KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 — Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah was reportedly “shocked” by the RM85.5 million allocated to the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) under Budget 2021.
According to The Malaysian Insight (TMI), a source explained that while he was aware that Jasa would be revived, Saifuddin did not expect the figure to be as high as the one announced during the tabling of the Budget on Friday.
“He was shocked when he saw the amount. He never asked for this much to be allocated to Jasa,” the source was quoted as saying.
It is understood that in response, Saifuddin has tasked the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Seri Mohammad Mentek with conducting an investigation into the matter.
Meanwhile, in the same report, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Zahidi Zainul Abidin justified the RM85.5 million allocation as a necessary move “to protect the fate of Malay officers sacked” by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.
Zahidi, who took credit for Jasa’s revival, said that the unit planned to rehire more than 1,000 former Jasa officers. This is in line with a similar statement that he made in July, where he said the unit would be revived to help the staff terminated by the PH administration.
According to TMI, Zahidi added that the allocation of RM85.5 million under Budget 2021 was approved by the Finance Ministry after discussions with former Jasa officers.
“So, we bring back Jasa and have allocations for the unit but we will have to thank Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for allowing us to do so — to protect the fate of Malay officers sacked from Jasa,” he added.
Jasa was set up as Barisan Nasional’s propaganda unit, before it was dissolved in 2018 as part of PH’s austerity drive following its general election victory in 2018.
Before it was disbanded, Jasa was allocated RM30 million in the 2018 Budget under the leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
In Budget 2021, the Perikatan Nasional government allocated RM85.5 million to Jasa and justified that it was necessary to repopulate the unit with qualified staff.
The controversial proposal prompted the Communications and Multimedia Ministry to defend the plan by presenting Jasa as necessary to counter Covid-19 misinformation and other fake news.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) currently performs this role.