Latheefa Koya’s appointment as MACC chief ‘shocks’ many

Latheefa Koya

Latheefa Beebi Koya will be a talking point among Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers this Hari Raya.

In what has been described as “shocking” by many, Latheefa, who is Lawyers for Liberty executive director, replaces Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull as MACC chief with her two-year contract taking effect from June 1.

Latheefa, who was PKR central committee member, quit the party yesterday.

Insiders were “shocked” when informed of Latheefa’s role as the Prime Minister’s Office said the appointment was among new measures to reform government institutions.

Insiders claim Shukri wanted out from his two-year contract due to “health” reasons. His contract was supposed to end on May 17, 2020, but Shukri had requested “just weeks ago” he be allowed to leave earlier.

Shukri, known as a “good but emotional man”, served MACC since 1984 with the likes of former chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed and deputy commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki.

He opted to retire in 2016 as deputy chief commissioner but returned to helm MACC eight days after Pakatan Harapan won the May 9 general elections last year.

Shukri in his parting speech three years ago, said: “MACC is not for cowards. I suffered from insomnia and have high blood pressure.

“I have been insulted and was even accused of being a conspirator to topple the Government.”

Shukri also revealed there were attempts to interfere in investigations.

Among questions raised this time around is did Shukri leave due to health reasons or were there attempts to interfere in investigations?

It is an open secret some MACC officers are still reeling over the acquittal of Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon on corruption charges last September.

While this will continue to be a nagging question in the minds of many, one insider said of Latheefa’s appointment: “Does she have any experience in investigation, gathering of intelligence, covert activities or even administrative work related to this field? The announcement is shocking.

“By right, it should be someone who understands the system and who will be able to command the respect of the officers and personnel. Bringing an outsider will cause uneasiness.”

Another insider said: “I’m sure some officers will not be pleased.”

However, “outsiders” serving MACC is not new.

Former judge Tan Sri Harun Hashim served as the first Anti-Corruption Agency chief while former police officer Datuk Seri Zulkipli Mat Noor was once chief of the agency.

In August 2016, former director of the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, replaced Abu Kassim as chief commissioner.

It is understood among the names proposed to replace Shukri were Azam and former deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali.

Mustafar was transferred to the Immigration Department where he served as the director-general for two years five months before being named the chief executive of the National Financial Crime Centre.

Latheefa, who acted for PKR and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the past, ruffled party feathers in December after accusing the top leadership and Anwar of practising nepotism, cronyism and favouritism following changes to the appointment of the party’s state chiefs.

Party members had sought disciplinary action but she lambasted them, saying: “Using disciplinary complaints to try to silence me is a contemptible Umno-style tactic.”

Given her lack of experience in anti-corruption investigations and her past association with PKR, is Latheefa the right candidate?

“Why not?” said an insider in the know of the appointment.

“She is strict, firm and known for her no-nonsense approach. She makes a perfect candidate to run the commission.

The insider said there were similar appointments for key roles in the AGC and police, among others.

“The Attorney General (Tommy Thomas) was a private practitioner. (Datuk Seri Abdul) Hamid Bador’s name was not even proposed but was still made Inspector-General of Police.

“The idea is to get independent parties who are free from any baggage to help reform the main institutions and to inject professionalism. Why can’t Latheefa be the MACC chief commissioner?”

A former ranking MACC officer said the appointment should be seen in a positive manner.

“We have had professionals from other backgrounds being part of the ACA and MACC. The deputy chief commissioners will assist in the operation and other technical matters,” he said.

“Perhaps Azam was not promoted because there was no suitable person to replace him. I am sure the decision makers have given this appointment much thought.”

He added the onus is on Latheefa to prove her critics wrong.

“All eyes will be on her, given her past political alignment but being a lawyer she has a reputation to maintain.

“I’m sure she knows this and could turn out to be the perfect candidate for the job.

“If we want to see MACC being truly independent, the government needs to quickly expedite its transformation to a service commission so it can appoint its own chief commissioner,” he added.

List of ACA / MACC chief commissioners
Tan Sri Harun Hashim (Aug 10, 1967 – March 25, 1971)
Tan Sri Ibrahim Salleh  (July 25, 1971 – Nov 4, 1977)
Datuk Abdullah Ngah (Nov 5, 1977 – Aug 26, 1981)
Datuk Abdul Aziz Ahmad (Aug 27, 1981 – May 15, 1985)
Tan Sri Abu Bakar Mohd Noor (May 16, 1985 – July 30, 1987)
Tan Sri Zulkifli Mahmood (July 31, 1987 – July 15, 1994)
Datuk Shafee Yahaya  (July 16, 1994 – Sept 13, 1998)
Datuk Ahmad Zaki Husin (March 24, 1999 – March 23, 2001)
Datuk Seri Zulkipli Mat Noor (April 1, 2001 – March 31, 2007)
Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan (April 1, 2007 – Dec 31, 2009)
Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed  (Jan 1 2010 – Aug 1, 2016)
Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad (Aug 1, 2016 – May 14, 2018)
Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull (May 18, 2018 – May 31, 2019)
Latheefa Koya (June 1, 2019 – present)