RIYADH: Saudi authorities have raised Sri Lanka’s quota for the upcoming Haj to 3,800 pilgrims, which is an increase of 1,000 over the allotted number, the country’s new Consul General in Jeddah Adam Bawa Uthumalebbe told Arab News on Saturday.
Uthumalebbe, who succeeded Sabarullah Khan, assumed duties at the Jeddah consulate last week. Prior to his posting in the Kingdom, Uthumalebbe was the chairman of Water Supply and Drainage Board in Colombo.
“I have come to the consulate at a time full of excitement because of the arrival of Haj pilgrims,” Uthumalebbe said. He pledged that he would do his best to serve all Sri Lankans alike.
At a function held in honour of him in Jeddah on Friday, Uthumalebbe said he was prepared to take up any challenges to lift the image of his motherland and serve his countrymen irrespective of their religion and positions they hold in the Kingdom.
Speaking from Colombo, senior Minister in charge of Sri Lankan Haj operations Abdul Hameed Mohamed Fowzie told Arab News that this year first timers would be given preference in the pilgrims’ selection process.
“We have also made an appeal to the concerned parties to get an additional quota of pilgrims this year. We might consider the other applicants only if there is a positive response from the Saudi Government,” the Minister said, adding that the Government has already received applications from more than 5,000 prospective pilgrims.
Around seven per cent of the country’s 20.2 million inhabitants are Muslim.
The first batch of Sri Lankan pilgrims will arrive in the Kingdom on 6 October. Saudi Arabian Airlines and SriLankan Airlines will ferry the pilgrims. “Other airlines will be considered as and when a need arises,” the Minister said.
The Minister said his Government had formed two teams in Makkah and Madinah to assist the pilgrims.