JASA – Right or Wrong?

After the tabling of the nation’s Budget 2021 by our Finance Minister, everyone is hyped about the RM85.5 million allocation to Jabatan Hal Ehwal Khas or more commonly known as JASA. As usual in Malaysia’s typical politics, those politicians who are ruling the government will laud the move while those who are not in the government will keep criticising the decision.

Before I even comment on the issue, let us look back at what this JASA is all about.

The department was originally established as Badan Hal Ehwal Khas after the 1959 general election with the objective of maintaining and protecting the political, religious and government stability. The name was subsequently changed to Cawangan Hal Ehwal Khas and then Jabatan Hal Ehwal Khas. The role of JASA was then also to explain the government initiatives and programmes. 

To justify, I wouldn’t say that it is a definite right or wrong about the existence of the department or even the proposed RM85.5 million that was allocated to it.

Some criticised that the JASA has been misused as a political propaganda machinery for those who are in the government. It is an irony that those who have attacked JASA were the ones that are benefiting from their efforts when they were in the government. Now that they are not in power, they criticise it.

Now that we already have the experience of both sides ruling the government, if we were to pay attention closely; no matter who is in the government, there are units or departments that were formed to appoint people into positions, politically. 

Some say that RM85.5 million can be used to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. But this is very subjective. What if the role of JASA can be turned to be part of curbing the Covid-19 pandemic. At the end of the day, it is whether we are doing the right thing or not. The government can always divert the RM85.5 million to another department or ministry, but if it is not used wisely or misused, it will also be a waste. The question now is not about where the funds flow to, it is whether the government is efficient or not, whether they are effective or not, whether they are sincere in governing or not.

Some say that Tun Dr. Mahathir has been doing the right thing by abolishing JASA in 2018. But if we were to think politically, could he have been doing that to get rid of his political adversary’s machinery? Considering that when he joined politics, JASA has already been around, and that when he was the Prime Minister, JASA has also been assisting in his government, and he knows JASA very well. And if JASA has only been doing government work, why would he choose to abolish JASA?

When we discuss the objectives  of JASA, I actually think that a department such as JASA is important in any nation with the role of promoting and creating awareness of government’s initiatives. I have been long enough in politics and on the ground to know that the majority of Malaysians do not know what does the government has to offer to the people. 

To put a good confidence of the people towards the government is a secondary matter. But a lot of the rakyat do not know they have specific benefits from the government or they do not know how to get them. While other departments need to play a role to implement policies, we need units such as JASA to make the people know about how to benefit from government policies. 

The tabling of the budget is an example of the lack of awareness from the public. On that Friday, I was sitting in a cafe doing my work while listening to the Finance Minister’s speech. As and when I heard some announcement that could benefit people that I know of, I would drop them a message. Unfortunately, most of them would ask me what is this, when was it announced? They don’t even know that there was a tabling of the Budget at that time.

There are pros and cons if we were to have JASA back in the government. In the end, there is no right or wrong on reviving and allocating RM85.5 million to JASA. It is whether the government as a whole is doing the right thing or not. Again and again, the more important thing to change now is our political culture. If we don’t, the same mistakes will happen to the country over and over again. But of course with the current political culture, I would still prefer if the funds are allocated to more important efforts such as education and entrepreneurship and the environment.

This article is published in Kwong Wah Yit Poh in Chinese dated 17 November 2020.