The government’s RM85.5 million allocation under Budget 2021 to a propaganda unit, the Special Affairs Department (Jasa), is seeing angry social media users vent on Twitter.
“Jasa” is now trending on Twitter, with many questioning why the unit, which was dismantled by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, is now being revived by Perikatan Nasional (PN).
Jasa’s previous budgets during the Barisan Nasional (BN) years until it was abolished in 2018 were also much lower – in the range of RM21 million to RM23 million – than what PN has allocated for next year.
Many users questioned Jasa’s relevance to the country’s most pressing issues – fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and saving jobs and the economy – and said the money allocated for the unit could be better spent on healthcare and education.
“RM24 million for mental health. Jasa is getting RM81 million. Go figure,” tweed Faizal Hamssin.
Others compared the allocation to the RM500 one-off allowance for healthcare frontliners in recognition of their service fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
“RM500 one-off for frontliners seems like an insult at this point. They deserve more. Just abolish Jasa and they can get RM1,300 instead,” tweeted @JustinTWJ.
User Mooreyameen asked what Jasa’s functions are and whether it could improve the lives of Malaysians in dealing with the pandemic and a crumbling economy.
Another user @eddydaud said the government has no justification to say it cannot give more cash aid to needy Malaysians. He also criticised another proposal in the budget to allow Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors who lost their jobs to withdraw from their retirement savings.
“(Government) allowing to withdraw early (from EPF) is wrong because it (should) not be made into an ‘emergency fund’ to tide over the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Government should give direct cash aid to Malaysians in need. Don’t say ‘no money’ when you can allocate RM81 million for Jasa.”
The breakdown for Jasa in the estimated federal expenditure is RM81.5 million categorised as new policies, and RM4 million for strategic communications.
The shadowy unit in the past under BN has been responsible for putting out glowing literature on scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd, besides its reputation for maintaining a stable of cyber troopers used for online propaganda against the opposition.
It comes under the purview of the Communications and Multimedia Ministry.
Other Twitter users expressed anger at the unit’s revival after PH had abolished it.
A few also wondered out loud if its resurrection was because Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who has a slim majority in Parliament, needed a propaganda unit to ensure he stayed in power.
“PN doesn’t have the numbers, is on thin ice with Umno and no-confidence motions thrown at Muhyiddin… An application of propaganda and twisted narratives is a desperate attempt to recapture public opinion,” tweeted Rohan Javet Beg.
Another user @DanYachb tweeted that Muhyiddin “must be so scared of losing power (and) support” that he needed to put so much money into Jasa. – TMI