Haj quota dispute: contending parties agree to settlement?

By Ifham Nizam

Senior Minister A. H. M. Fowzie yesterday charged that Deputy Minister Abdul Cader fifty-fifty on Haj quotas, and when it was turned down he had teamed up with some tour operators to discredit him over the selection process.

"These quotas are not for charity or for distribution in Colombo and Galle and besides there is a committee of five including Cader to decide," he told journalists yesterday in Colombo.

Fowzie said that Cader avoided the crucial meeting and went on complaining against him to the Prime Minister.

The Haj Pilgrims Committee of the Religious Affairs Ministry is chaired by Senior Minister A. H. M. Fowzie, and its co-President is Deputy Minister Abdul Cader.

Last week Chief Justice Mohan Peries informed the parties involved in the Haj Pilgrims quotas dispute to settle the matter amicably.

The Serendib Haj and Umra Association recently filed a fundamental rights violation case against the Haj Pilgrims Committee and accused the Committee of distributing the quotas in a biased manner.

Countering the allegations, Fowzie said that quotas were given on the past performance and those who were involved in fraud too were overlooked. "This is the only business one could do without an investment on account of the guaranteed business from pilgrims and I cannot vouch for anybody with a bad track record," he added.

The Saudi Arabian government grants Haj quotas to several countries, and Sri Lanka has received quotas for 2240 persons this year.

This committee is responsible for the distribution of the quota among 90 agents.

Cases were filed in 2006, 2012 and 2013 as well, charging the quotas were not distributed properly but later the cases were settled amicably.

However, after the Supreme Court order, Deputy Minister Abdul Cader stated today he was ready to settle the dispute in the event Minister Fowzie too agreed to do so.

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