PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar is concerned with the manner in which Latheefa Koya was appointed chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission (MACC), as well as her suitability for the post.
Its president, Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, said there is no justification that the Parliamentary Special Select Committee was not consulted to review the selection of the new Chief Commissioner of the MACC.
“An obvious oversight of this nature does not reflect well on the resolve of the government in practising transparency, accountability, integrity and good governance, which are attributes that it has been championing vociferously.
“The government cannot continue to say that the manifesto is not binding, as the pledges in the manifesto had been made in order to convince the rakyat to vote it into power,” he said in a statement on Thursday (June 6).
He said that while the Parliamentary Special Select Committee has no force of law, its establishment was an important step to ensure that appointments of such key government positions would be transparent, and to serve as a check and balance on the Executive branch, in line with the promises made in the election manifesto.
Abdul Fareed said that while Latheefa has been a vocal advocate in standing up against injustice, and has been actively involved in numerous public interest and human rights cases, she has long been an active member of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), who has publicly taken strong stands in relation to party matters.
“She previously served on its central committee and reportedly held the positions of information chief, and legal bureau chief, which raises the spectre of conflict of interest.
“It is indisputable that MACC must have autonomy and independence from the Executive in order for it to do its job effectively as an agency to combat corruption, free from any undue influence,” he said.
Latheefa's appointment – announced on June 4 –came as a surprise to many. She replaced Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull, who quit before his tenure was to have ended in 2020.
She has resigned as a PKR member and as the executive director of Lawyers For Liberty.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said it was his personal decision to appoint Latheefa to the post, and that he did not consult the Cabinet on the matter.
Abdul Fareed said that Latheefa’s resignation as a party member three days ago, upon being informed about her impending appointment, does not significantly alter the unfavourable public perception that her appointment is clearly one of political patronage, given that PKR is a vital component of the Federal Government, and also has representation in several state governments.
“The era of political appointments should have ended the day Malaysians voted for a change in government on 9 May, 2018,” he said.
He added that the role of the Chief Commissioner of MACC at this juncture is crucial, as the nation moves forward in its reforms to combat the menace of corruption in line with its “National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019–2023”.
“It is a well-known fact that Latheefa Koya has been a practising lawyer for the past 18 years, with no experience at all in any law enforcement agency. Notwithstanding Latheefa Koya’s strong credentials as a human rights lawyer and activist, the role is one that requires a distinct skill set, namely that of knowledge and familiarity in law enforcement and investigation.
“The Malaysian Bar calls on the relevant authorities to clarify these critical matters, in order to ensure public trust and confidence in the independence of the institution and therefore the value of the government’s overall effort in combating corruption,” said Abdul Fareed.