Speak only for yourself on politics, Siti Kasim tells Malaysian Bar chief

Siti told Abdul Fareed to 'stick to the law' when issuing statements on behalf of the statutory body. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Siti told Abdul Fareed to 'stick to the law' when issuing statements on behalf of the statutory body. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — Prominent lawyer and activist Siti Kasim today took the Malaysian Bar president to task for using his post to express his personal political views on the appointment of the newest head of the  Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

She called Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor’s statement about former PKR member and vocal lawyer Latheefa Koya’s selection political and unethical, telling him to “stick to the law” when issuing statements on behalf of the statutory body.

“I question the wisdom of our President in making this political statement. The Bar only issues statements when it concerns the law. This is unethical and shouldn't be the Malaysian Bar's stand. The President can state his own personal opinion but not on behalf of members.

“I resent this political statement by the Bar. Stick to the law Mr President! Not consulting the PSC is not against the law. Many posts in current government or before were held by inexperienced people. The prime minister has the power to appoint who he deems fit,” Siti wrote on her Facebook page.

The PSC refers to the Parliamentary Select Committee. 

In a statement earlier this morning, Abdul Ghafoor said that Pakatan Harapan’s disregard for its own pledges in appointing Latheefa could jeopardise the MACC’s perceived independence.

He noted that her appointment was made without the knowledge of the PSC, tasked with vetting candidates for key government posts, among other concerns.

Abdul Ghafoor acknowledged Latheefa’s legal experience in thorny lawsuits, but also said she was unpractised in leading law enforcement agencies, especially one as important as the MACC and during such a critical time for Malaysia.

The failure to consult the PSC 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 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.

Selayang MP William Leong, chair of the PSC on major public appointments, told Malay Mail that his committee was not consulted on Latheefa’s appointment.