Motion to stop paying special envoys denied

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (front R) announces the 2014 budget at the parliament in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2013

MALAYSIA - A motion to remove the salary allocations for three special envoys and five special advisers to the Prime Minister totalling RM2.6mil (S$1mil) from the 2014 Budget has been shot down but not without heated debate from both sides of the political divide.

Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers have proposed that salaries for the three envoys - Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis (United States), Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting (China) and Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu (India and South Asia) - amounting to RM980,179 a year, not be included in the Budget.

They have also tabled a motion that salaries for the special advisers amounting to RM1.63mil be taken out of the government's expenditure next year.

The special advisers are Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil (to oversee the development of women entrepreneurs and professionals), Tan Sri Rais Yatim (social and cultural issues), Datuk Seri Noh Omar (for Selangor affairs), Datuk Johari Baharum (Northern Corridor Economic Region) and Datuk Hasbi Habibolah (Sarawak Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board).

Sim Tze Tzin (DAP-Bayan Baru) questioned the appointment of Jamaluddin, Ong and Samy Vellu when the government has career diplomats to represent Malaysia in the United States, China and India.

Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) said the government should exercise prudent spending in times when the economy was uncertain, adding that there was no need to "recycle" leaders.

In an immediate response, Ong said since his appointment as special envoy to China on Nov 1, 2011, he had not used government facilities including a government car and bodyguard, although he was eligible to under the position.

He added that he had agreed to the renewal of his two-year term as special envoy from Nov 1, and had conveyed to the Prime Minister that he did not want any remuneration or government facilities, and he preferred to do the job on a voluntary basis.