Budget 2021: 'Jasa' funds reduced to RM40.5mil (corrected)

KUALA LUMPUR: The RM85.5mil allocation for Jabatan Komunikasi Komuniti (JKom) under the Communications and Multimedia Ministry has been reduced to RM40.5mil.

This means RM45mil less for JKom, which was formerly known as the Special Affairs Department (Jasa), announced Deputy Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri, who tabled a motion to reduce the allocation to RM40.5mil, which will be for the 500 contract staff under JKom.

Prior to the allocation for JKom, there were debates between MPs from both sides of the political divide, with government coalition MPs arguing in support of the controversial government department.

According to Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh (PN-Pasir Putih), it was necessary to have JKom because the department will ensure that Malaysians understand the government's agenda.

He also added that the relationship between the government and the people is very important.

"That is why it is a very relevant allocation," he said, triggering interjections from several Opposition MPs.

Ramkarpal Singh (PH-Bukit Gelugor), who stood up during Nik Muhammad's speech, asked whether the allocation for JKom would be better spent on the fight against Covid-19.

"The allocation (for JKom) is big because the government agenda is big. Big agendas require bigger allocations," said Zawawi, causing RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong) to stand up in protest before his microphone was muted by Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.

"This is a debate session, not an argument session," said Azhar.

Khalid Abdul Samad (PH-Shah Alam), who spoke subsequently, explained that Jasa was shut down by the former Pakatan Harapan administration because it was being used as a political tool to employ political proxies and supporters to spread government propaganda.

He pointed out that under Budget 2021, RM158mil was allocated to the Information Department and RM479mil was allocated to RTM.

"If the allocation for the Information Department and RTM isn't enough, then it is very embarrassing.

"Jasa is a government propaganda tool to whitewash the current government," he argued.

The debates over the motion to reduce JKom's allocations then continued until it was passed by a voice vote.

JKom is the rebranded version of the Jasa, which came under scrutiny recently over its initial RM85.5mil allocation in Budget 2021, with Opposition MPs saying that such funds would be better spent fighting Covid-19.

Meanwhile, attempts by Opposition MPs to slash the additional RM4mil allocation for JKom through a motion failed after it did not garner enough support.

*The heading and intro amended to reflect accurate information.

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