Visa exemption doesn’t compromise national security, assures Anwar

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the finance minister, said that security agencies have been asked to strengthen screening so that visa exemption facilities do not compromise national security. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 29, 2023

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has given his assurance that national security will not be neglected, following the government’s recent announcement regarding visa exemptions for several countries.

Anwar, who is also the finance minister, said that security agencies have been asked to strengthen screening so that visa exemption facilities do not compromise national security.

“There are honourable members who may feel concerned because security issues have been raised, so relevant agencies have been asked to strengthen the screening so that this facility does not compromise national security,” he said when tabling the Supply Bill 2024 for the second reading in the Dewan Negara today.

On November 26, Anwar announced that the government has granted a 30-day visa exemption for Chinese and Indian nationals visiting Malaysia from December 1, in the spirit of the strategic partnership of Malaysia-China bilateral relations, which will span 50 years next year.

He said that this is an addition to the existing visa exemptions enjoyed by citizens from the Gulf states and other West Asian countries. 

Anwar has asked the top leadership of the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) to manage its assets without interference from outside parties, including the government, as it is often plagued by procurement-related problems.

He said this means that ATM is fully responsible if there is a technical or implementation problem, while the government, particularly the Finance Ministry, will only negotiate in terms of equipment asset costs.

“... It’s better that we should negotiate, not through an agent, but directly with the relevant governments. We have already started with Turkey, South Korea and Italy. If there is anything is decided, it is (the agency’s) own decision, for example, the Navy decides (for Navy assets).

“Otherwise, billions of ringgit will just flow out of control. Safety and equipment issues are very critical for us. We cannot afford to spend tens of billions of ringgit and see very poor assets, compared with the capabilities of other (countries),” he said.

In the meantime, he said that the reduction of the entertainment duty rate for the Federal Territories, from 25% to the new rate, is not intended to encourage immorality, given that there are still strict conditions which need to be adhered to. 

“It is not to encourage immorality, even if this decision is criticised as bad encouragement, but strict conditions must be adhered to,” he said.

The prime minister also touched on the Israel-Palestine conflict, asking Malaysians not to use issues related to Palestine to further polarise the community, which consists of different religions and races.

Anwar said that Malaysians, regardless of religion or race, need to understand that the government’s stance of supporting Palestine and rejecting Israeli atrocities is based on humanitarian grounds.

“Some people ask why we take sides only because Palestine is Muslim, of course, there is ignorance of understanding because the land of Palestine is indeed Arab Muslim majority, but there is also a Christian minority,” he said.

Anwar said that the Zionist regime not only demolished hundreds of mosques but also destroyed seven churches.

“So, we have to look at it from the point of view of cruelty, and from the point of view of humanity because it also involves non-Muslims,” he said.

Budget 2024, themed “Economic Reforms; Empower People”, tabled by Anwar in parliament on October 13, involves an allocation of RM393.8 billion, which is the largest budget ever tabled in the history of Malaysia. – Bernama, November 29, 2023

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