Jasa to be rebranded as J-Com, RM85.5mil allocation to be slashed, says minister

KUALA LUMPUR: The RM85.5mil allocated to the controversial Special Affairs Department (Jasa) in Budget 2021 will be slashed, says Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

However, Saifuddin stopped short at revealing exactly how much of the sum would be slashed.

“I guarantee (that the allocation will be decreased). How much? Soon.

“The RM85.5mil figure is based on the total amount of parliamentary and state constituencies. But we are only targeting 160 districts," he said.

Saifuddin said that Jasa would be renamed "J-Com", short for Jabatan Komunikasi Komuniti (Community Communications Department), and added that the department would not end up as a propaganda machine.

“I can guarantee that J-Com is not a propaganda machine. Not under my charge, ” he said during his winding-up speech on Budget 2021 in Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 25).

Saifuddin was responding to Gobind Singh Deo (PH-Puchong), who interjected and asked whether there’s a need to revive Jasa, as there are existing government departments and agencies such as RTM, Bernama and the Information Department that have the same responsibility as Jasa.

Gobind’s question was also backed by several MPs including RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong), Wong Shu Qi (PH-Kluang), Sim Tze Tzin (PH-Bayan Baru) and Hannah Yeoh (PH-Segambut).

In response, Saifuddin said that existing government agencies and platforms are not effective in disseminating the government’s Covid-19 efforts to the people.

“The human stories are not coming out. That is why I’m saying, J-Com’s first priority will be about Covid-19 communications.”

Saifuddin also assured that the appointments of the J-Com director-general and deputy-general positions would not consist of politicians, but a combination of professionals and administrative officers.

Saifuddin’s remarks brought several interjections by several Opposition MPs, but it was cut short by Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon, who said he has given adequate time for MPs to ask questions.

Rashid also proceeded to mute Yeoh’s microphone as the former deputy minister was about to speak.

“Don’t (turn) off my microphone. I only wanted 10 seconds. Jasa’s allocation is the most controversial issue among all the debates we had, ” said Yeoh, who looked visibly incensed.

“If you want all MPs to support the Budget, we should not rush it through like that. The minister must have an acceptable answer for us so we can support it, ” she said.

“It seems like the Cabinet isn’t interested in getting the MP’s support here, ” Yeoh added.

Earlier, Saifuddin also said the RM85.5mil allocated to Jasa isn’t “something extraordinary”, as the department had received similar allocations from federal budgets in 2015,2016,2017 and 2018.

He said that the allocations for Jasa in 2015,2016,2017 and 2018 were RM78.5mil, RM81mil, RM85.3mil, RM74mil respectively.

Set up in 1959 as the Badan Hal Ehwal Khas, the unit went through several transformations before being rebranded as Jasa in 2004.

Jasa was dissolved by the Pakatan Harapan government after the 14th General Election.

Before it was disbanded, Jasa was given RM30mil under the Budget in 2018 during Najib's Barisan Nasional administration.

Under Budget 2021, Jasa was allocated RM4mil for strategic communications under the Communications and Multimedia Ministry and RM81.5mil for new policies.

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