Stakeholders concerned with manner of Latheefa’s appointment (Updated)

06 Jun 2019 / 13:45 H.

PETALING JAYA: The appointment of lawyer Latheefa Koya as chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has raised concerns among several stakeholders.

While they believe she is well qualified to helm MACC, they call into question the manner in which she was appointed.

Bar Council president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor pointed out that when Pakatan Harapan (PH) came into power, it set up the Parliamentary Special Select Committee to vet candidates for key government positions, that is “an important step to ensure such appointments are transparent”.

However, he said the failure to consult the committee on Latheefa’s appointment reflected poorly on the government’s commitment to transparency, accountability and integrity.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Latheefa would replace Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull as MACC chief.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said then that he did not seek the views of the Cabinet or anyone else when he decided to offer Latheefa the job.

“I did not want the opinions of the ministers to restrict my choices,“ he said.

Abdul Fareed said that while Latheefa has been a vocal advocate against injustice as well as public interest and human rights causes, she lacks the experience to lead a law enforcement agency.

“PH should stop ignoring its own election manifesto pledges by saying that they are not legally binding,“ Abdul Fareed added.

He said such political appointments should have ended on May 9 last year, the day Malaysians threw out the previous government.

Electoral watchdog group Bersih 2.0 said Latheefa has proven to be a “highly principled defender of human rights”, qualities that are needed to deal with the scourge of corruption in Malaysia.

However, it is “troubled” by the process in which she was appointed as it “highlights a structural weakness in governance”, thus making abuse of power “inevitable”, Bersih said in a statement today.

Under current laws, the prime minister advises the King on who to appoint to such positions but, Bersih said, such almost absolute power in the hands of the prime minister did not bode well for parliamentary democracy.

“Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak appointed his allies into key positions to help him escape scrutiny over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal,“ it said.

Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who is also PKR organising secretary, noted that Latheefa only resigned from PKR after she was appointed MACC chief.

“We are concerned about her ability to be impartial given its importance in the national reform process.”

Nazmi said although relevant laws are not in place yet, the appointment should have been referred to the Major Public Appointments Committee for validation to demonstrate the federal government’s intent to keep its promises.

On the other side of the debate, prominent lawyer and activist Siti Kasim has come out in support of the prime minister.

She argued that it is well within the powers of the prime minister to appoint whomever he believes is fit for the job.

“Not consulting the Parliamentary Select Committee is not against the law,“ she pointed out.

Describing Abdul Fareed’s statement as political, she said “the Malaysian Bar only issues statements when it concerns the law”.

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