Thursday, November 26, 2020

PH never dissolved Jasa, appointments stall as politicians jostle for posts

The department's RM81 million budget windfall follows its removal from the PM's office and amid clamour for its posts from Umno division chiefs.

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Pakatan Harapan (PH) never abolished Jasa, Putrajaya’s Special Affairs Department which came under renewed scrutiny following its allocation of some RM81 million in the 2021 budget, MalaysiaNow can reveal.

A reliable source familiar with the once-critical unit nestled under the Prime Minister’s Office said Jasa, often seen as the government’s propaganda arm, was officially “kept alive” even as the PH government was crumbling in February.

“I am surprised that some politicians who formed part of the previous government are now questioning the allocation for Jasa,” the source, who revealed details of the politicking within the department, told MalaysiaNow under condition of anonymity.

PH announced that it was dissolving Jasa five months after coming to power in 2018.

But the source said the department’s warrant of establishment had never been deactivated and remained valid even after the collapse of PH following Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s resignation on Feb 24 this year.

An establishment warrant is an official document issued by the treasury to authorise changes to officers’ salary scale as well as the number of positions in government departments.

Jasa, which has since been placed under the communications and multimedia commission, entered the spotlight after Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz announced its allocation of RM81 million in the budget last Friday.

Critics called the allocation huge for a department that acts as the government’s propaganda arm.

Politicians clamouring for posts

One month after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn into office, Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Zuki Ali announced the appointment of 52 officers to Jasa.

The appointment letters were handed over to the communications ministry in April.

What followed, though, was a collision of political interests within Perikatan Nasional (PN).

The source said the department’s warrant of establishment had never been deactivated and remained valid even after the collapse of PH.

“Due to this, only 13 officers were appointed in the first batch,” the source said, adding that another 22 posts remained vacant as there was no allocation despite the existing establishment warrant.

As soon as the allocation was given the green light, he said, there was an increased interest in positions within Jasa.

“A list of names comprising Umno division chiefs was given for the posts in Jasa,” he said.

“This was despite the fact that during the Barisan Nasional (BN) era, these politicians damaged Jasa’s image in the eyes of the public.”

He added that Jasa’s role includes meeting people in rural areas where its officers are expected to compile daily reports.

He also said that appointments in Jasa are subject to conditions including a successful interview process and minimum academic qualifications.

No proper burial

Meanwhile, another source told MalaysiaNow that there had been calls from among PH politicians for the revival of Jasa as far back as early 2019, when the coalition was reeling from its first by-election defeat to BN in Cameron Highlands.

“They pointed out the weaknesses in the government’s communication strategy and in the dissemination of its policies to the public,” the source added.

He said the current government had taken advantage of the fact that its predecessors did not give Jasa a “proper burial”.

PH’s defeat in Cameron Highlands was the first in a series of major by-election losses suffered during its tenure in power.

It also lost the by-elections in Semenyih, Rantau, Tanjung Piai and Kimanis.

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