The Malaysian Insider
March 26, 2014
Putrajaya’s handling of search efforts for flight MH370 has set the country on a long road to repair its reputation, The Wall Street Journal said, following a slew of criticism over disorganised search efforts besides the conflicting and opaque information released since the aircraft disappeared on March 8.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said that complaints have stung a government seldom used to such global scrutiny, and this week, authorities appeared to seek a new course.
The business daily cited Monday night’s press conference where Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had explained how foreign experts had concluded from new satellite data analysis that the plane had gone down in a remote portion of the southern Indian Ocean.
WSJ said that Najib’s statement was uncharacteristically forthright, and the new information was released unusually fast – and the backlash was just as intense.
A source familiar with the matter told WSJ that Najib had dismissed the Malaysian army’s warnings that the country shouldn’t reveal sensitive military data to speed up the search, and overruled armed forces chief General Zulkefli Zin, who had opposed the release of the data.
“He (Najib) was quite adamant. He said this absolutely had to be done,” the source was quoted as saying.
Mike Smith, a crisis management expert at Australia-based Inside Public Relations Pty Ltd, told WSJ that Malaysia “swung the pendulum back too far the other way”.
“Malaysia needs to find some equilibrium and control, but that’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.
Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had said at yesterday’s press conference that Monday’s announcement was because of Putrajaya’s “commitment to openness and respect for the relatives, two principles which have guided us in our investigations”.
He also said that despite new satellite analysis, physical evidence such as debris would be a more acceptable reason for families to come to terms with the claim that flight MH370 had indeed ended up in the Indian Ocean.
“Until we know that, it is very difficult to have closure for the families,” he had said.
Reuters said today that the prolonged and so far fruitless search and investigation have taken a toll, with dozens of distraught relatives of Chinese passengers clashing with police outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing yesterday, accusing Malaysia of “delays and deception”.
The news agency added that Malaysia’s confused initial response to the plane’s disappearance and a perception of poor communications has enraged many relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers and has strained ties between Beijing and Kuala Lumpur.
The Economist earlier, in an editorial, also criticised Malaysia’s handling of the search and said the authorities had provided information “in dribs and drabs, much of it confusing, even contradictory”.
The newsweekly said: “Until parts of the plane are examined, how it came to grief will remain unknown. In the meantime, for the grieving relatives, there is little comfort to be taken from the fact that such mysteries should soon be a thing of the past.”
According to WSJ, some experts suggested that Malaysia and its national airline might still be able to recover from the fallout of the search for flight MH370 if it regains control of the information flow.
“But Malaysia is still in a bad place,” Smith, the crisis-management expert, was quoted as saying.
“They’ll be scrutinised no matter what they do.” – March 26, 2014.