Lankan politician to propose govt subsidy for Haj pilgrims

Updated 22 January 2015
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Lankan politician to propose govt subsidy for Haj pilgrims

A leading Sri Lankan Muslim politician plans to propose that the newly elected government of the island nation subsidize citizens going on Haj.
Azath Salley, the former deputy mayor of Colombo and a member of the new government’s task team to implement its program over the first 100 days, told Arab News on Thursday he plans to deliver the proposal soon to Minister for Muslim Religious Affairs Mohammed Hazeem.
Speaking from Makkah, where he is on Umrah with his wife Reinoza, Salley said the Haj scheme in Sri Lanka does not benefit lower middle-class families. “The Haj package shot up last year to Rs650,000 (SR18,508) which average Muslims cannot afford,” he said.
He said that the scheme would possibly be implemented this year and benefit half of all pilgrims from Sri Lanka. He would also urge the government to increase the Haj quota, which was cut from 6,700 to 2,200 last year.
“Muslims will be given their due place under the present regime.” Minorities such as Tamils and Muslims would be treated with respect and their rights protected, he said. He said Minorities were living “in fear and insecurity” in the country. “Muslims cannot forget the orchestrated attacks on them in Alutgama and Beruwella,” he said.
He lamented that the Waqaf Board and Muslim schools on the island were neglected by the previous regime. “We will restore them to their pristine glory,” he said.
Commenting on the recent stunning election victory of President Maithripala Sirisena, Salley said that God never takes the side of persons who are engaged in unjust acts. “It was emancipation from misrule, dictatorship and totalitarianism.”
“President Sirisena emerged victorious through a popular mandate given by the majority Buddhists and minorities on the island.” He said the people showed that they do not support corruption, nepotism and dictatorship. The new president received backing from people of all faiths including Buddhists, Tamils and Muslims.
Salley said Tamil-speaking people in the country have placed great faith in the new president.
He said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would help to ensure good governance.
He said the mandate of the voters ended the culture of violence. “No man will be above the law under the new regime,” he said.
Salley said he had come on Umrah to thank the Almighty for the blessed opportunity that the country now has to create good governance.


Saudi efforts to ‘heal Afghan division’ win royal approval

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session in Jeddah on Tuesday. SPA
Updated 34 min 41 sec ago
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Saudi efforts to ‘heal Afghan division’ win royal approval

  • The forum urged all Afghan factions to halt the fighting and work toward “reconciliation between brothers
  • China’s Belt and Road initiative will link the interests of China and Arab countries

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has expressed his appreciation to scholars who took part in the International Ulema Conference on Peace and Security in Afghanistan in Makkah, saying the Kingdom was making efforts to “heal the divisions and differences among the Afghan people.”

Chairing the Cabinet session at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Tuesday, the king said Saudi Arabia was working toward “unifying the ranks and words of Muslims worldwide.”
He briefed the Cabinet on the results of his recent talks with President Cyril Ramaphosa, of South Africa, on future cooperation between the two countries.
The Cabinet welcomed the final statement by the Makkah conference calling on states, organizations and Islamic elites to play positive roles in achieving security and peace in Afghanistan.
The forum urged all Afghan factions to halt the fighting and work toward “reconciliation between brothers, extinguishing the fire of sedition.”
Muslims worldwide should continue their “firm stand in front of the advocates of violence and extremism in defense of their religion and maintaining the unity of the Islamic world,” it said.
The Cabinet also reviewed a ministerial meeting of the Arab-Chinese Cooperation Forum in Beijing and welcomed a decision by Chinese leader President Xi Jinping to establish an Arab-Chinese strategic partnership.
China’s Belt and Road initiative will link the interests of China and Arab countries and “add to the prosperity and economic advancement of all,” it said.
The Cabinet denounced recent suicide attacks on two election gatherings in Pakistan and the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, and offered condolences to families of the victims.
In the local arena, the Cabinet extended its appreciation to the king, based on a report by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for pardoning all troops who have taken part in the Saudi Renewal of Hope operation in Yemen of their military and disciplinary penalties for their heroism and sacrifices.
The Cabinet approved a license for the Iraqi Commercial Bank to open a branch in Saudi Arabia and authorized the Minister of Finance to decide on any subsequent requests to open other branches.