Mahathir picked a lawyer as Malaysia’s new anti-corruption chief – but the Malaysian Bar is strongly objecting

Mahathir said he chose Latheefa Koya for her strict nature and her ability to “see what is the truth”.
  • PM Mahathir just appointed Malaysia’s new anti-corruption chief without consulting the Parliamentary Special Select Committee.

  • The Committee ensures the selection process for key government positions is transparent, and reduces the PM’s ability to intervene in these appointments.

  • On Thursday, the Malaysian Bar released a statement criticising the move, referencing the PH government’s promise to avoid political appointees – a practice common under BN rule.

  • It also implied that PH did not fulfill the promise of transparency and integrity in its manifesto – which was created to gather citizens’ support at GE14.

  • Mahathir said that it was “not fair” to exclude PH members from holding important posts.

Malaysia’s new anti-corruption chief hasn’t even been in office a week, but her appointment is already resulting in accusations of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government going back on the promises it made at the 14th General Election.

Human rights lawyer Latheefa Koya, 46, assumed her post as the first female chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Comission (MACC) on June 1, after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a “personal desicion” to appoint her without consulting the Parliamentary Special Select Committee, Bernama reported.

Read also: Malaysia’s anti-corruption chief is quitting before his contract ends – a year after someone sent a bullet to his house

The Committee serves as a check to ensure the selection process for key government positions is transparent, and reduces the PM’s ability to intervene in appointments – a process listed in ruling party’s manifesto.

In a report by the Malay Mail, various minsters expressed surprise that the PM did not consult the Cabinet before making a decision, while some Malaysians took to social media to express unhappiness that the party had seemingly gone back on its promise to avoid political appointees, a common practice under the previous Government.

Latheefa’s appointment also faced strong opposition from the Malaysian Bar, which called on the Government to “clarify” matters in order to restore the public’s trust in the MACC.

Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said in a statement on Thursday (May 6) that Mahathir’s lack of consultation with the Committee did not line up with the manifesto’s promises of transparency, accountability, integrity and good governance.

He implied that the manifesto was partly why the public had voted the party into power at the 14th General Election.

Abdul Fareed said Latheefa’s appointment had been viewed by the public as a political move, given her previous active involvement in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), a member of the PH coalition.

He noted that she had previously served as information chief, legal bureau chief, and taken strong stands on party matters – which could potentially influence the MACC’s autonomy.

“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.

He added that, as a practising lawyer, she did not have any experience working in law enforcement.

In Bernama’s report, Mahathir said he had asked for the views of people familiar with Latheefa’s character before deciding on the appointment, adding that he chose her for her strict nature and her ability to “see what is the truth”.

He further explained that he did not consult the Cabinet as it would restrict his decision-making, adding that he did not want ministers to get “complacent” that the candidate they chose would be approved.

He also said it was “not fair” to exclude PH members who had worked hard for the party from holding important posts.

“Of course we don’t make them heads of department or companies, we make them members of the board – but in certain cases, if they have the right quality, we will appoint even those who are in politics,” he said.

According to Malay Mail, at least one minister – Communications Minister Gobind Singh Deo – was supportive of Mahathir’s choice, calling for the Government to give Latheefa a chance to show results.

Read also: Malaysia’s anti-graft chief Dzulkifli Ahmad resigns after Dr Mahathir warned that ‘heads would roll’ in several agencies