibility in a process they had been involved in for several years now with relative success.  He said they were operating a registered organization that deserved to be treated with due regard, adding that they have never disappointed or failed to meet the expectations of their clients.

Alhaji Swaray Deen expressed dismay at the way the APC government has made a twist in the whole affair as according him when they came to power in 2007 the President requested them to work with Vice President Sam Sumana to make a review of the process.  “In one of our meetings last July, the Vice President told us in his office that government intended taking over Hajj arrangement but with paying due cognizance of the role of the recognized Hajj committee,” he informed. He however, said that on the 6th of August another meeting was called by the VP where he informed them that a decision already taken by government to centralise the process.  “He even apologized to us and promised that government would work with us as a committee.  While waiting, we were shocked to hear a government release disbanding all organizations dealing in Hajj affairs,” he lamented. He said his organization has taken great exception to government’s disrespect for them, while disclosing that Muslims are displeased, and that if the decision was not reversed, they would likely take to the streets in protest.  

“This is embarrassing because as usual we as a committee have already started accepting advance payments of thousands of US dollars from customers and we have even almost concluded arrangements for flight booking,” Alhaji Deen revealed.

In conclusion, he said the only alternative for amicable resolution would be for government to take into account their legal existence by either allowing them to work together with the Ministry or allow them to continue their operations as before.

There has been no reaction yet from the Government to the views expressed at the press conference.

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