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Cablegate: Indonesia Prepares for the Hajj

VZCZCXRO9434
OO RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDT RUEHGI RUEHJS RUEHKUK
RUEHLH RUEHPB RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHJA #1835 3090426
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 050426Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3725
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS JAKARTA 001835

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, EAP/RSP, DRL, DRL/IRF
NSC FOR D.WALTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL KIRF ID SA
SUBJECT: INDONESIA PREPARES FOR THE HAJJ

REF: A. JAKARTA 1579
B. JAKARTA 1465

1. SUMMARY: With the start of the Hajj pilgrimage quickly
approaching, Indonesia--the world's largest Muslim country by
population--is making massive preparations for the annual
pilgrimage to Mecca. Indonesia is the largest contributor to
the Hajj, sending over 200,000 pilgrims. Amid the regular
chorus of complaints re corruption in the process, the
Ministry of Religious Affairs is coordinating Hajj planning
for Indonesia. The Indonesian and Saudi governments are
working together regarding concerns about H1N1. END SUMMARY.

INDONESIA READIES FOR THE HAJJ

2. The annual Hajj season has begun and the first groups of
Indonesian pilgrims are departing for Saudi Arabia. As the
world's most populous Muslim country with over 200 million
adherents of Islam, Indonesia will send over 200,000 pilgrims
to participate in the annual Hajj, more than any other nation
(except for host Saudi Arabia). Making the Hajj--which
begins in two weeks--is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for
many Indonesians and an obligation as the fifth pillar of
Islam. Beginning from October 23, governors and other
officials from across the country have been in the press
saluting pilgrims in ceremonies at airports. To handle the
increase in passengers, Garuda Airlines has leased several
wide-bodied jets from French company Corsairfly.

GOI COORDINATES EFFORT

3. The Ministry of Religious Affairs is responsible for
coordinating the massive undertaking to prepare Indonesian
pilgrims for the 2009 Hajj. The Indonesian government
arranges all Hajj packages. These packages include
transportation, accommodations, food, visa approvals, and
health services for all pilgrims.

4. A recent survey by Indonesian anti-corruption groups
alleges that the annual pilgrimage is mired in corruption.
Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) recently cited reports of
widespread corruption in the handling of the Hajj packages.
ICW alleged that officials in the Ministry of Religious
Affairs inflated the cost of the Hajj packages and pocketed
the profit. Many Indonesians have returned in the past
complaining of shoddy housing and poor food quality.
Anti-corruption activists allege that GOI officials have a
long history of soliciting bribes for things like marriage
and divorce certificates, as well as other required Hajj
documents.

5. Ministry officials say they are currently working closely
with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to ensure
that all Hajj fees are legal and transparent. The GOI
intends to send members of the Indonesian Parliament (DPR)
and other government officials to Mecca in order to ensure
all Hajj preparations are adequate.

H1N1 CONCERNS

6. H1N1 is a concern this year. Indonesian and Saudi
officials are requiring all prospective Indonesians Hajj
pilgrims to receive vaccinations against H1N1 and meningitis
in order to obtain a Hajj visa. Controversy arose previously
over the meningitis vaccine with allegations that it
contained a pork enzyme, which prompted the Indonesian
Council Of Ulemas (MUI) to issue a controversial fatwah
declaring the vaccine "haram" or forbidden. Despite the
fatwah, GOI officials are reportedly administering the
vaccinations without any problems.

TRYING TO AVOID SLIP-UPS

7. As the Hajj approaches, the GOI--aware of the political
backlash that could result from slip-ups--has been very
pro-active in trying to ensure a pleasant experience for
Indonesian pilgrims. It has also assured Indonesians that it
is taking steps against corruption. That said, preparing for
the Hajj is a truly large-scale effort and government
capabilities are clearly stretched to the limit.

HUME

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