PUTRAJAYA, June 5 — Career officers do not have a monopoly on leadership roles in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
The prime minister said so when explaining why he did not choose a senior MACC officer to head the commission over rights lawyer Latheefa Koya.
“Well, sometimes we take people from outside. It is not a monopoly of any posts in the country.
“It’s not always that we only appoint people who are number two, number three and all that.
“We have a right to approve anybody that we feel would fit,” he told reporters at the prime minister’s official residence here during the Hari Raya open house.
After confirming that he made his choice independently of his Cabinet, Dr Mahathir said he chose Latheefa who was known for bluntly expressing her views.
“She’s very straight. She says what is the truth. She doesn’t mince words, so we need somebody who has a strong character,” he said.
“I took into account the character. I think some people are very straightforward, they don’t fear expressing their views and they are not unduly influenced by other people,” he added.
On the need to preserve MACC’s independence, Dr Mahathir pointed out that Latheefa has already resigned from the PKR party.
“We can’t penalise our members. During the time we were trying to win the election, these people all worked very hard to make us win.
“But our manifesto says people who work for us cannot hold any posts. That’s not fair.
“Of course, we don’t make them heads of department or companies, they can be members of the board.
“But in certain cases, if they have the right quality, we will appoint even those who are in politics,” he said.
Latheefa’s appointment effective June 1 was historic as the lawyer became the first woman in Malaysia to head MACC.
Latheefa’s appointment was announced yesterday, in line with her predecessor Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull who cut short his two-year contract that was due to only end May 17, 2020.
When asked if Shukri’s exit from the MACC was due to performance issues, Dr Mahathir said it was the former who requested to leave early.
“He asked to stop. He has been asking me last year to step down, so I took time to find a replacement,” he said.
“He says it’s been too long,” he said of the MACC veteran.
Dr Mahathir said Latheefa will be handling all corruption cases, and that she would also investigate and report on any party that goes against the law.