Anything but politics: Latheefa Koya


(Updated )

Latheefa Koya, or fondly known as 'Lat' among her friends, is a human rights lawyer, activist and politician. From Parti Rakyat Malaysia to the merged entity, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, she has seen and been witness to a few political 'explosions'. She is now the information bureau chief for Parti Keadilan Rakyat youth wing.

She also spends her time working closely with local human rights watchdog, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and is an active member of the Abolish ISA Movement. Latheefa was born in Kerala, India but has lived in Kuala Lumpur since she was 3 months old.

1. What inspired you to become a lawyer?

Well, it was never my ambition but I had little option, because I played the fool in school and ended up getting STPM results which will not allow me to take up law or political science in local universities. (I don't even have the bumiputra privilege since I was lumped in the "lain-lain" category.) So I had to take up an external degree and work at the same time. At that time I had an option to either do economics or law so I took up law. Since then, no regrets. I feel that as a practicing Lawyer I have the advantage of helping people from all walks of life.

2. How did you become a human right activist?

Have I got a choice? Every day you hear people being discriminated, exploited, abused etc Sometimes you can't sleep thinking about these.

3. What's the best thing about being a female politician?

Nothing at all. I guess having to constantly prove yourself that you are not a token. As an opposition politician, you are at a disadvantage regardless of your gender. By the way I prefer to be called a "political activist" than a "politician".

4. Do you consider yourself a proactive person?

Yes very much that's probably why my plate is full just too many things going on at the same time.

5. What is your favourite role: lawyer, politician or human right activist? Why?

Human rights activist of course and to me that would encompass being a lawyer and political activist as well. It's quite hard to separate them. Of course because it gives satisfaction knowing your life is not all about eating, sleeping, drinking, working but trying to make a difference in other peoples lives as well.

6. Did you have childhood ambitions?

Yes Wanted to be a scientist (laughs)

7. Who's the most interesting person that you have ever met?

There are just so many... Let me see. Aung San Suu Kyi she's brilliant, beautiful, highly principled she's a true leader. The other interesting persons I have met I have already established ties with them through my party, my activity circles so I think I shall spare them the embarassment.

8.Do you have a boyfriend? What is the criteria to be your boyfriend?

No comment.

9.What's the craziest thing you heard lately

I hear crazy things almost everyday let's see oh that Dr M is our latest opposition spokesperson (laughs)

10. Where will you spend your ideal holiday on? And why?

A year long back-pack rough ride through the Silk Road it will be an out of the world adventure! Ever since I read as a kid about the adventures of Marco Polo, it's always been my dream to take this trip. InsyaAllah.

11. Where do you like to hang out?

Anywhere where there's good food and an interesting crowd to chat with but I am a cheapo so most likely a mamak stall in KL.

12.Would you like to say anything to your admirer?

My admirer? Do I have one?

13. Do you have a favourite quote?

Here are three of my favourite quotes:

The right thing to do is the right thing to do : Dr Kalim Siddiqui

If there is something burning in your tongue let it burn : Persian wisdom

Just go with the flow: Taoist wisdom (I think)





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