The Gambia Government will develop a policy to guide the liberalisation of Hajj travel arrangements by 2018. Currently the Haji travel is monopolised by the national carrier, Gambia International Airlines, depriving many private sector operators.
News of the change next year was announced at a meeting this week between President Barrow and members of The Gambia’s Hajj Commission, led by Dr. Ousman Jah, the Amir ul-Hajj.
At the meeting, President Barrow thanked the Hajj Commission for its management of Hajj matters but expressed surprise that after so many years of existence, it had not sought to sit with the former Head of State to discuss issues affecting 95% of the population.
The President pledged to work with the Commission and the Supreme Islamic Council to provide the support that they need. He called on the religious leaders to promote peaceful coexistence, and said the selection of Commission members should always be based on their qualifications and experience in Hajj matters.
For his part Dr. Jah said it was a requirement of the Saudi authorities that each country must have a Hajj commission to avoid political interference in the management of the Hajj.
He explained that the Saudi government worked through diplomatic missions and that logistical issues were arranged through Hajj Commissions.
He added that it was government policy that guided the implementation of the Hajj exercise. Saudi Arabia, Dr. Jah said, determines each country’s quota per population at 1000 pilgrims per 1million population. This year The Gambia has received an allotment for 1700 pilgrims and 20 officials from the Hajj Commission which includes Gambia International Airlines staff and health officials to facilitate the administration of the Hajj.
The Amir ul-Hajj also gave an account of the various steps taken to improve the management of the Hajj, including use of new technology for the relevant transactions with the Saudis.
The ten-man commission took the opportunity to appeal for the government support to provide logistics to facilitate the work of the Commission.
Commission member Imam Baba Leigh called for government to support the Commission’s endeavour to provide the very best for Gambian pilgrims, and to improve the country’s image.
Hajj is one of five pillars of Islam obligatory for Muslims who can afford it at least once in a lifetime.