In her first message as chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Latheefa Koya today vowed to put an end to corruption in the country, saying her duty is clear.
On the first day on the job, the newly-minted MACC chief pledged the eradication of corruption “anywhere and everywhere” it is found today.
“This morning I started my first full day as chief commissioner of the MACC.
“My job is clear. It is to go after corruption anywhere and everywhere it is found,” she said in a statement.
The former director of human rights group Lawyers for Liberty who recently quit from PKR also acknowledged the many criticisms in the wake of her unilateral appointment by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“Everyone is entitled to question, criticise or express their opinion, so that is alright,” she said.
Latheefa added that she would be looking to transform Malaysia into a nation free of corruption and one that denounces such malpractices and culture.
“I will also be looking into long term measures, including education, to create a culture of intolerance to corruption.
It is the fundamental right of every Malaysian to live, work and prosper in a corruption-free society,” she added.
Latheefa’s appointment as MACC chief was announced on the eve of Hari Raya Puasa on June 4 but took effect on June 1. She tendered her resignation from PKR in an email on June 3.
She replaces Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull who was said to have decided to shorten his service contract that was to end in May 2020.
Latheefa’s appointment has drawn mixed responses, including from within the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) with several ministers defending Dr Mahathir’s decision, while others have questioned his move that went against their coalition election manifesto and the purpose of setting up parliamentary oversight committees.
PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday said Dr Mahathir needed to use the proper channels, either the Cabinet or the PH leadership council, to clarify his unilateral decision.
Bukit Gelugor MP and DAP legal bureau chief Ramkarpal Singh is among the internal critics, saying the point of PH’s 14th election promise about having Parliament validate the appointment of MACC commissioners was to ensure check and balance.
However, de facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong has weighed in, saying the law did not compel the prime minister to refer to the Cabinet or to the parliamentary select committee before appointing the MACC chief.
Additionally, Deputy Rural Development Minister R Sivarasa, a PKR lawmaker, said Latheefa’s appointment as chief commissioner was sending a clear message to the agency and other institutions that it was no longer “business as usual”.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said those who questioned Dr Mahathir’s appointment of Latheefa should realise that the post of prime minister comes with certain privileges.
Hanipa said Dr Mahathir is aware that he is leading a New Malaysia under the PH government and he believed that the prime minister would not abuse the privileges accorded him.
“Therefore, to be fair to Dr Mahathir, all quarters should realise that the post of prime minister comes with certain privileges which other posts may not have.
“Yes, for sure we all do not want to see the prime minister ‘abusing’ these privileges, and I also do not see how it can be ‘abused’,” he said in a statement today.
He said the PH government had shown that it could act responsibly in many cases, including on appointments to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Therefore, Hanipa believed that Dr Mahathir, his Cabinet and the PH top leadership could resolve the controversy over Latheefa’s appointment in a wise and proper way.
He added that he had received many messages and complaints from various parties on Latheefa’s appointment and that in principle most of them did not question the qualifications or integrity of the prominent rights lawyer to hold this important post.
“The complaints I received mostly centred on the issue of the appointment process. Among the issues were allegations on lack of transparency and consultation, violation of a written pledge in the PH Manifesto, non-discussion of the matter in the Cabinet and/or PH Presidential Council, and concerns over ‘lack of impartiality’ on the part of Latheefa in view of her background,” he said.
Hanipa said bodies like the Bar Council and Bersih 2.0 had issued statements critical of Latheefa’s appointment and he could see some strong merit in their arguments.
The Malaysian Bar claimed the unilateral appointment could jeopardise the commission’s perceived independence and stressed that PH cannot continue to ignore its own manifesto pledges by simply claiming these were not legally binding.
“Some parties also felt that in view of Latheefa’s background as a human rights lawyer, the post of Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chief commissioner would be more suitable and appropriate for her than that in MACC,” he said.
As an administration sensitive to the soul and principle of democracy and sovereignty of the law, the government under Dr Mahathir would not view such “voices” lightly, he said.
He said this new government would also take the pledges in its election manifesto seriously.