Commentary Politics

In Malaysia, what goes around comes back to the PM

Mahathir and Latheefa: "Why should the head of an agency meant to be impartial and independent go to meet the PM, even if culturally correct?"

TheMole
Written by TheMole

June 25, 2019.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary by Aziz Hassan

IT may have been culturally correct but when seen from a wider perspective, especially because the agency must not only be impartial and independent and also seen to be one, the decision by Latheefa Koya, the new chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commissioner, to pay a courtesy call on the prime minister recently was so unnecessary.

She was to say that they didn’t discuss case files but it would have been unthinkable to expect her to tell us that they did. At the same time how many would believe her if she had said that she and Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad talked about the weather and exchanged pleasantries about their families.

In a way this is yet another indication of how powerful the PM is in this country. Something can go round and round but eventually it all comes back to this all-powerful person and it’s all due to the country having a system that is centred around one man rather than being institution-driven.

It cannot be disputed that unless the federal Constitution is amended, the appointment of the MACC boss and heads of all critical institutions will always be on the advice of the PM to the Agong and Latheefa’s appointment is indeed lawful, with Mahathir saying that because the Parliamentary Select Committee on major appointments could not function, he thus had to make the decision himself. Neither did he feel obliged to first refer his choice to the Cabinet.

The question that must be asked is if the committee is as good as non-functional, why formed it with five others last December? What it means in fact is that we have a committee that is akin to a toothless tiger and because of this, it should be dissolved. If its chairman and members are paid an allowance, that would at least save the country some money.

The committee and legal point aside, if Mahathir sincerely wanted to be seen to nominate someone in a more widely acceptable manner, he could have easily appointed a panel to vet the nominees. From there he is still the one to make the final choice to be presented to the Agong.

Jokowi’s model is there to be emulated

That’s what Indonesian president Joko Widodo or Jokowi did in May 2015 when the country needed to appoint five new commissioners of the Corruption Eradication Commission or KPK. He surprised the whole country by appointing an all-female vetting committee, none of whom was known to have any political affiliations. From there the nominations went to the parliamentary committee, which means that beyond appointing the vetting committee, the president had no other role in the selection of commissioners, including the chief and deputy. That process is being repeated for the new KPK four-year term after this December.

Jokowi may have been prompted to adopt this process after what was seen as his first major bungle a few months previous to that in the nomination of General Budi Gunawan for national police chief, for Gunawan was shortly after named a suspect in a bribery allegation by the KPK. He was eventually freed and quietly named the police number two.

The instances below are some examples of how everything and everyone went back to PM Mahathir, which ideally should not be the case if Malaysia wants to move forward as a nation to be respected that has independent and impartial critical institutions like the MACC, Judiciary, Police, Attorney-General’s Chambers and Parliament:

Mahathir on Latheefa’s nomination: “I didn’t have to ask the Cabinet; I asked other people who know about the character of this person and there was no need for the Cabinet to decide, (because) if the Cabinet makes a decision it restricts me. So in this I was free to evaluate whoever was proposed and I picked.” 

Suhakam: “A list of proposed commissioners for the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia was submitted to Mahathir a week ago.” — Minister in the PM’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong (June 6)

Civil servants: “Friday’s reshuffle of the secretaries-general of 12 ministries involved no political interference”. — Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Ismail Bakar, who was also quoted as saying that the list had been submitted to Mahathir for approval.

Telekom Malaysia: “Rosli Man will remain as chairman and Imri Mokhtar its acting chief executive officer.” — Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

“The appointments were made following a directive from PM Mahathir. It was done according to procedures since the orders came from the PM directly. Up till now, I have not received any order from the PM to change.

And in a filing with Bursa Malaysia TM had said Rosli received a request from the PM’s Office to defer the appointment of the group’s CEO.

And what happened later? “The tug-of-war in the choice of who would head TM has ended with the appointment of Datuk Noor Kamarul Anuar Nuruddin as managing director and group CEO.

“Imri Mokhtar, the acting CEO, will now resume his post as chief operating officer.” – June

Do an online search and you will find some more similar instances since Pakatan Harapan became the federal government in May last year.

 

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