KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 — Datuk Puad Zarkashi lauded today the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s plan to reactivate the Special Affairs Unit (Jasa), calling the department he once led a crucial platform to help the ruling coalition counter Opposition propaganda.
Puad was the former director at the unit set up under Barisan Nasional rule. The Umno supreme council member said Jasa had been effective in communicating the government’s messages and countering “false allegations” against the then administration.
Critics of BN previously saw the department as a propaganda unit. It was dissolved after Pakatan Harapan took power in 2018, which Puad claimed was an act of political vengeance spearheaded by the DAP.
“Reviving Jasa proves that the act of shutting it down was wrong and an act of vengeance,” Puad said in a text reply to Malay Mail.
“Its closure also proved that Jasa was an effective government machinery in communicating the messages ‘of the government of the day’ including responding to the lies and allegations by the Opposition, especially from the DAP,” he added.
The DAP, PH’s predominantly Chinese component member, was often the subject of Jasa’s past efforts. Its leaders claimed the intention was to tap on Malay insecurity and keep the ethnic majority suspicious of the opposition coalition.
The Communications and Multimedia Ministry said last month it has already begun efforts to reactivate Jasa that past government critics alleged had been a propaganda unit.
According to national news agency Bernama, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin said his ministry was already rehiring former Jasa officers for this purpose.
Talks that Jasa could be reactivated has elicited concerns that the PN government would resort to the same scaremongering and racially divisive tactic.
But Puad claimed the fear was unfounded. The Umno leader argued that Jasa had merely carried out its role as the government’s communications machine, similar to that of the Information Department (Japen) or state-owned television channel RTM.
He also asserted that Pakatan Harapan (PH) did the same upon taking power, using the two agencies to boost the coalition’s image.
“That’s why we are baffled as to why they didn’t shut down RTM, Japen or the National Civics Bureau,” he said, referring to PH.
“In truth it was dissolved because it was effective in countering the Opposition’s lies, particularly the DAP,” the Umno leader added.
Puad also shot down claims that Jasa was racist, claiming: “How can you call us racist when the staff at Jasa was multiracial?”
As soon as taking power in May 2018, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had announced Jasa’s dissolution, saying the decision was discussed at a Cabinet meeting in efforts to focus on addressing the national debt of up to RM1 trillion.
Puad himself had quit his position in Jasa ahead of the 14th general election, in what was seen as a response to Umno not selecting him to contest the Batu Pahat seat. He had then said defending the government had been a thankless job.
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