KOTA KINABALU: Speculations of an early election for Sabah was further fuelled by news that all leave for Information Department personnel have been frozen.
The circular signed by the Information Department director-general Datuk Ibrahim Abd Rahman went viral on social media sparking off fresh talks that elections will be held soon.
However Ibrahim yesterday explained that the circular was sent to remind officers wishing to go abroad for private holidays or personal matters to make their applications in advance.
The freeze, he said, would not affect those who had been offered to perform the haj or umrah, whereas those who needed to go overseas for (important or emergency) reasons, (their applications) could still be considered based on merit, for instance, the death of family members.
“This is to avoid staff (being absent) when the department needs them to focus on the department’s activities and official government programmes,” he said, adding that the Information Department was involved in various national activities, including the National Day, the SEA Games, the King’s coronation, advocacy activities, public engagement and government policy marketing.
“It is the responsibility of the department to help the Election Commission in ensuring a smooth democratic process by running the voting campaigns and educating the public on voting procedures and methods through the media,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Ibrahim stressed that it was the department’s ultimate responsibility to disseminate information on government policies.
He said it was normal to issue such a circular a year before parliament was dissolved to remind all staff to be prepared for the election.
He said this was because some personnel and officers would have purchased flight tickets when the rates offered by the airlines were cheap and sometimes they would have reserved their flight tickets a year before the date of departure.
When their leave application is not approved, they will appeal using the excuse that they have booked their flight tickets, Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim added: “Due to the busy schedules and many official programmes organised by the government and department, the circular to freeze personal overseas trips is only meant for Information Department staff. It does not involve other civil servants.”
He added that staff could still travel domestically, and could apply to do so through their respective division heads and directors.