The ministry had always promised to improve its hajj pilgrimage services, yet weaknesses still occur from year to year so that many quarters have voiced criticisms and calls for the establishment of a separate body in charge of managing the country`s hajj pilgrimage.
"With a special body, hajj pilgrimage could be managed professionally," Kurdi Mustofa, general chairman of the Indonesian Hajj Solidarity Association (IPHI) told the House of Representatives (DPR)`s Commission VIII on religious affairs here last week.
He stressed the importance of a special body like the body which was now managin elms and endowments. The religious affairs ministry, he said, should return to its real duties, namely providing guidance to the people in cooperation with community organizations.
He was speaking at a hearing with the House Commission VIII which was seeking inputs for the amendment of Law No. 13 / 2008 on the organization of the hajj pilgrimage.
Kurdi said that Law No. 13 / 2008 did not need improvement only but revision as well with emphasis changing the hajj organizing institution. He said that from year to year money or down payment deposited by would-be hajj pilgrims continued to accumulate which up to now had amounted to Rp35 trillion.
He said that a special body was able to manage professionally and optimally the money deposited by would-be hajj pilgrims in a transparent way like what was done in Malaysia where the Malaysian government only acted as regulator.
Chairman of the hearing with Commission VIII Mahrus Munir said he supported the IPHI proposal. "The House Speaker also agreed and supported the proposal," Mahrus said.
In response to statements made during the hearing with Commission VIII and the IPHI, former president director of state-owned radio RRI, Parni Hadi said that in the current reform and openness era, the people could just file a class-action law suit against the hajj organizers.
They could just lodge a law suit to demand transparency in the management of the hajj pilgrimage, including the establishment of a special hajj management body so that the account of the religious minister was no longer needed to deposit would-be hajj pilgrims` down payments.
He said that with the special body, would-be hajj pilgrims no longer needed to deposit money in the religious affairs minister`s account but in the account of the special body which would manage it professionally and transparently.
Therefore, Parni along with House Speaker Marzuki Alie supported the idea of the establishment of a special body to manage the country`s hajj pilgrimage. After all, according to the House Speaker, weaknesses still continued to be found in the organization of the country`s hajj pilgrimage.
Marzuki said the organization of hajj pilgrimage should be improved because up to now Indonesian hajj pilgrims still lodged many complaints while the DPR`s hajj supervising team also found many facts in the fields.
In a press conference last week, Marzuki explained the DPR hajj monitoring team finding in the fields, raising the discourse on the possible revision of Law No. 13 / 2008. "We will try to learn a lesson from countries which are good in managing their hajj pilgrimage, despite the fact that the number of our pilgrims is the biggest one in the world," Mbig arzuki said.
He said that hajj management was not merely a matter of rituals. In average, the Indonesian hajj pilgrims are already well-informed of the rituals owing to the big number of groups providing rehearsals for hajj rituals.
"Organizing hajj pilgrimage is a matter of management. I look it like a war management as it involves a process of moving pilgrims/troops with its logistics and transportation management," the House Speaker said.
He said he was not willing to talk about corruption matters in this regard but he was focusing his attention on hajj pilgrims` complaints which were lodged every year without good response from the organizers.
"I do not demean the willingness of the religious affairs minister to do the best and I could not ignore the fact that the minister has already made improvements but I also found facts that none of all hajj groups have expressed satisfaction over the management of hajj pilgrimage," he said.
Therefore, he said, legislators of the House Commission VIII were now considering to learn a lesson from Malaysia where a special hajj body was set up, if need be, it should be financed with funds from the state budget. "Commission VIII will follow up the matter," Marzuki said.
In the meantime, however, former Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Hasyim Muzadi alerted Muslims over the idea to set up a special body, expressing concern that it could invite big investors.
"Managing hajj pilgrimage needs a big capital, a situation which will enable foreign investors to take part. How would it be if the investors are Jews?" Haysim Muzadi, said here on Tuesday.
He added: "We have to remember that hajj pilgrimage is not merely a travel matter or tourism."
He said that hajj pilgrimage was a ritual practice so that it should be organized by a party which really understood the implementation of hajj practices. Yet, the former NU leader admitted that the ministry of religious affairs, like other government agencies, had weaknesses in organizing the hajj pilgrimage services.
"What is important now is how to provide assistance for religious affairs ministry so that it would be optimal in organizing hajj pilgrimage," Hasyim said.(*)