PETALING JAYA: Newly appointed chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Latheefa Koya is not only noted for her legal work in the human rights sphere but also as a plain-speaking lawyer and political party member.Whether it’s anti-death penalty, lock-up deaths, religious freedom, the treatment of migrant workers or about refugees, Latheefa has worked on them all.
Highly outspoken and even described as feisty, Latheefa, 46, who quit PKR on Monday following her MACC appointment, has no qualms about taking anybody to task.
Even her previous party leaders, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and adviser Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, were not spared.
Last year, after the party elections, Latheefa criticised the PKR leadership including Anwar for what she called cronyism and nepotism following changes to the appointment of the party’s state chiefs.
She also called out Dr Wan Azizah for her stand on child marriage.
Latheefa has traded barbs with leaders from other parties, including those from Pakatan Harapan coalition partners.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof was told off for dealing with the controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik.
The fifth of six siblings, Latheefa grew up in Petaling Jaya.
She studied law at the University of London and was called to the Malaysian Bar in 2001.
In an interview with The Star in 2004, Latheefa said law was not her first choice but believed it might have been her calling after all.“I had no choice, I wanted to do political science in a local university but I got caught in the quota system.
“So I went for the other cheapest options available – and the only available courses were economics and law, so I chose Law. Luckily, along the way, I discovered that I actually liked law, especially litigation,” she was quoted as saying.
As a lawyer, Latheefa has been involved in numerous public interest and human rights cases and initiatives, gaining prominence as one of Anwar’s lawyers.
She has represented many civil society members and then opposition politicians/activists in urgent arrests, remand hearings and criminal cases in court, particularly for offences under the Sedition Act 1948, Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, Penal Code, and Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
Latheefa’s involvement in politics started with Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), where she was its youth secretary.
When PRM merged with Parti Keadlian Nasional to become PKR in 2003, Latheefa continued to be involved in the party and went on to become its information chief.
She has served on PKR’s central committee, and received the most votes for the post in the 2014 party elections.
She was also a councillor with Petaling Jaya City Council from June 2008 until July 2012.
She co-founded Lawyers for Liberty in 2011 and was its adviser until she became executive director in July 2018. Following her appointment to MACC, she quit the post.
She was involved in numerous initiatives including the Bar Council’s Legal Aid Centre, Refugees and Migrants Clinic, Immigration Law Reform Committee, Suara Rakyat Malaysia and Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (Abolish ISA Movement).