KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s unilateral appointment of Latheefa Koya to head the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has divided analysts and political observers alike.
Some see it as entirely within the prime minister’s legal right while many think of it as yet another instance of the Pakatan Harapan government walking back an election promise.
Then there are those who say this is just Dr Mahathir showing his detractors who is the boss.
Professor Hoo Ke Ping noted that some decisions by the prime minister have been challenged by those inside the ruling coalition recently eg. his allowing rare earths producer Lynas Corp to continue operating in Malaysia.
“I think he got fed up and he had to show who's in charge,” Hoo told Malay Mail.
“He has to find a way to survive and this move is part of his ‘survival kit’ as Mahathir is in the smallest party in Pakatan with Bersatu having only 26 MPs.”
Dr Mahathir appointed Latheefa, a lawyer and human rights activist from PKR, as MACC chief commissioner without consulting the Cabinet or a parliamentary select committee.
The announcement which was made on the eve of Hari Raya caught everybody by surprise.
The move baffled many even as quite a few supported and applauded Dr Mahathir’s choice as Latheefa is known to be a straight shooter.
On Wednesday at the federal government’s Hari Raya open house, the prime minister said he did not want to deal with the Cabinet’s opposition to him appointing Latheefa, therefore he decided to appoint her unilaterally.
Hoo added that this is “a masterstroke to regain his power”.
Meanwhile, there are those who read something else into this appointment: A way to check prime minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
MCA president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said on Tuesday he felt “disturbed” for Anwar, claiming that Latheefa and the PKR president have “history.”
Latheefa had previously accused Anwar of cronyism and nepotism in the appointment of party state chiefs last December.
Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said in principle that what Dr Mahathir did was not wrong and that Latheefa’s appointment could be a good one.
“Latheefa is one who is well respected by all in the human rights advocacy community and beyond, and hopefully she will bring about her no-nonsense posture to the country’s anti-corruption effort, prosecuting big and small fishes alike,” he told Malay Mail.
“Her fierce attitude can be seen in her previously criticising her own party president, and this is perhaps what many Anwar supporters dislike, and which the members of the former authoritarian and kleptocratic regime are milking.”
Latheefa serves as MACC chief for two years beginning June 1; she resigned from all political posts as of June 3.