Thursday, November 26, 2020

Don’t turn Jasa into a political straw man

The need for proper dissemination of information is all the more pressing given the unprecedented health and economic crises facing the country.

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I refer to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang’s statement on Nov 9 regarding the government’s plans to revive the Special Affairs Department, better known by its Malay acronym, Jasa.

Lim’s attempt to contrast US president-elect Joe Biden’s plans to “end an era of grim demonisation” with PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s decision to revive Jasa as doing the opposite of that is clearly off the mark.

The communications and multimedia ministry, under which Jasa falls, has clearly stated that the department has nothing at all to do with political “demonisation”. On the contrary, the rebranded Jasa would uphold the Rukun Negara and foster unity through accurate and timely information to the community.

Considering that we are going through unprecedented public health and economic crises, the need for proper dissemination of information is all the more pressing. As a nation, we need to stay the course. And central to this is the need for national narratives to be properly articulated – whether news favourable to the government or otherwise.

I just cannot fathom why anyone would want to denigrate an agency set up not just with noble aims, but which has yet to get off the starting block as it has not even received budgetary approval to do so. Isn’t Lim and his party, DAP, all for unity and national cohesion? Or is that just political theatrics? Why would Lim and his cheerleaders want to rob Jasa of its role in promoting national unity?

Lim has unfairly compared the Jasa under the Muhyiddin administration with its previous incarnation under Barisan Nasional (BN) rule. Perhaps the 79-year-old DAP stalwart has forgotten that society has matured by leaps and bounds since.

Today, Malaysians are more discerning. They are better educated and more exposed to the outside world, thanks to the easy and affordable access to internet connectivity. Gone are the days where sizeable numbers of voters would fall for propaganda, hook, line and sinker.

There is no better testament to this than how the voters toppled the BN government during the 2018 general election, after 61 years of uninterrupted rule. In today’s connected world, no government propaganda machinery can stand up to the immense power afforded by digital platforms such as social media to bypass censorship and provide alternative viewpoints.

In other words, to accuse Jasa of being a government propaganda tool is to insult the intelligence of Malaysians and to turn the agency into a straw man purely for scoring political brownie points.

With the country facing unprecedented challenges, Lim and his ilk should stop inciting hatred and sowing confusion for short-term political mileage. Budget 2021 is RM322.5 billion. The proposed allocation for Jasa is RM81 million, or 0.025% of the entire budget. Stop playing politics with the budget and help put the nation first!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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