The Malaysian Insider
March 12, 2014
The mood among Malaysians now is moving from patience in the search for the 239 people aboard the missing flight MH370 to embarrassment and anger over discrepancies about passengers, offloaded baggage and concealed information about its last known position.
First, the discrepancy over whether five passengers did go onboard the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER bound for Beijing early Saturday but had their baggage offloaded when they did not turn up in the plane.
Up to Monday, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) said it did happen and the bags were offloaded and passed security checks.
Yesterday, the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said it did not happen. And Malaysia Airlines confirmed his version of events later in the evening.
Why didn’t Malaysia Airlines officials clarify the matter immediately when the director-general of Civil Aviation, Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (pic), disclosed the matter earlier?
And now this – the revelation that the passenger jet could have actually turned back and flown to the Strait of Malacca where it then disappeared from radar.
Why did it take the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) so long to share that key information with their counterparts and the public? The initial information has got everyone searching in the wrong area.
Keeping the information close to their chests also had the public puzzled over the strange move to search in the Andaman Sea, the Strait of Malacca and the jungle-clad border areas between Malaysia and Thailand.
And, in fact, until yesterday, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) confirmed that it was in the dark about a military radar tracking the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER (registration number 9M-MRO) overland to the busy shipway until it vanished at 2.40am last Saturday, more than an hour after it was last spotted on civilian radar.
Up to yesterday, Vietnam has also said it would increase the number of vessels in the intensive international search and rescue mission to find flight MH370.
The Chinese, too, have put in more resources and pointed 10 satellites to the area to look for the passenger jet, where more than two-thirds are Chinese nationals.
Is it a wonder that the Chinese are fuming and have asked Putrajaya to be more forthcoming on information about the missing MH370? Is it surprising that even the Vietnamese feel the same?
Then there is the curious case of the two Iranians who used stolen Italian and Austrian passports respectively to take a roundabout way via Beijing to their final destination in Europe.
Global police organisation Interpol said the duo used their own passports to leave Iran on February 28 for Malaysia before using the stolen passports to get aboard flight MH370 for the flight to Beijing on March 8.
Malaysian immigration authorities said both used the stolen passports to enter Malaysia on February 28. Yet, Interpol says they used their own Iranian passports.
So who is right? Did the passport switch happen in the plane?
Are we in for more discrepancies and concealed information getting their time of day soon? Have the government and all the relevant agencies told us everything they know?
Or do we have to wait and wonder for more than 24 hours the reasons for the expanded search at the Sumatra coast and the Andaman Sea because Azharuddin could only say cryptically: “There are some things that I can tell you and some things that I can’t.”
More importantly, will any of this delay make it even harder to find the 239 people onboard flight MH370 which has been missing for more than 100 hours now?
The whole world is watching Malaysia now because an aircraft with a wingspan of 61m does not fall off the sky or disappear into thin air just like that.
Relatives and friends of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members are also watching every step taken by the authorities. Any wrong move will diminish their confidence and trust that Malaysians are serious about the search and rescue mission.
As it is, the Malaysians will have a hard time explaining to their counterparts how they finally figured that flight MH370 turned back and was tracked until 2.40am Saturday – the same time Malaysia Airlines first said the jet disappeared.
Right now, 239 lives are at stake until they can be found. And time is running out unless the Malaysians get their act together and follow Beijing’s advice of telling all they know about flight MH370. – March 12, 2014.