Umno leaders are asking if the huge RM85.5 million for the information ministry’s Special Affairs Department (Jasa) was necessary at a time when the focus of any funding should be to fight Covid-19.
In urging the government to clarify this need, they said they would not agree if the unit, which was shut down in May 2018 after Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over, is merely used for propaganda purposes, adding that the government owes an explanation to the taxpayers.
Umno vice-president Khaled Nordin said although the party welcomed the revival of Jasa, the huge allocation required further explanation. The Barisan Nasional government had last allocated RM30 million to the department in the 2018 budget.
“If there is reasonable justification, then it is okay for the large allocation. Maybe a weak government needs a bigger loudspeaker,” he told FMT.
According to the finance ministry’s website, the purpose of Jasa was to develop the community at the grassroots level through effective communication between the government and the people.
A total of RM4 million was allocated under the strategic communications funding and another RM81.5 was given under the annual budget.
Speaking to Astro Awani yesterday, Umno information chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan asked for further clarification on the functions of Jasa and why it needed such a big allocation.
“If Jasa is used for propaganda purposes by any party or government, I will not agree. But if it plays an effective role, especially in rural areas as an information unit, I think it is okay. But an allocation of more than RM80 million sounds too big for me,” he said.
Wan Agyl Wan Hassan, the information chief for Federal Territories Umno Youth, said he was shocked by Putrajaya’s decision to spend such an amount which could actually be channelled to the beleaguered frontliners.
“If the revival of Jasa was for the objective of providing jobs, I am sure all Malaysians would be fine with that. But we need more information and justification on the decision, whatever the case.
“This needs to be debated in the Dewan Rakyat. Our priority should be to combat and solve the problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that the vision and goals for Jasa also needed to be reviewed.
Jasa was dissolved after the PH government launched an austerity campaign, following its win in the last general election. – FMT