The Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein should not have dishonoured Parliament by causing a parliamentary crack on the MH370 crisis when he should have presented a united national front in the world’s largest-ever 26-nation multi-national air-sea search-and-rescue (SAR) operation for the missing Malaysian Airlines aircraft with 239 passengers and crew on board.
Over a hundred ships, helicopters and aircrafts as well as radar systems from 26 nations are involved in a SAR mission scouring two vast tracts of territories totaling 2.24 million sq nautical miles (about 7.68 million square kilometres) stretching from the southern Indian Ocean to Kazakhstan in the north to find the missing MH370 Boeing 777-200 aircraft.
The world’s largest-ever multi-national air-sea SAR, entering the 12th day after over 250 hours without any clue on the whereabouts of the aircraft or what happened on March 8, is in a race against time as there are only 18 days left for the search teams to locate the aircraft’s black box, the most important piece of aviation technology, as it will only transmit a signal for 30 days.
When Malaysia expects unprecedented international unity in the world’s largest-ever multi-national SAR operation, Malaysians and in particular the Malaysian Parliament must demonstrate unprecedented national unity in support of the SAR mission for the missing aircraft and not to present any parliamentary crack, division or disunity to the world on this issue.
Unfortunately, this is what Hishammuddin did when he held a “For Barisan Nasional MPs” briefing on the missing MH370 at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral BallRoom last night – completely unmindful of the undesirable, unfortunate and untrue message he is beaming to the world that the Malaysian Parliament is divided into two camps on the MH370 SAR mission!
It is not that Hishammuddin had not been forewarned beforehand that he should not be partisan and give a “For BN MPs only” briefing, when he should be giving a briefing – in fact regular briefings – to all Malaysian MPs!
Hishammuddin himself knows that what he had done was both wrong and improper which is why he had come out with the lame excuse that Pakatan Rakyat MPs had not asked for a briefing – when he should know that both BN and PR MPs have spoken up about their concerns for the fate of the 239 passengers and crew onboard MH370.
In fact, Pakatan Rakyat through PAS MP for Pokok Sena Mahfuz Omar had even sought to have an urgent parliamentary debate on the MH370 crisis last week under Dewan Rakyat Standing Order 18(1) but this was not allowed.
Invitations for the MH370 “For BN MPs only” briefing at the Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral Ballroom was sent out in the name of the Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein – raising the question whether this was a BNBBC event or an official Transport Ministry function.
What are the costs of the event at the post hotel, Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral Ballroom, and was it borne by the taxpayers through the Transport Ministry or by the BNBBC?
Why wasn’t the briefing, even “For BN MPs only” held in Parliament House, which would not have incurred the exorbitant costs of holding it in a post hotel like Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral Ballroom – which must have “cost a bomb”?
BN Beluran MP and Deputy Speaker Ronald Kiandee is quoted as saying that Hishammuddin said nothing extra at the briefing as “Everything said at the daily briefings was repeated last night. There was nothing new or special instructions given.”
Hishammuddin admitted as much after the Aloft “briefing” saying that he had only updated the BNBBC on the timeline of the events and had not shared confidential information beyond what the investigation team could divulge.
He said such information BN backbenchers received had also been released to the public.
If Hishammuddin had not revealed anything new at the “For BN MPs only” briefing, and only recycled information which had already been made public, what is the use of such a briefing for BN MPs?
If the Aloft “dinner briefing” is basically only a social event, why should the Department of Civil Aviations director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya and top generals from the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces be dragged to attend such social functions of BNBBC when their time should be very precious and critical in the 11th day of the world’s largest-ever multi-national air-sea SAR mission to locate MH370 and to save the 239 passengers and crew onboard?
In giving a briefing on MH370 crisis which is confined only to BN MPs only, and which is only a rehash what had already been announced at the MH370 crisis daily media conferences without anything new or extra, and tying down important officials from the DAC, Armed Forces and MAS in the SAR operation in the BNBBC social dinner, Hishammuddin has got his priorities all wrong.
I for one would not want to attend any briefing by Hishammuddin which is a rehash of what he and others had already publicly announced.
Hishammuddin should provide the government leadership in Parliament to enable all MPs, whether BN or PR, to play their role not only in giving full support to the SAR mission, but even more important, to subsequently conduct full investigations into the MH 370 tragedy so as to provide answers to the multitude of queries arising from numerous controversies and confusions surrounding the MH 370 crisis.
In my speech in Parliament last Thursday, I had suggested the immediate formation of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Disasters to give full support to MH 370 “search and rescue” operation and to hold itself in readiness to conduct investigations after SAR ops to address all queries on the MH 370 tragedy.
Is Hishammuddin prepared to provide government leadership in Parliament and support the establishment of such a Parliamentary Select Committee, including supporting an amendment to the Motion of Thanks on the Royal Address currently being debated in the House for the establishment of such a Parliamentary Select Committee?
(Media Statement in Parliament on Wednesday, 19th March 2014)