Move to grill Latheefa not to undermine PM, says parliamentary body head

Parliament must play its role as the watchdog of the executive, says PSC chairman William Leong.

PETALING JAYA: The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Major Public Appointments today defended its plan to grill Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Latheefa Koya, saying it is not to undermine the prime minister’s decision.

Social media users have questioned the necessity of the move but the committee’s chairman William Leong maintained that it is necessary to satisfy the concerns of the people on Latheefa’s appointment.

He said separation of power means that the prime minister has the power to appoint but that Parliament has its role to play as the watchdog of the executive.

“Parliament cannot do anything about the appointment, we cannot override the executive’s power, but the public has a right to know if she can carry out her duties.”

This, the PKR man said, was especially the case with Latheefa’s appointment as she was a former politician and came from outside the civil service.

“As the MACC chief commissioner, her main role is to investigate corruption. Invariably, this also means investigating ministers.

“If she was from the same party or coalition, there would be the perception of a lack of independence and conflict of interest.”

He said Latheefa could opt not to involve herself in investigations into politicians, as she had done with the investigation into allegedly suspicious bank transactions involving a Cabinet minister.

“She can say that she will leave it to her deputy, but how many times can you pass the task to the deputy MACC chief commissioner? I believe most complaints will be related to ministers.”

William Leong.

Leong also noted that there were concerns over Latheefa’s ability to direct investigations as she does not have any experience in doing so.

He said the PSC wanted to know from Latheefa herself how she would handle issues such as these.

Asked why the PSC did not also grill the likes of Inspector- General of Police Hamid Bador and Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, whose appointments did not go through the PSC either, Leong said this was because they were not outsiders and had served in the police and judiciary prior to their appointments.

He added that the PSC was briefed by officials of the judicial appointments committee and the police commission on those appointments.

“MACC also briefed us, but in Latheefa’s case, she is the best person to answer the concerns over her appointment.”

The Selayang MP denied that the PSC’s move was in any way to undermine Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to appoint her.

In fact, he said, if Latheefa’s appointment passed the test of scrutiny, and the PSC found that Mahathir’s decision was right and based on merit, then the PSC was in essence enhancing the legitimacy of the decision.

He said the PSC’s report on the matter would be made public and should be tabled during the July parliamentary sitting.

The PSC has asked Latheefa to meet it on June 20.