MAKKAH, July 13 — Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) has nothing to do with the furada visa or the cartel issue, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Idris Ahmad.

He said TH should not be blamed because the agency has always followed the laws set and maintained Malaysia’s good name, and prioritised the welfare of the pilgrims at all times.

He also stressed that to prove TH had not committed any offence, his office was ready to be investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) at any time.

“When the Haj season arrives, there will be irresponsible parties who try to take advantage. We do not want when something like this happens, TH gets the blame. The management of Haj licences under the Haj pilgrimage operators (PJH) also requires strict conditions.

“TH will scrutinise all companies applying for PJH. Hence, there is no question of cartels, we are ready if the MACC wants to investigate. We open the office for 24 hours to look into the cartel issue,” he told reporters here today.

Idris said TH was constantly monitoring the companies registered under PJH, to ensure they were eligible, had a good reputation throughout the year and were financially sound.

He added that he did not want the incident that happened to 380 prospective pilgrims recently to recur as the public had been given a warning about the risks of performing Haj using a furada visa.

“Such incidents should not have happened when other countries praised our country, the congregation also praised the services provided by TH. Don’t let anyone slander and fabricate stories. There may be some weaknesses in TH (in terms of operations) but don’t try to put the blame on TH,” he said.

Apart from that, Idris said when he returned to the country, his department will hold a meeting with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to discuss the issue of performing Haj and umrah using a furada visa as well as strategies to implement stricter monitoring.

He also advised people who are interested in performing Haj and umrah to be vigilant, including the selection of travel agencies because private Haj packages are not cheap.

“Do make sure the agent selected has a good and reliable track record. If necessary, go visit the office and see for yourself their operations. Don’t just focus on attractive prices and deals over the phone only, even if the one recommending it is your good friend.

“The same goes for badal Haji (Haj by proxy). We need to understand that the conditions for Saudis themselves for Haj are strict and they need to take the package with the lowest price of RM12,000. Hence, if there is an offer of badal Haji that is too low, do not rush, check first on who will perform this Haj,” he said.

For the record, any travel company can apply to become a licensed PJH and will be selected annually after fulfilling the prescribed conditions, including experience in conducting umrah for three consecutive years and having a record of Bank Negara Malaysia through the Central Credit Reference Information System (CCRIS). — Bernama