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Two senior ministers join Sri Lankan Haj pilgrims

Faizer Mackeen
RIYADH: Two senior ministers from Colombo will join Sri Lankan pilgrims during this Haj, the island’s consul general, Faizer Mackeen, told Arab News on Monday.
The VIP delegation will include Mohamed Hashim Abdul Haleem, Muslim religious affairs and posts; State Minister Abdul Hameed Mohamed Fowzie; and legislator Mujibur Rahman.
Of the 2,240, the diplomat said, half of the Sri Lankan Haj pilgrims have arrived already in the holy cities.
The island’s national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and other carriers, are ferrying the pilgrims from Colombo.
During the arrival of the first group of pilgrims, Sri Lankan Ambassador Azmi Thassim, Consul General Faizer Mackeen and senior diplomats welcomed the pilgrims.
“This year, we had a limited quota because of the ongoing development works in Makkah,” Mackeen noted. The consulate has deployed a team at the Haj terminal of the Jeddah airport to welcome Sri Lankan pilgrims, he added. The officials offer refreshments to pilgrims on arrival, and attend to their needs until they leave for the holy cities.
Four teams have been formed in Makkah, Jeddah, Mina and Madinah to assist the pilgrims. In addition to the mission’s staff, the diplomat said that he had solicited the cooperation of volunteers, who will help the pilgrims in Makkah, Madinah and at the Haj terminal. “A medical team has also arrived with the pilgrims to look after their health needs.”
“The Saudi government, in cooperation with Colombo, has introduced new software to the system to streamline all Lankan Haj activities,” he said, adding that pilgrims’ movements will be monitored and the travel agents held responsible if anything untoward happens to the pilgrims.
He pointed out that due to the limited number this year, the first timers were given preference in the pilgrim selection process, and the government has stipulated the minimum cost for each pilgrim, which should include airfare, accommodations and internal travel. Travel operators who try to exploit the pilgrims will be severely dealt with by the government in Colombo.

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