Keep Jasa out of politics or use other ways, says analyst

Political analyst Syed Arabi Idid and former Jasa chief Puad Zarkashi give contrasting views on the issue.

PETALING JAYA: A political analyst says the government should have considered better alternatives than reviving the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) to strengthen the government’s information machinery.

Syed Arabi Idid of International Islamic University Malaysia says he believes Jasa’s functions have been rendered obsolete in the age of the internet and social media.

But Puad Zarkashi, the former Jasa director-general disagrees, saying the department was very much relevant as one of the government bodies to disseminate information and counter lies made against the administration of the day.

He said the decision to revive Jasa was evidence that Pakatan Harapan’s decision to abolish it was a mistake and a vengeful move. “It proves Jasa is effective in countering DAP’s claims and an effective machinery in disseminating information of the government of the day.”

Yesterday, deputy communications minister Zahidi Zainul Abidin said Jasa would be revived after being abolished after PH came to power in 2018.

The department, like the National Civics Bureau (BTN) had been criticised as being propaganda arms of Umno as well as being misused for indoctrinating civil servants in Ketuanan Melayu beliefs of Malay superiority.

Addressing those criticisms, Syed Arabi said the “new” Jasa should be devoid of politics.

“When a government agency starts indulging in politics, people can see through it, and when that happens whatever information they gather from the ground may be inaccurate. Jasa should function as part of the civil service, not led by politicians. It will be relevant only if they can supplement the government’s communications efforts minus politics.”

Syed Arabi said ideally, the government should look to a more cost-effective and efficient means of disseminating information and gaining feedback from the ground.

This, he said, can be done by leveraging on technology and social media. Alternatively, he said the government’s Information Department can be beefed up with more resources.

Puad said any government needed various agencies to disseminate information and counter lies made against it. “Why was only Jasa closed? Why weren’t RTM, TV3 and the Information Department closed?” he asked, adding the former administration also used the various agencies when they were in power.

“Their job is to defend the government of the day including when PH became the government.”

Puad also said that Jasa used various approaches, including social media, face-to-face interactions, and publications among others.