The public statement was necessary although she is never involved in any investigation as the MACC chief, she said.
“There are two types of conflicts of interest. One is actual conflict of interest and one is just perception.
“This (Azmin’s case) is a situation of perception. I think I (was) left with no choice (but to make the announcement). If not people would perceive that the investigation would be tainted because I’m leading it,” Latheefa told The Malaysian Insight.
The MACC probe is into claims that Azmin allegedly received money from UEM Group Bhd but the PKR deputy president was cleared of any wrongdoing by the anti-graft agency.
Coming just a week after her appointment, Latheefa issued a statement to say the investigation would be handled by her deputy, MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Azam Baki and his team.
“As MACC head, I don’t get involved in the actual investigation. But people need to understand this.
“This (the announcement) is just to make sure it’s (the investigation) not tainted. Otherwise there will be no end and I’ll have to keep explaining. So I may as well be clear about it.
“I can assure that all investigations will be done without fear or favour.”
Latheefa, who spoke to The Malaysian Insight at MACC’s Putrajaya headquarters, also touched on her role in PKR before joining MACC, and all the criticism she had received from quarters who said her appointment was politically motivated.
“Well, I don’t know about condemning. There were concerns and shock but I got a lot of support despite the fact that I may have been a PKR member.”
She said she held no position in PKR for more than a year and didn’t participate in the party elections last year.
She added that she had been vocal in her criticism in her capacity as a human rights lawyer and activist as well as in her capacity as former director for Lawyers for Liberty (LFL).
“I have been active and vocal in LFL, I can’t recall speaking in my capacity as a party leader. So, there’s a perception that needs to be corrected. I understand the concern, but I took an immediate step to resign as soon as I was appointed MACC chief.
“I can assure everyone that my job will be carried out fairly without favouritism. That can be judged through my work.”
She is the first woman chief of MACC and the first person without an enforcement background to lead the anti-graft agency. – July 9, 2019.
PM didn’t give me specific instructions, says Latheefa
THE offer to head the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission came out of the blue, said Latheefa Koya, who admitted she would have turned it down if she had been given more time to think about it.
“I can’t get into details but this was out of the blue for me. When the offer came, I was given a short time to think.
“If I had been given time to think too much, I may have turned it down. But I had to take this up, I had no choice,” she told The Malaysian Insight in jest at the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya.
It has been just slightly more than a month since the appointment and Latheefa is wasting no time in getting to know everything about the anti-graft agency.
She came into the interview after an internal briefing – the latest she had attended in her short time at MACC.
Latheefa said she did not meet Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad prior to the appointment but met him briefly after her appointment was announced. The prime minister had just returned from his three-day visit to the United Kingdom.
“He reminded me of my powers (as the MACC chief) and told me that I need to know how to use my powers.
“He also reminded me of the big task I have ahead of me,” she said.
In that short meeting, she was surprised at how much Dr Mahathir knew about her, she said.
“It was a very short meeting. He seemed to have known of me or about me. He had done his research. It’s quite a thing, I’m still trying to grasp what happened.”
When asked if Dr Mahathir told her to look into any specific case, the former activist said “no”.
“He never mentioned any specific cases to me.”
Latheefa was impressed with the inner workings at MACC, especially on investigative matters, adding that she was surprised at how much work and detail go into an investigation to make a case air-tight.
“It’s pretty interesting how much of work and how much detail go into it to make sure information is verified.
“If MACC catches you, they will not bring you to court unless they have a strong case against you. It’s that kind of standard that they have,” she said.
Latheefa, a human rights activist and former director for Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), said human rights and corruption are intertwined as corruption leads to abuse of human rights as well.
“This is different from what I’ve been doing as a lawyer and doing human rights cases. There are a lot of different perspectives.
“Graft-busting is intertwined with human rights. Without dealing with corruption, a lot of human rights are trampled and denied. I’m able to reconcile with the work that I’m doing with MACC.
“Like understanding that a corruption-free society is intertwined with human rights.”
When asked about her first day at work, Latheefa said it was like going back to school as all the departments gave her presentations every day.
“It was amazing. I was given explanations every day to brief me on what’s going on and I had to ask a lot of questions. It’s huge!”
Latheefa was appointed as the new MACC chief on June 4, replacing Mohd Shukri Abdull, who requested that his contract be shortened from its full tenure, which was supposed to end on May 17 next year.