While there are “strong merits” to the criticism against Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s unilateral appointment of Latheefa Koya as the new MACC chief commissioner, critics should realise that the premiership comes with certain privileges, de facto Deputy Law Minister Hanipa Maidin said.
Nonetheless, the deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said he did not see how the prime minister could misuse these privileges and that Mahathir and his government were “sensitive to the spirit and principles of democracy and the rule of law”.
“I’m sure the prime minister realises that he leads New Malaysia under Pakatan Harapan, and not under the old BN order,” Hanipa said in a statement this morning.
As such, he is sure that the government would seek to address and resolve the controversy.
According to Hanipa, most of the complaints he received over the shock appointment of Latheefa, a former PKR leader, human rights activist and lawyer, to head the anti-graft body did not contest her qualifications or ability.
Instead, he said, many were critical of the manner and process in which the appointment took place.
Among which, Hanipa said, were the alleged absence of transparency and proper prior consultation; the alleged contradiction to Harapan’s GE14 manifesto; the lack of discussion within cabinet and Harapan presidential council, as well as concerns over Latheefa’s potential “lack of impartiality” given her political background.
“I believe the majority of the people can agree with the reason given by the prime minister as to why he selected Latheefa as the candidate to replace the previous MACC chief, who elected to leave (the post) before the end of his term.
“Several parties, such as the Bar Council and Bersih, have also issued official statements, which can be said to be critical of the appointment. Honestly, I see that there are strong merits to their reasoning,” Hanipa said in the statement.
Criticisms won't be dismissed
Even so, the Sepang lawmaker added that the government would not simply dismiss these criticisms, nor ignore its election promises.
“Therefore, to be fair to the prime minister, the relevant parties should realise that the post of prime minister comes with certain privileges that are not possible with other posts. Yes, of course, we all do not want the PM to misuse these special rights and I, too, do not see how they can be misused.
“As such, I am sure, and I believe that the PM, cabinet members and the highest Harapan leadership will successfully solve this turmoil prudently,” Hanipa said.
Controversy arose when, in a sudden announcement on Tuesday, Putrajaya stated that Latheefa had been chosen to replace former MACC head Mohd Shukri Abdull, who had opted to vacate his position almost a year before his contract was to expire.
Critics pointed out that the former Lawyers for Liberty executive director’s appointment would affect the perception of MACC’s integrity due to her former affiliation with PKR - a major component of the ruling coalition - despite her having resigned from the party just prior to taking up the post.
Many also pointed out that her selection, later revealed to be the personal choice of Mahathir, bypassed the very Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Public Appointments formed by the new government to reduce the ability of the prime minister to intervene in key appointments, including to the MACC, as part of its election pledge.
Mahathir said he picked Latheefa due to her strong and truthful character. He also explained he did not consult his cabinet as he wished not to be “restricted” and wanted to be “free to assess who I want to suggest and choose”.
Many have also lauded Latheefa’s appointment and have come to the PM’s defence, with Hanipa’s boss de facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong declaring that Mahathir acted within the ambit of the law.
Liew cited Section 5 (1) of the MACC Act 2009 - which states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is to appoint the chief commissioner of the MACC on the advice of the prime minister.