Prior to re-branding, the MACC was previously known as the Anti-Corruption Agency and National Bureau of Investigations. In the history of the anti-corruption authority, none of its chiefs were woman – until now. Hence, Latheefa’s appointment, a 2-year contract effective June 1, has raised eyebrows. Her appointment was done in utmost secrecy until the announcement by the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday.
Today, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad admits that it was his personal decision to appoint Latheefa, without any discussion with his Cabinet. He said – “She is very straight. She says what the truth is. She doesn’t mince her words. So we need somebody who is of strong character. If she finds something against the law, she will investigate and report.”
However, Mahathir claimed that he had sought many people’s opinions before making his decision. So, what was the problem here? The problem is that the appointment should have been done through Parliamentary Select Committee, said some Cabinet ministers and leaders of the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition government.
But so far nobody questions the new MACC chief’s credential. What they questioned was the manner of how she was being appointed. A lawyer by profession, 46-year-old Ms Latheefa has been an activist and served as PKR’s central committee member. She was the co-founder of Lawyers for Liberty, a human rights lawyers’ organization that seeks to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties.
In other words, Latheefa would be appointed anyway, even if her nomination went through the Parliamentary Select Committee. It would be just “formality” to get her name mentioned and discussed in the committee. However, according to former Federal Court Judge Gopal Sri Ram, the committee has no role in key public appointments such as the Chief Commissioner of MACC.
In fact, unless the country’s Constitution is changed to mirror that of the United States’, the appointment of Latheefa as the new boss of MACC would have been unconstitutional had she been screened, scrutinized, confirmed and approved by the committee. Similar to the appointments of Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador and Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, the committee is powerless.
Like it or not, PM Mahathir calls the shot on these key appointments, preferably after “seeking consultation”. Sure, the PH coalition has promised that Parliament be allowed to scrutinise major public appointments. But those were promises on paper. From the legal point of view, those promises cannot be executed without making the relevant changes to the existing law.
The news of the appointment of Latheefa as the new MACC chief was so unexpected and stunning that opposition PAS Islamist party vice-president Iskandar Abdul Samad initially thought it was “fake news”. He argued that an independent figure without any political relationship – either in the past or present – should be appointed. Likewise, UMNO sang the same song.
That’s a very valid point. The question is whether such a person exists. In reality, every single agency in the country – from civil service to the monarchy – has been corrupted and abused by the tentacles of UMNO after 61 years of indoctrination. Ethnic Chinese or Indian cannot be appointed as the MACC chief because that would invite another rally by the racist UMNO and extremist PAS.
Perhaps UMNO wants their crooked leader Najib Razak to be appointed as the new MACC chief. Or perhaps PAS likes their corrupt president Hadi Awang to be the candidate. It’s amusing that opposition UMNO and PAS moaned, cried and bitched about the need for an independent MACC chief when they didn’t raise any objection when UMNO fanatic Apandi Ali was appointed as Attorney General by Najib.
In the same breath, it was both entertaining and hilarious when opposition MCA president Wee Ka Siong lectured that the MACC Chief Commissioner must be someone who can be impartial and unbiased. He argued that even though Latheefa has announced her resignation from PKR to take up the post, she cannot be trusted and will never be independent.
Mr Wee also said that it would have been more appropriate to appoint a successor to Chief Shukri Abdull from within the MACC itself. That’s an incredible dumb statement or conclusion. Getting someone from within the MACC as the next chief does not guarantee the independence, impartiality, integrity and credibility of the anti-corruption agency.
History is the biggest proof that in the last 61 years under the old government, the MACC was nothing but a tool to persecute the opposition and protect the corrupt BN regime – despite MACC Chief Commissioner being someone promoted from within the anti-graft agency. So, there’s zero correlation between impartiality and independence of the MACC with career officers.
The most comical remark from Wee Ka Siong was when he felt disturbed for PM-in-waiting and PKR President Anwar Ibrahim. He said – “I hope her appointment is not some grand conspiracy to stop Anwar from becoming the next prime minister.” Exactly why should an opposition leader like Mr Wee so concerned and troubled by the prospect of Latheefa targeting Anwar?
Would it not be a blessing for opposition leader like Wee if “loose cannon” MACC Chief Commissioner Latheefa whacks her own former boss PKR President Anwar, thus creating an opportunity for the opposition to take over the government? Should not the opposition parties – UMNO, PAS and MCA – celebrate the good news that PM-in-waiting is about to be investigated by the new MACC chief?
Clearly, the opposition parties were trembling that a fearless and outspoken lawyer like Latheefa has suddenly become the new MACC boss. If she had refused to give face to her own party leaders and even the new government in the last 12 months, imagine what she could and would do with mountains of files on past corruptions related to Barisan Nasional leaders.
Still, the sudden departure of Shukri Abdull, who chose to cut short his 2-year contract as the MACC chief, when he was supposed to quit only end of May 17, 2020, has raised questions? When asked if Shukri’s exit from the MACC was due to performance issues, PM Mahathir claimed the former chief requested to leave early. Of course, the premier was trying to be polite.
First of all, the MACC is still badly infected with loyal supporters of Najib and UMNO. And Shukri has not been able to clean up the anti-graft agency itself. It was Shukri’s own admission that during the 2015 probe into the scandal-hit 1MDB, he and other senior investigators were offered bribes and even threatened – presumably by the Najib Razak minions.
Every MACC officer involved in the 1MDB investigation in 2015 was offered a sum of RM3 million each to drop the case. Being an honest person, Mr. Shukri rejected the offer and was subsequently transferred out. But those who remained with the agency were presumed to have had accepted the bribes. And they are still believed to be in the MACC even after the new government took over.
Mr. Shukri also revealed that he met senior Malaysian ministers and the Council of Rulers to ask them to replace then-PM Najib Razak over the scandal. Of course, the Malay Rulers had their own interest to protect hence they preferred to close one eye. However, Shukri’s outburst of what transpired during a “tell-all news conference” last year had raised questions over his professionalism.
Although Shukri was an honest man, he was a follower – not of leadership material. In fact, the MACC during the previous regime was set up to follow instructions of the government. . But the final straw that broke the camel’s back exploded on Feb 24 this year when Shukri announced the MACC found no evidence that the RM90 million allegedly from 1MDB was deposited into PAS account.
The very next day, Mahathir, obviously was not impressed with Shukri’s incompetency, said the MACC may not have the details on the RM90 million funds allegedly received by PAS leaders from UMNO. The PM said – “They (MACC) may not have all the details, it will take time (to get the complete picture)”. The remarks suggested that Shukri might have made a premature statement while the investigation was still ongoing.
Like it or not, there’s no such thing as a true politically independent person. It’s sexy to be idealistic, but in realistic, there aren’t many candidates to choose from to give MACC, which is moving at a snail’s pace, a shot in the arm. Some leaders within the PH coalition are trying too hard to make the government a perfect one. As a result, that limits them with very little room to move.
Mahathir knew in advance that he would be tied and constrained with unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape – even infighting – if he proposes Latheefa as the new MACC chief to the Cabinet. He wanted the freedom to choose the best candidate in his view who can bring meaningful changes to the MACC. After all, too many cooks spoil the broth.
Source : Finance Twitter