September 3, 2012 ·155 Comments
HARGEISA — Somaliland ministers became strongly divided during a heated meeting of Cabinet over the thorny issue of Somali passport on Thursday, SP reports.
The debate was aimed at addressing the ban of the former green Somali passport by the government of Saudi Arabia. Ever since the collapse of the Somali Republic, the green document was used by Somali pilgrim makers traveling to the Kingdom for the annual Haj.
It was last year that Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government officially banned the use of the green travel document. The Somaliland government refused to accept its replacement, the new electronic passport.
Thursday’s meeting failed to produce any outcome on the issue after ministers failed to agree on a united front. Some of the ministers led by Presidential Minister, Hirsi Ali Haji Hassan, called for the boycott of pilgrimages in Makkah. He suggested that performing Haj was the right of every Muslim and protesting the Saudi decision was the only way forward.
Other ministers including the Religious Affairs, Interior and health minister had different views. They called for the usage of Somalia’s new biometric document. They argued that religion rights should not be politicised and business should continue as normal.
Other ministers were in a dilemma on who to back on the issue and the debate failed to produce any solid decision.
Residents have strongly criticized the remarks by Hirsi and Deputy Education minister Nimo Qawdhan suggesting that almost all ministers had foreign passports. They said it was not right for them to take one passport over the other. Some insisted that if they were going to ban any passport, they should add their own foreign passports to the list.
It was just last week when local newspapers revealed that 95 percent of Somaliland officials including President Ahmed Silanyo held foreign documents. It was discovered that the head of Somaliland intelligence agencies held Ethiopian passports and now people are beginning to believe that many could be spies for Addis Ababa.
The debate on the Somali passport is expected to continue sometime in the coming weeks. If Hargeisa does ban or boycott the pilgrim, which is compulsory for Muslims that can financially afford it, Somali worshipers may travel to neighbouring countries enroute to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Kingdom refuses to recognise Somaliland’s official passport and regards it as an integral part of the Somali Republic.
September 3, 2012Follow @somalilandpress