THE controversy surrounding the appointment of Latheefa Koya as the new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner isn’t going away soon and can only lead to waves of discontent and suspicion.
Within the rank and file of the MACC and other government agencies, the staff is grumbling about why none of them were deemed fit to helm this very powerful body, and why a politician was, instead, picked.
Former MACC chief Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad wasn’t a product of the institution either – he was from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Basically, an active politician has been selected to helm the position, who was a former PKR central committee member. That surely sounds like somewhere high up the pile, doesn’t it?
While some PKR leaders now in the government are tempering the issue by claiming she hadn’t been an active member, the public won’t buy this. The feisty human rights lawyer has, in fact, been very outspoken on numerous issues.
The MACC has been struggling to regain public trust and confidence, and after the general election last year, there appears to be a ray of hope.
To many sceptical Malaysians then, the MACC was dismissed as a tool of the government, which executed selected prosecutions. They saw it as an instrument to punish political opponents.
And as if to prove the naysayers right, in the investigations of the 1MDB scandal, the crime-busting body dragged its feet and even came up with justifications, in different forms, to avoid charging certain people.
It took the formation of a new government for the corruption and money-laundering charges to see the light of day. And in that process, MACC’s cleansing exercise yielded a truly professional setup.
Without doubt, public faith has been restored and the recent number of arrests and charges involving high level politicians and government officials have raised the MACC in the popularity stakes.
It’s not compulsory to select an MACC official to succeed Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull, but given her credentials, Latheefa wouldn’t struggle to learn the graft busting ropes.
It’s also a moot point in selecting a trained MACC official who lacks the gumption to take on offenders.
After all, there are Cabinet members – past and present – whose qualifications don’t match what they were or are doing. We have a dropout, and at least one deputy with dubious, or fake qualifications, holding government posts.
So, the question isn’t about Latheefa’s competence or integrity. It’s her impartiality that has come under scrutiny.
She has done her duty without fear, even when involving her party bosses. Not every budding politician, who aspires to be an elected representative, would do that, so her bravery is surely an asset.
Also, like many politicians, she seems to have hedged her bets on the faction opposing Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The fact is, PKR is now a deeply divided party. And unfortunately, she’s not helping by training her guns on Anwar. Naturally, her appointment has led to a ruckus.
Politicians see political ghosts lurking where there could be none, and they talk of political agendas to make themselves relevant and important, when this could all just be a figment of their imagination.
But that’s how politics works. So, in a world of cloak and dagger, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he made the appointment on his own but revealed that he did so after taking in the advice of some people, the WhatsApp service of many politicians and media went into overdrive. There was much speculation about the personalities who offered “advice” to the Prime Minister.
And this is where Latheefa must prove she is neither tool nor party to any purported scheme to stop the PKR president from succeeding Dr Mahathir as the next PM.
Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt, though, because surely she means well, and like it or not, her appointment has already been made. She knows she is being watched so she would want to live up to expectations.
There’s also another lesson here. Yes, Dr Mahathir has the authority as PM to make the appointment, but Malaysians also want to see the end of unilateral and arbitrary decisions in the new era.
Keeping Cabinet members and component leaders in the dark doesn’t reflect transparency or respect.
Dr Mahathir may be the boss, and he may not need to seek the consensus of the Cabinet, but it doesn’t hurt to at least inform its members.
Anwar revealed he only knew about Latheefa’s appointment from the announcement, just like the rest of us. It wouldn’t be wrong to conclude that the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail was also left clueless.
According to Anwar, clearing of the air was needed for why the Cabinet was not informed. Also, the appointment was allegedly not in line with the MACC Act and violated the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto.
“Of course, clarification is required as this is what we promised, but we should only use proper forums such as in the Cabinet or the Pakatan leadership council if we want to raise and seek proper clarification.”
While Anwar has routinely said that Dr Mahathir must be given the “space and latitude” to administer his duties (and the latter has likewise constantly reassured that Anwar would succeed him), the appointment of Latheefa will certainly be a bitter one.
It’s off-putting because Latheefa has been a thorn in Anwar, Dr Wan Azizah and their loyalists’ side. Unfortunately, Anwar has no choice but to make his unhappiness known openly through the media because his faithful would expect him to do so.
Hari Raya is a season for seeking forgiveness in the true spirit of “maaf zahir dan batin”, but the appointment will leave plenty of misgivings.