Bersih 2.0: PM’s unfettered powers to hire and fire was what gave us 1MDB scandal


Bersih 2.0 said it was concerned over Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s admission of unilateral action in the appointment of Latheefa as MACC chief. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Bersih 2.0 said it was concerned over Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s admission of unilateral action in the appointment of Latheefa as MACC chief. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — The Pakatan Harapan government must formalise the independence of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and others like it, Bersih 2.0 said following Latheefa Koya’s controversial selection as the agency’s head.

While insisting the former PKR member was suitable for the role, the electoral watchdog said it was concerned over Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s admission of unilateral action in the appointment.

Among others, it pointed out that former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had used this same prerogative to make changes at key institutions during the height of the 1MDB scandal in 2015.

“While current laws allow the PM to advise the King to appoint whosoever he wants, such almost absolute power in the hand of the PM does not bode well for our parliamentary democracy system of government,” the group said in a statement.

“Former PM Najib Razak used the same power to appoint his allies into key positions in his attempt to escape the scrutiny of the 1MDB scandal and cling on to power.”

Bersih 2.0 also reminded PH that it was voted in on promises to bring about reforms to restore the integrity of the vital pillars of government and institutions.

PH must now move to implement such reforms urgently, beginning by introducing amendments that would permanently remove agencies such as the MACC from under the direct authority of the executive.

“Unless the appointment process is institutionalised, there is a risk that all the good appointments so far could be undone in a day if the next PM so wishes,” it said.

“As a country, we cannot hope for and depend on the good intentions and graces of the PM but we need strong and independent institutions and processes to hold the PM and all public officials accountable.”

Earlier today, the Malaysian Bar expressed similar concerns about how Latheefa was appointed and her suitability for the role, saying that both would expose the MACC to perceived conflicts of interest.

The Prime Minister’s Office unexpectedly announced Latheefa as the new MACC chief on Tuesday to mixed response from Malaysians.

During the government’s Hari Raya open house yesterday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad confirmed he made the decision unilaterally and did not consult his Cabinet as he did not want to be bound by their views.

He acknowledged that the appointment was inconsistent with the pact’s manifesto, but argued that it would be unfair if PH could not reward those who had worked hard to help it win the general election.