PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Information Department has frozen annual leave applications for overseas travel effective May 1, in preparation for the 14th general election.
This was revealed in an internal secular dated Feb 28 issued by the department's director-general Ibrahim Abdul Rahman.
In a statement on Saturday (March 11), Datuk Ibrahim confirmed that the circular that has since been sighted by news outlets is authentic.
"It is customary for a circular to be issued one year before the end of the parliamentary term to remind the department's staff to prepare to face the general election once it is announced," he said.
Mr Ibrahim said the circular was issued well in advance to prevent employees from purchasing flight tickets to travel abroad at a time when they are required to focus on the department's activities and official government programmes.
"This internal circular was issued because there are JaPen (Info Dept) employees who book tickets a year ahead of their flights to get the best rates and when their leave is not approved, they appeal with the excuse that their tickets have been booked and cannot be postponed.
"Due to the busy schedule and sheer number of official government programmes, the circular to freeze annual leave for the purpose of unofficial overseas travel is issued specially for members of the department only.
"It does not involve all civil servants as has been widely publicised," he said.
Mr Ibrahim clarified that the circular also does not involve leave applications for domestic travel, which can still be requested by employees via their respective heads of departments.
Neither does the freeze apply to those who are travelling to perform the haj or umrah, while certain requests to travel abroad will still be entertained based on individual merit.
The Information Department is typically responsible for assisting the Election Commission during elections to ensure a smooth flow of the democratic process, from disseminating information on voter turnout, voting procedures and media engagement.
"It is the department's primary responsibility to continuously communicate information on the Government's policies," Mr Ibrahim added.