Malaysian anti-graft chief resigns, replaced by former PKR politician

Ms Latheefa Koya has taken over from Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull as commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Ms Latheefa Koya has taken over from Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull as commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Questions over sudden departure; successor quit party a day before her appointment was announced

Malaysia's anti-graft chief Mohd Shukri Abdull has resigned and been replaced by former politician Latheefa Koya, who quit Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) on Monday, a day before her appointment was publicly announced.

Datuk Seri Shukri's resignation came as a shock to many, as he was just a year into his two-year appointment. He was made commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on May 17 last year, eight days after Pakatan Harapan (PH) won federal power.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office yesterday said Mr Shukri, 59, had requested to end his contract early, with the Malaysian King consenting to his resignation and to Ms Latheefa's appointment. She started serving her two-year contract last Saturday.

Still, Mr Shukri's sudden departure raised questions, considering his replacement's political leanings.

"I believe there are hidden hands who forced Shukri to step down," a senior MACC source told The Straits Times. The source said that, given Mr Shukri's plans for MACC and the slew of cases it is probing after the change in government, there were no reasons for him to quit.

But another top government official said Mr Shukri had genuinely wanted to quit early. "He was offered to serve until December but he couldn't wait to go off."

Mr Shukri himself, in a text reply to ST, said: "I promised Tun (Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad) to serve for one year. My focus was to finish my unfinished job like the 1MDB and SRC cases… My mission is accomplished. I've placed MACC on the right track."

 

In 2015, he led corruption probes into state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and its then subsidiary SRC International, units of the Finance Ministry headed by former premier and finance minister Najib Razak.

Mr Shukri was pressured to retire from the MACC in 2016, but was brought back as its chief by Tun Dr Mahathir. Mr Shukri is credited with sewing up several corruption investigations involving the previous administration - Najib is now on trial for receiving RM42 million (S$13.8 million) from SRC International - and with four other pending cases tied to 1MDB.

Days after Mr Shukri was appointed MACC chief last year, he held a tearful tell-all session describing how he had received a bullet in the mail and had been offered large sums of money to drop the 2015 probe into 1MDB.

Today, despite Mr Shukri's assurance that his job at MACC is done, the choice of Ms Latheefa did not sit well with some Malaysians.

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.

Although she has quit PKR - which is a member of the PH coalition that governs Malaysia - many social media comments pointed out the government's promise to do away with political appointees, which had been a common practice during the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

On Twitter, there was more criticism than congratulatory posts, with one user, @awesomeameen, surmising: "A simple resignation from a political party a day before appointment isn't enough to mark her credibility to lead a non-partisan and neutral MACC."

Another user posted: "Even BN didn't appoint a politician to head MACC. Dumb move of the highest order."

There were also those who applauded the appointment, as Ms Latheefa is the first woman to head the agency.

Prominent rights lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan tweeted: "No doubt many crooks will be uncomfortable and terrified. Another bold appointment by the PH government. Well done!"

PKR lawmaker Fahmi Fadzil told ST in response to public concerns that Ms Latheefa is a political appointee: "Now the public will need to assess for itself her bona fides, that she will be able to act professionally, independently and without fear or favour."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysian anti-graft chief resigns, replaced by former PKR politician'. Print Edition | Subscribe