TABUNG Haji (The Pilgrims Fund) is synonym to Muslims in Malaysia. Perhaps every Muslim school going children in the country has an account with Tabung Haji. In my homestate of Melaka, Tabung Haji runs a campaign to register all Muslims school children as an account holder by depositing RM2 to each of them. The RM2 was token from the state government.
Not long ago the Melaka state government proudly announced that about 126,000 school children in the state including those in 'tadika' (kindergartens) had accounts with Tabung Haji. The value of their deposits was claimed to be RM106.37 million!
Nowadays Tabung Haji is on the news again. Until to this day when this article is written (February 3th) there is no word when Tabung Haji would declare payments of dividends and bonuses to depositors. Last year they announced it at the end of January...by February 'smiling faces' of depositors especially 'kampung folks' could be seen at Tabung Haji offices but this year depositors have to endure 'a waiting games'.
Late last month, Tabung Haji has denied allegations that it was in hot water, following reports that its reserves were in the red, and assured depositors that it would announce bonuses in February.
Since I started working in 1986 until I 'pensioned' in 2012, I had my salary deducted every month to be deposited in Tabung Haji. I too made monthly contributions to all my five children, hoping they would have enough money for their education. I too registered them for hajj; for the youngest when I did it last year, her turn to perform hajj was stated in 2080's!
Being 'loyal' to Tabung Haji; keeping almost all my money there for a very long time, please allow me to offer my two sens mind regarding this institution which perhaps is near to the hearts of every Malaysian Muslims.
During my early years as a reporter at a daily publication, Tabung Haji was one of my 'focus subjects' which was entrusted to me by my editor. I was assigned to many Tabung Haji functions; there I got to know some of its 'big shots' and took the opportunity to interview them for my write-up.
In a major article in the newspaper on August 18, 1988 under the topic 'Establishing a financial system without 'riba' (usury)' among other things I wrote: "A family with ten members living in a suburb of a town recently received seven letters of which had the words 'Tabung Haji' printed on the envelops."
During those days Tabung Haji depositors were without their account books, whats more the usage of ATM card. Every depositors would received statements of their account once in six months. Usually statements sent during February or March stated the bonuses for the previous year.
"The account of the father noted his savings was $2.41 (at that time the RM symbol was still not used), the mother $56, a son who was working $360 and four of their children who were still in school had between $2 and $3.
"The family had high awareness about the importance of savings because seven out of ten family members had accounts with Tabung Haji but because of certain set backs, the amounts being saved was too small. Furthermore some of them had not made any deposits since opening their accounts."
'Subhanallah' (Glory be to Allah), this scenario speak volume about how poor were Tabung Haji depositors at that time; thus those 'big shots' at the helm of that institution have to ponder about it. The same should be said to the leaders of the country - if they opened their minds and do some reflections, 'insya-Allah (God Willing) they would not betrayed the trust put on their shoulders by the 'rakyat'.
The 'rakyat' had worked hard and saved every sen they had in their their desire to fulfill their ambitions to perform the fifth pillar of 'Rukun Islam' that was to perform hajj!
Tabung Haji General Manager at that time, Haji Ahmad Haji Yeop Abdul Hamid said 90 percent from 1.1 millions depositors of Tabung Haji had less than $1,000 in their accounts. Furthermore many depositors were not active because many thought that the function of Tabung Haji was only to arrange and render services to hajj would to-be.
Haji Ahmad said Tabung Haji had high vision and hope. It hoped to develop a financial system free from 'riba' and this included house loans freed from usury. It too had ideas in creating financial arrangements which was free from 'riba' in other aspects of life such as car and personal loans.
Now 30 years had passed...Tabung Haji is now one of the premier financial institution in the country. It's depositors had grown to about five million, its businesses were diverse; the question is had Tabung Haji offered to give away free 'riba' housing and car loans to its depositors as mentioned and dreamed off by Haji Ahmad and people of his ranks during the good old times?
To the big shots of Tabung Haji including leaders of our country, please remember what was promised by Haji Ahmad to depositors some 30 years ago, among others money deposited should be used for 'halal' investments. They wanted clean investments; which are in line with religious requirements.
Thus, to those leaders concerned, please do not break the trust given by the 'rakyat': their hard earned money which they deposited in Tabung Haji were from their labour in the paddy fields, plantations and catching fish in sea - have you the heart to break the trust from the RM5, RM10, RM20 and RM50 which they put aside to be saved in Tabung Haji?
A friend said the 'main problem' of Tabung Haji was that it has no rival so it was so complacent ; if that was the case, why not we have rival institutions say 'Tabung Haji 2', 'Tabung Haji 3' and so on, only than 'the old Tabung Haji' would 'spring back to life' and give the best to the people.
He also claimed some 'big shots' (political leader) 'played' their hands in some aspects of Tabung Haji management for example, the prime minister, ministers, state governments and so on have their own quotas of pilgrims to be sent for hajj.
It was said pilgrims sent by IMDB (the quotas of the PM and other top officers) amounting to thousands of people, they cut the queue of pilgrims hopeful in the waiting list.
Tabung Haji should wake up and not to be used by politicians for their own self interest. It was reported that 900,000 pilgrims hopeful were in the waiting list, why not Tabung Haji hold tight to its first registered to be served first and not fall into the hanky-panky hands of those political bureaucracy! - ES