Yesterday, the Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced an investigation team as well as three ministerial committees on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which enters into the 30th day of its disappearance on March 8, viz:
1. As per ICAO standards, an independent “investigator-in-charge” to lead an investigation team comprising three groups:
*an airworthiness group, which will look into maintenance records, structure and system of the airline;
*an operational group, which will examine flight recorders operations and meteorological aspects of the investigation;
*a medical and human factor group, which will look into psychological and pathological aspects as well as survival factors of those on board the plane.
2. Three ministerial committees, namely a next-of-kin committee, headed by Hamzah Zainuddin, the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister; a technical committee led by Abdul Aziz Kaprawi, the Deputy Transport Minister and a deployment of assets committee, helmed by Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri.
The investigating team is led by the Malaysian Government, but would include individuals from other accredited countries, including Australia, China, the United States, the United Kingdom and France and other countries who are in a position to help.
The first question to crop up is whether Hishammuddin and the Cabinet have abandoned the proposal of a Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 and if so, why?
On 25th March, when winding up the special motion tabled by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to mourn the fate of flight MH370’s 239 passengers and crew, Hishammuddin assured Parliament that he would propose to the Cabinet the call by MPs for a Parliamentary Select Committee and a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the MH370 tragedy.
Has Hishammuddin fulfilled his undertaking to Parliament and tabled the proposal for a Parliamentary Select Committee or a Royal Commission of Inquiry to the Cabinet, if so when, what was the Cabinet’s decision, and why?
Hishammuddin told Parliament at the time that both the Transport Ministry and the Royal Malaysian Air Force had separately set up an audit committee into the MH370 disaster, and that all these investigations will operate simultaneously with the SAR (search-and-rescue) mission.
Hishammuddin owes MPs and the nation an explanation whether his announcement of an investigation by three groups and three ministerial committees into the MH370 disaster precluded and pre-empted the formation of a Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH370, and the government stand on the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 disaster.
In fact, the terms of reference of the Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 should be very much wider and more comprehensive than that of the Investigation Team as the Parliamentary Select Committee should go beyond the issues of the airworthiness of MH370 Boeing 777-200 aircraft, the operational aspects of the flight and the psychological and pathological aspects of the 239 passengers and crew, i.e. the “what, how and why” the plane disappeared on March 8, but the whole series of events after its disappearance which have provoked a thousand-and-one questions, controversies, confusion and conspiracy theories and most important of all, to send out a clear and unmistakable message, both nationally and internationally, that Malaysia has nothing to hide and to restore national and international confidence in the transparency, good governance and reputation of the nation badly afflicted by the MH370 disaster.
Among the issues the Parliamentary Select Committee should investigate include:
*Whether the MH370 disappearance could have been averted if Malaysia’s air traffic controllers and the Royal Malaysian Air Force radar operators had been more vigilant and acted promptly when the Boeing 777-200 aircraft vanished early March 8, with the immediate launching of a search-and-rescue operation.
*Whether a week had been wasted looking for MH370 in the South China Sea before switching the area of search from the east to the west, moving from the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Northern and Southern Corridors, and eventually to southern Indian Ocean; and
*Whether three days had been wasted looking for MH370 in the wrong part of the Indian Ocean because of poor co-ordinating among countries working on locating the missing aircraft.
In the wake of the MH370 disaster, Hishammuddin has been talking about the need to strengthen Malaysia’s military assets and to review the civil aviation sector, expecting astronomical budgets in these two areas.
It will also be the proper province of the Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 to review whether the MH370 disaster warrants new and additional budgets for more military assets and a more efficient civil aviation system and to make recommendations to Parliament, the government and the nation.
The Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 should also initiate a global inter-Parliamentary inquiry into the MH370 disaster as this is not only a national but an international disaster affecting all nations in the world.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak should ensure that the whole of Thursday, the last day of the current meeting of Parliament, should be reserved for a full parliamentary debate on the MH370 disaster, and what Malaysians MPs can do to help restore national and international confidence in Malaysia.