KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has given his assurance that the aspects of national security will not be neglected following the government's recent announcement regarding visa exemption for several countries.
Anwar, who is also Finance Minister, said that security agencies have been asked to strengthen security screening so that visa exemption facilities do not affect national security.
"There are honourable members who may feel concerned because security issues have been raised, so relevant agencies have been asked to strengthen the screening so that this facility does not affect national security,” he said when tabling the Supply Bill 2024 for the second reading in the Dewan Negara Wednesday (Nov 29).
On Nov 26, Anwar announced that the government has granted a 30-day visa exemption for Chinese and Indian nationals to Malaysia from Dec 1, in the spirit of the strategic partnership of Malaysia-China bilateral relations, which will span 50 years next year.
He said that it is an additional facility to the existing visa exemptions enjoyed by citizens from Gulf states and other West Asian countries.
Anwar has also asked the top management of the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) to manage its assets without interference from outside parties, including the government, as it is often plagued by procurement-related problems.
He said this means that ATM is fully responsible if there is a technical or implementation problem, while the government, particularly the Finance Ministry, will only negotiate in terms of equipment asset costs.
"... It’s better that we should negotiate, not through an agent, but directly with the relevant governments. We have already started with Turkey, South Korea and Italy. If there is anything to be decided, it is (the agency's) own decision, for example, the Navy decides (for Navy assets).
"Otherwise, billions of ringgit will just flow out of control. Safety and equipment issues are very critical for us. We cannot afford to spend tens of billions of ringgit and see very poor assets, compared with the capabilities of other (countries),” he said.
In the meantime, he said that the reduction of the entertainment duty rate for the Federal Territories, from 25% to the new rate is not intended to encourage immorality, given that there are still strict conditions which need to be adhered to.
The Prime Minister also touched on the issue of the Israel-Palestine conflict, by asking Malaysians not to use issues related to Palestine to further polarise the community, of different religions and races, in this country.
Anwar said that Malaysians, regardless of religion or race, need to understand that the government's stance of supporting Palestine and rejecting Israeli atrocities is on humanitarian grounds.
"Some people ask why we take sides only because Palestine is Muslim, of course, there is ignorance of understanding because the land of Palestine is indeed Arab Muslim majority, but there is also a Christian minority,” he said.
Anwar said that the Zionist regime not only demolished hundreds of mosques but also destroyed seven churches.
"So, we have to look at it from the point of view of cruelty, and from the point of view of humanity because it also involves non-Muslims,” he said.
The Budget 2024, themed "Economic Reforms; Empower People", tabled by Anwar in Parliament on Oct 13, involves an allocation of RM393.8bil, which is the highest budget ever tabled in the history of Malaysia. - Bernama