The Malaysian Insider
March 13, 2014
Across the world, top newspapers and leading news agencies have started to rap Malaysia for the “mystery, confusion and disarray” in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
So far, government leaders from Datuk Seri Najib Razak down have failed in one critical aspect: inspiring confidence and assuring Malaysians and the international community that they know what they are saying and doing.
There have been inconsistencies and discrepancies that have even led to Vietnam suspending its air search operations until Putrajaya lets it know the latest direction of the massive hunt for the lost Boeing 777-200ER.
Then there is the irony of China asking Putrajaya to be more “forthcoming” in its information about the passenger jet where two-thirds of the 239 people on board are Chinese.
The thing is, government is only as good at the people on top and the cream of Malaysians politicians have either been hiding, waffling or in a stupor.
Really, Malaysians should not be surprised at the performance of the Najib administration. After all, they were severely challenged by the floods in the east coast a couple of months ago. Nobody expects Najib to be chairing daily press conferences or to be leading the search and rescue operations but nobody expects him to stay on the sidelines while the air force, police, aviation authorities, Malaysia Airlines slug it out in a festival of wrong information.
Some of the baffling details heard since the passenger jet vanished on Saturday include Malaysia Airlines initially saying the Boeing 777 (registration number 9M-MRO) had lost contact with air traffic control at 2.40am after about two hours in the air.
It later said contact was lost at 1.30am, as data on flight tracking websites had been showing. The incorrect time report led to speculation the flight had crashed somewhere between Vietnam and China.
Two days ago, information leaked and was later confirmed that the aircraft could have doubled back across the peninsula and headed to the west near the Andaman Sea before vanishing at 2.40am.
This information has changed the entire course of the search from the South China Sea on the peninsula east coast to the west coast – where the Strait of Malacca is the world’s busiest shipping lane.
But it is not only the families of victims and world press who are exasperated, even Malaysia’s neighbouring countries which have sent out rescue aircraft and ships are dumbfounded.
Yet, more countries are now joining the international search and rescue mission, in the slender hope of finding survivors among the 239 people onboard the passenger jet.
India is now in and it is understood that Malaysia is seeking more information from Thailand and Myanmar on the off chance that flight MH370 had actually flown across the peninsula and onwards to the Andaman Sea.
Why? No one knows.
But as the Guardian said: “Malaysian officials have given ambiguous, inaccurate and at times directly contradictory information since the aircraft’s disappearance, raising concerns among families of the passengers.”
The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner expanded today to cover a swathe of Southeast Asia, from the South China Sea to India’s territorial waters, with authorities no closer to explaining what happened to the plane or the 239 people on board.
Vietnam briefly scaled down search operations in waters off its southern coast, saying it was receiving scanty and confusing information from Malaysia over where the aircraft may have headed after it lost contact with air traffic control.
Hanoi later said the search – now in its sixth day – was back on in full force and was even extending on to land.
China also said its air force would sweep areas in the sea, clarifying, however, that no searches over land were planned.
And the seas off India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also being combed for traces of the lost jet, a few days after the air force discovered it had data that showed the aircraft heading beyond the peninsula.
A question remains, is military secrecy hampering the search? And is that why ministers and deputy ministers are having a difficult time explaining themselves publicly.
A former air crash investigator told the Telegraph that an unknown factor in the hunt for flight MH370 was the extent to which the Malaysia Airlines flight was being tracked by regional powers on their military radar systems. Be that as it may, Malaysia enters the sixth day of search and rescue operations for the people of flight MH370. One can only hope that the confusion has ended for rescue workers and the media over the direction of the search.
Or as Defence Minister and acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said it, “I don’t think so. It’s far from it. It’s only confusion if you want it to be seen as confusion.” – March 13, 2014.