Quitting PKR won’t change perceptions of bias, analysts tell Latheefa

Lawyer Latheefa Koya speaks to reporters at the Palace of Justice, Putrajaya February 14, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Lawyer Latheefa Koya speaks to reporters at the Palace of Justice, Putrajaya February 14, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 — Even though newly-appointed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Latheefa Koya has resigned from PKR, the public will still fear that she may not be neutral in her undertakings, analysts said.

The lawyer and human rights activist had served as an elected member of PKR central leadership council from 2003 to 2018.

“The government shouldn’t have appointed her, they should have appointed someone neutral as there’s a clear conflict of interest,” Professor Jeniri Amir from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak told Malay Mail.

“For me, quitting the party is not enough. Can you say her mind and heart won’t be with PKR or Pakatan Harapan (PH)?

“It’s not easy when you are in a political party and then quit the party and distance yourself in one minute. I think PH is not making the right move here. They should abide by whatever promises that were made in the manifesto,” he added.

Sivamurugan Pandian, political analyst with Universiti Sains Malaysia, said the criticism hurled at Latheefa’s appointment stems from it not going through a Parliamentary Select Committee.

“Some criticise her appointment because it didn’t go through Parliament or a select committee and she was a political cum vocal lawyer. PH might have to make a statement why it didn’t go through Parliament as stipulated in the manifesto.

“She, however, is not someone who will compromise on issues and her personality could be the reason why she was appointed. I believe she is fit to take over as she always stands with her principles.

“She is also the first woman MACC chief and all should welcome her appointment beyond politics,” he added.

Professor Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia backed Latheefa’s character, work ethic and her appointment, saying she is someone who doesn’t mince her words and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.

Azmi said the issue is that Latheefa was in a political party prior to her appointment and since MACC is an independent agency in charge of tackling graft, the two do not mix.

“She’s been very vocal in calling for a clean administration free of corrupt practices, but MACC is a government agency and the fight against graft needs bipartisan support.

“Even if Latheefa can be a bipartisan MACC chief, I’m afraid that her close ties to PKR leadership will give the wrong impression on her impartiality.

“Not that she is not capable for the job, but I’m afraid that a noble intention of choosing her will go to waste because her appointment will surely be a political tool for the Opposition,” said Azmi.

Latheefa was previously the director of Lawyers for Liberty, a human rights and law reform initiative that seeks to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties for all, including those most at risk.

She has in the past criticised the highest leadership of her own party, case in point last December when she accused PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of practicing cronyism, nepotism and playing favourites with regards to appointing state chiefs.

Anwar had appointed his daughter Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar as Penang PKR chief. Soon after criticism from Latheefa and other politicians, Nurul Izzah quit her post. Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim followed suit and turned down his appointment as Johor PKR chief.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said it is Latheefa’s character and track record of being true to her beliefs that sets her apart from the rest.

Ahmad Fauzi believes everyone deserves a chance if they have the credentials.

“Everyone deserves a chance, as long as he or she is qualified. A similar case happened last year in the appointment of the Dewan Rakyat speaker Mohamad Ariff Mohd Yusof. He had given up his post in Amanah.

“She has resigned from all posts hence there shouldn’t be any reason to think that she will be anything but neutral.

“She has the reputation of independent-mindedness, for example, being critical of Rafizi Ramli and Anwar in the past,” said Ahmad Fauzi of Latheefa’s many spats with PKR’s former strategic director Rafizi Ramli.

In a statement yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said Latheefa would serve as MACC chief for two years beginning June 1.

She replaces Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull whose contract was allowed to expire ahead of its deadline on May 17, 2020.

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