PSC irrelevant if appointments are made unilaterally, says Ramkarpal

PETALING JAYA: A Pakatan Harapan backbencher today raised concerns over the unilateral decision made by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the appointment of human rights lawyer Latheefa Koya as Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief.

Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 may provide that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong appoints the MACC head on the advice of the PM, which technically gives the PM the unfettered discretion to pick his choice of candidate for the post.

“However, the whole point of promise 14 in PH’s election manifesto is to ensure checks and balances, and transparency of such appointments by the setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Public Appointments.

“The purpose of such a committee becomes meaningless if such appointments are made unilaterally without even consulting the Cabinet,” he said in a statement today.

Ramkarpal’s statement was in response to remarks made by Mahathir yesterday that the decision to appoint Latheefa as MACC chief was his own and that he did not consult his Cabinet members.

Ramkarpal Singh.

Ramkarpal said the ability to unilaterally appoint implies the ability to dismiss unilaterally as well.

“This is why proper consultation with all parties, especially the Cabinet, is crucial so as to avoid unnecessary perceptions that may arise as a result of such unilateral appointments or dismissals,” he said.

In response to de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong’s statement today that the prime minister had acted within the law in appointing Latheefa, Ramkarpal said Liew was missing the point.

Ramkarpal stressed that the manner in which government officials are appointed must be given equal importance, if not more importance, to inspire public confidence in such appointments.

“The point that he is missing here is not the legality of Latheefa’s appointment but whether making such unilateral appointments without consultation with the Cabinet and the PSC is in line with the reforms promised before PH came into power.

“With respect, unilateral appointments such as this are not part of a healthy democracy and ought not to happen, irrespective of the quality or otherwise of the appointee,” he said.

Sivarasa Rasiah.

Latheefa, a rights activist lawyer, replaces Mohd Shukri Abdull, whose contract was allowed to expire ahead of its deadline on May 17, 2020. Shukri had indicated to the prime minister earlier that he wanted to leave after one year in service.

Meanwhile, Deputy Rural and Regional Development Minister Sivarasa Rasiah said Mahathir had also not consulted the PSC when he advised the King on the recent appointments of the chief justice and the inspector-general of police.

“Some of those raising this issue now had no problem with those appointments (which saw a lack of consultation),” he said in a series of tweets today.

Sivarasa further questioned whether the role of scrutiny of the new PSC, in respect of key public appointments, needs legal form.

“Powers to appoint the CJ, IGP and MACC are all in the law. The PH presidential council needs to discuss this in more detail,” he said.

Sivarasa said Latheefa’s appointment as the new head of MACC was sending a clear message to the MACC and other institutions that it is no more “business as usual”.

“MACC has to deliver more in the fight against corruption and new courageous leaders with integrity are needed.”