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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.

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