Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak should take responsibility for the government’s U-turn on the Integrated Manasik Monitoring System (Imams), which was scrapped just a day after its launch, says constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari.

Abdul Aziz said it was wrong for Najib to disown the problem which had “embarrassed his administration.”

“As the prime minister, he has to take the responsibility even though he may not know or did not have a part in it. This is the essence of the parliamentary system of government.

“Just like Dr Mahathir Mohamad who was the prime minister when Operasi Lalang took place in 1987; it was wrong for him to shift the responsibility to the police.

“The buck stops with the sitting government and thus the prime minister,” Abdul Aziz said in a statement last night.

In a tweet yesterday, Najib voiced his disapproval of Imams, which was scrapped after public backlash following its launch on Friday.

Among others, there were concerns about having a non-Muslim top executive within the company tasked with managing the system.

Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, said she was not aware that there was a non-Muslim in the company.

Abdul Aziz said Mas Ermieyati must also take responsibility for the furore surrounding the issue, given her role “as part of the political team – together with the tourism minister – who presides (over) the department that created and put the controversial system in place”.

“This is what is meant by the individual responsibility of a minister,” the DAP member said.

Imams was meant to be compulsory for the umrah visa application process, and would have been imposed on all 65 tourism agencies that handle minor pilgrimages to Mecca in Malaysia.

The system was aimed at curbing umrah package frauds.

It would have incurred an overall charge of RM90.10 per pilgrim, comprising RM45 for using Imams, RM40 for a comprehensive umrah takaful insurance scheme, and GST.

MEANWHILE, according to The Malaysian Insight:

How did it go wrong for IMAMS? 

WITHIN a day, a government with an eye towards the general election has stopped an illogical scheme to make money from the growing Muslim pilgrimage business of umrah in Malaysia.

Prime Minister Najib Razak was right by saying he didn’t agree to the charges for umrah visas under the Integrated Manasik Monitoring System (IMAMS) run by a private company.

Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz was quoted as saying he cancelled the system as it was far different from what he envisaged and told Parliament.

His deputy Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said she cancelled it because non-Muslims were running the system that was ostensibly set up to manage the umrah pilgrims, strengthen regulatory management system as well as weed out errant umrah package operators.

Not because the system is run by non-Muslims.

After all, Nazri did say the service was only RM40 and not compulsory.

How can anyone misunderstand his idea and just implement a mandatory system for all travel agents in the Umrah business?

How can anyone imagine there won’t be an outcry from the potential pilgrims who have saved their money for the minor pilgrimage?

Who decided to go ahead and launch the system anyway? Was it the minister, deputy minister or ministry officials?

It cannot be an overnight decision. The system needs to be developed, tested and get feedback from the Saudi authorities and the industry. Were all views considered?

And was there any government funds used to develop IMAMS or was it just a private venture? Didn’t the government consider the ownership of the firm before awarding it the concession?

The entire episode and u-turn smacks of something bigger than just a simple misunderstanding.

It just tells you there are people in the government who are detached and disconnected from reality and think they can profit from the growing pilgrimage business.

Yes, the industry needs to be regulated and cheats needed to be stopped. But that’s the duty of the regulators, not a concession that charges money to do the job of the government.

Yes, IMAMS might have been a good idea on paper but really, it costs more than the RM90.10 per pilgrim – its a potential vote per pilgrim lost for the government.