KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — Pakatan Harapan’s disregard for its own pledges when selecting ex-PKR member Latheefa Koya to head the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) could jeopardise the agency’s perceived independence, the Malaysian Bar said.
Among other concerns, Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor pointed out that her appointment was made without the knowledge of a parliamentary select committee tasked with vetting candidates for key government posts.
“While Latheefa Koya has been a vocal advocate in standing up against injustice, and has been actively involved in numerous public interest and human rights cases, the Malaysian Bar is concerned with the manner in which the appointment took place, as well as her suitability to hold this high-profile and weighty position,” he said in a statement.
Although acknowledging her years as a lawyer, he also emphasised that she lacked experience in leading law-enforcement agencies, especially one as important as the MACC and during such a critical time for Malaysia.
Abdul Fareed stressed that PH could not continue ignoring its own manifesto pledges by simply claiming these were not legally binding.
The failure to consult that parliamentary select committee reflected poorly on the government’s commitment to transparency, accountability and integrity, he added.
Abdul Fareed also noted that Latheefa had been a PKR member until a day before her appointment was announced, adding that her previous proximity to the party’s affairs would invite the perception of conflict of interest.
The Bar president reminded the ruling coalition that political appointments should have ended on May 9, 2018, a day after Malaysians voted out the previous government.
“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.”
The Prime Minister’s Office unexpectedly announced Latheefa as the new MACC chief on Tuesday to mixed response from Malaysians.
During the government’s Hari Raya open house yesterday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also confirmed he made the decision unilaterally and did not consult his Cabinet as he did not want to be bound by their views.
He further acknowledged that the appointment was inconsistent with the pact’s manifesto, but argued that it would be unfair if PH could not reward those who had worked hard to help it win the general election.