PUTRAJAYA: Human rights lawyer and activist Latheefa Koya was busy preparing for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivities when she learnt that she might become the new head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
She was surprised as she had not seen it coming. But she felt it was a golden opportunity to serve the country and stamp out corruption in Malaysia.
“I wondered, if I said no to this opportunity to get rid of corruption, would I regret it? That really made me think.
“It was probably the biggest consideration I made when I took the job. Otherwise, I would have loved to go back to human rights activism,” she told FMT in an exclusive interview.
Latheefa, 46, was a co-founder of the Lawyers for Liberty human rights action group. If she had turned down the MACC offer, she said, she would have felt that she was not doing justice to the people. Allowing corruption to exist would be a denial of the people’s rights, she added.
“It is a human right to live in a corruption-free country.”
Upon receiving her letter of appointment from the chief secretary on June 4, she knew she had a huge task ahead.
As soon as her appointment was announced, politicians began questioning her lack of experience in handling a government body, much less the anti-corruption agency. Further criticism arose after Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that he had not sought Cabinet advice about her appointment, and doubts were expressed about her independence as she had been a member of PKR.
“Whether I am independent or not is for the public to judge, based on how I take on the cases. It is not for me to say. The public needs to make that call. They will have to judge me,” she said.
At the moment, she is drafting a personal checklist which she will reveal to the people when she is ready.
“I hope to tick off my own boxes on the checklist as I go along,” she added.
Her goals are to see tangible results by getting rid of corruption. “I want to be seen as someone who delivered an MACC that is respected and feared by anyone who thinks they can get away with corruption,” she said.
She also hopes to reduce corruption in the private sector by encouraging staff to get accredited for providing advice to companies and other agencies about the proper tender process and detecting any possible loopholes for corruption.
“We also have an integrity unit where we send officers to government-linked companies and public projects.
“People don’t realise there are huge operations on Felda and Felcra partly because we are familiar with how things are being conducted. That is why it makes it all the easier for us to deal with these cases,” she said, referring to the current investigations into the Federal Land Development Authority and Felcra Bhd.
As Latheefa looks to further transforming MACC, she is hopeful of delivering tangible results in less than two years as she strives towards her goal of a corruption-free Malaysia.