PERMATANG PAUH - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad needs to clarify the appointment of Ms Latheefa Beebi Koya as chief of Malaysia's anti-graft agency, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim has said.
Datuk Seri Anwar said on Thursday (June 6) that the decision to appoint Ms Latheefa as the new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief was made by the Prime Minister and that he knew about it only from the announcement, Bernama reported.
Ms Latheefa, a former prominent PKR politician, was appointed the MACC chief commissioner, effective last Saturday, replacing Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull, who decided to shorten his service contract.
Tun Dr Mahathir said he made the decision to appoint Ms Latheefa without consulting the Cabinet.
Ms Latheefa on Friday (June 7) said in a statement on her first full day as chief commissioner of the MACC: “There have been many opinions since my appointment was announced the day before Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Anyone has the right to question, criticise or issue their opinions, that is alright.
“My job is clear - that is to combat corruption wherever (it is). With the support and encouragement of the people and my officers at MACC, we will change Malaysia to a community allergic to corruption and free from corruption."
“It is the right of every Malaysian citizen to live, work and prosper in an environment free of corruption,” she added, as quoted by Malaysiakini news site.
According to Mr Anwar, matters that needed clarification on Ms Latheefa's appointment included why the Cabinet was not informed, and that the appointment was allegedly not in line with the MACC Act, and also violated the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto.
The government had promised to do away with political appointees, which had been a common practice during the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
"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," Mr Anwar said.
Mr Anwar, who is Port Dickson MP, said he had agreed to give Dr Mahathir time and space to clarify the appointment at the proper platforms, according to Bernama.
"Nonetheless, our duty is to ensure the effectiveness in the administration of the government, as we have been given the commitment to support the government administration under the leadership of Tun Dr Mahathir."
"We will ensure MACC remains independent and those given the task be seen as very professional and not be dragged down by political and factional affiliations. This concern has been expressed," he said.
A lawyer by profession, Ms Latheefa, 46, is an activist who has served as PKR's central committee member. She represented several PKR leaders in court.
She quit PKR on Monday, and Mr Anwar said her resignation has been accepted by the party and it should not become an issue.
Part of the tensions on her appointment in PKR stemmed from the fact that the party is split between the Anwar faction and another led by PKR deputy president Azmin Ali. Ms Latheefa is with the faction led by Cabinet minister Datuk Seri Azmin,
Still, PKR president Mr Anwar was not the only one in the four-party Pakatan Harapan (PH) ruling alliance who questioned the way the appointment was made.
Ramkarpal Singh, a prominent MP from the Democratic Action Party, said Dr Mahathir's unilateral decision to appoint Ms Latheefa is a poor reflection of a healthy democracy, and went against an electoral promise by PH.
"The whole point of Promise 14 in PH's election manifesto is to ensure a check-and-balance and transparency of such appointments by the setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Public Appointments," Mr Ramkarpal said in a statement on Thursday.
"The purpose of such a committee becomes meaningless if such appointments are made unilaterally without even consulting the Cabinet," he said.
Malaysia's Bar Council that represents the country's lawyers said the way the appointment was made could jeopardise the agency’s perceived independence,
“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,” Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said in a statement on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a PKR MP, Ms Tan Yee Kew, said on Friday that she has signed an online petition at change.org calling for Ms Latheefa's resignation.
The petition has garnered more than 1,350 signatures on Friday afternoon.
The petitioner, Malaysia Baharu, or New Malaysia in Malay, said the appointment of Ms Latheefa contradicted PH's promise not to have political appointees.