Yes, Prime Minister
By TAY TIAN YAN
Sin Chew Daily
Sin Chew Daily
The appointment of Latheefa Koya as the new MACC chief commissioner, like the fireworks during the Hari Raya holidays, has triggered boisterous outbursts across the nation.
Those who are against her appointment are doing this partly because of her personal background, or her political affiliation.
First and foremost, she is not from MACC itself but more of an “outsider” without much to do with the agency all these years who has suddenly been transplanted out of nowhere to head such an important government agency, and is therefore hardly convincing.
Secondly, as the new government has stressed administrative neutrality over and again, it is therefore unbecoming for it to put someone with a political background at the helm of a key government agency.
Latheefa used to be a key person in PKR, and this alone does not seem to go well with the requirement for neutrality and independence.
Thirdly, in PKR Latheefa is a strong opponent to the Anwar family.
There have been a lot of factors of uncertainty to Anwar's ascension to the country's number one post. Could Latheefa be one?
These personal factors aside, the way PM Mahathir appointed the MACC chief itself was highly disputable.
Mahathir admitted that Latheefa's appointment had not been discussed in the cabinet.
Apparently it was the PM's sole discretion.
Under Malaysia's administrative system, the prime minister is not elected directly by the people but indirectly by a popularly elected political party, which also makes recommendations for ministerial positions to share the power with the prime minister.
As such, the cabinet should be seen as the hub of power, not any single individual.
Moreover, the PH administration is a coalition government whereby component parties share the ruling power, while the cabinet plays the role of checks and balances.
Bypassing the cabinet and appointing the MACC chief on one's accord is to put the PM's power above that of the cabinet.
But the thing is, will our cabinet ministers ever question the PM's decision?
Will they demand a review of the PM's decision come the next cabinet meeting?
Like the 1980s BBC political satire of the same name, we can anticipate that in the next cabinet meeting, our ministers will still nod to Mahathir: Yes, Prime Minister!
Mahathir remains very much the all-powerful PM he used to be, while the cabinet remains wholly in submission.
Mahathir has not only bypassed the cabinet but the Parliament, too.
PH has pledged, and Mahathir himself has said it, that the appointment of leaders of key national agencies such as the Attorney-General, Bank Negara governor, MACC chief commissioner, IGP, Auditor-General, etc. has to be approved by the Parliamentary Select Committee.
This is an important procedure in democracy that accords the Parliament the power to check the prime minister and government to prevent any instance of power abuse.
They claimed that former PM Najib appointed his “own people” to head key agencies so that he could do anything he wanted culminating in the erosion of the national institution.
That said, the Parliament has not had a say in recent key appointments, from those of Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, Auditor-General Nik Azman Nik Abdul Majid, Bank Negara governor Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, IGP Abdul Hamid Bador, to Latheefa Koya as MACC chief commissioner.
We don't see the slightest hint of institutional reform. We only see that Mahathir's power remains unquestioned, with the rest of the pack echoing submissively: Yes, Prime Minister!