A GROUP representing umrah and haj tour agencies has slammed the additional RM90.10 payment per pilgrim imposed starting yesterday due to the implementation of the Integrated Manasik Monitoring System (IMAMS) for pilgrimage visa applications.
The Umrah and Haj Tourism Agencies Association (Papua) said the sum, which covered the system’s cost, takaful (insurance) and goods and services tax (GST) for each pilgrim, was unreasonable and should be reduced.
Its chairman Razali Mohd Sham questioned the rate, which he said was high given that there were similar visa application systems that were free of charge as well as cheaper insurance coverage.
“It is like charging toll on pilgrimages. We don’t question the GST because the money goes to the government and is returned to the people. But we are questioning why the system cost should be RM45 and why insurance is RM40, when there is insurance available from RM12 to RM16,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
Its aim is to curb fraud involving umrah packages.
“The failure of agencies managing umrah trips to comply with this directive will result in action taken by the ministry, and can lead to their licence being revoked,” she had said.
The new IMAMS system also drew flak from PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail who questioned whether the system and company operating it were meant to benefit government cronies.
“Is there a guarantee by the government that this will wipe out fraud in umrah packages? Or is this project just to fill the coffers of some cronies,” he said, adding that the Tourism Ministry should instead conduct stricter enforcement against umrah and haj agents who cheated pilgrims.
The breakdown of RM90.10 per pilgrim is RM5.10 for GST, RM40 for insurance and RM45 for the system used by IMAMS, which is integrated and compatible with the Saudi Arabian embassy in Malaysia for visa processing.
Razali, however, said there were already existing and free Passport ID scanning systems to verify visa applications directly with the Saudi embassy.
“We already have a system that is free so why to pay up to RM45?”
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He also questioned why the ministry had singled out haj and umrah tour agencies as being susceptible to fraud and not other travel agencies.
“Why are they only imposing this on umrah and haj tour agencies? Fraud can happen for tours anywhere,” he said.
Razali said Papua also doubted the integrity of the company operating the IMAMS system as it was only six-days old, adding that he was considering reporting it to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
“It is just six-days old and it is already regulating IMAMS? What more, it seems to be headed by a non-Muslim, so how would the company understand the needs of Muslims?
“We might have to report it to the MACC as we fear abuse of power in this matter,” he said.
Some 250,000 Muslims performed the pilgrimage in 2017 and this number is expected to increase to 300,000 next year, according to tourism ministry figures.
There have also been 3,762 cases involving fraudulent pilgrimage tours involving claims worth more than RM23 million that were filed from 2012 to 2017 with the Malaysian Consumer Claims Tribunal, according to the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT