KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim denied today that his government has cancelled the Jana Wiba programme that was introduced to empower the Bumiputera contractors.

As several Perikatan Nasional (PN) leaders were charged with corruption linked to the programme, Anwar said that the projects under the programme are just undergoing renegotiation.

"This criticism is for the Bumiputera. I will continue with it. If we say that this is a special project for the Bumiputera, then I will continue with it.

"I didn't cancel [them], I renegotiated as many of it violated financial regulations," Anwar told the Parliament during his winding-up speech for the Budget 2023.

He gave examples of companies with ethnic Chinese owners, but were deemed to be Bumiputera on paper allegedly thanks to cronyism.

"Should even that be defended?" he asked.

He pointed out that both iterations of Jana Wibawa programmes were heavily linked to former prime ministers Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

"I'm not bothered it's up to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate, I didn't say they have to investigate 1.0, if they find proof with 2.0 with Bera, investigate. I didn't give the order,” he said, referring to the two iterations.

The Jana Wibawa, or "Program Jana Ekonomi Pemerkasaan Kontraktor Bumiputera Berwibawa”, was introduced by the Muhyiddin administration, and aimed at improving the capacity of Bumiputera contractors in the construction sector to be more resilient and competitive and speed up their projects to spur the nation’s economic recovery post Covid-19 pandemic.

However, Deputy Prime Minister I Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced on February 15 that the government now led by Anwar as prime minister will postpone the RM5.7 billion worth of rural development projects under the Jana Wibawa scheme.

Zahid said the postponement was to review whether they were awarded in accordance with the procurement process and governance requirements set by the Treasury.

"Slander and criticisms happen. [But[ I want to say I don’t want to hold this position (finance minister) to persecute or pressure, or oppress anyone. I know what it means by selective prosecution. But why ridicule us? Ask MACC and Attorney-General's Chambers for clarification.

"This means that it is as though bribery should be defended because [those implicated are] our friends? Look at the charges, look at the proof, whether it’s bribery, whether it’s slander, if it’s slander, don’t need PAS, I will stand up to fight it,” Anwar added, referring to the Islamist party.

"We speak about Islam, reading the Quran, reading the Hadith, reading the holy book. But if we were to defend bribery, where is our stand?” Anwar added, lambasting Opposition MPs who questioned his decisions on Jana Wibawa.