We had just experienced what I would describe as “mankind’s longest month” from March 8 to April 7, not only for the families, loved ones and friends of the 239 passengers and crew on board MH370 Boeing 777-200ER which had disappeared in the early hours of March 8, but also for Malaysians and well-wishers worldwide.
For the first time in human history, for a whole month in real time, 24/7 (i.e. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 31 days a month), the world has been haunted and tortured by the question as to how in the modern age, a hi-tech passenger plan can just vanish without a trace for a month with 239 passengers and crew onboard.
The families and loved ones of the 239 passengers and crew are drowned in grief and yet cannot really begin to grieve, for they are not prepared to abandon the glimmer of hope that there could be a miracle, for there has been no evidence or piece of wreckage to establish that MH370 had met a disastrous end.
On the 31st day of the disappearance of MH 370 Boeing 777 aircraft, three pings from deep in the Indian Ocean gave new hope to the world that they were signals from the plane’s black boxes before their beacons fall silent – promising a finality which had eluded the world’s longest and biggest-ever sea, undersea, air, satellite search which had involved 26 nations and scores of aircrafts, ships, submarines and even undersea drones.
But the latest sliver of hope has proved to be short-lived even before the launching of the Bluefin-21 , the US-supplied underwater drone fitted to Australia’s Ocean Shield, to probe the “most promising lead” with the detection of the acoustic events. the bleak news received yesterday (the 32nd day) were: “Aussie ship fails to detect pings, fears batteries from MH370 black box are dead”.
These roller-coaster emotional developments had added to the suffering and anguish of the families and loved ones of the 239 passengers and crew as well as the well-wishers in Malaysia and worldwide, who have already been mentally and emotionally drained and devastated by a long series of errors, contradictions and confusion in the month-long crisis. starting from the very first day on March 8.
The continuing “flip-flops” and “turns and twists” of the Malaysian authorities have only added to these agonies, pain and trauma of the aggrieved families of the 239 passengers and crew – and the latest is the reneging by the Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim on the government’s commitment to brief Pakatan Rakyat Members of Parliament on the MH 370 disaster.
Hishamuddin has repeatedly said that the MH 370 disaster is “above politics”, that the government had been transparent with “nothing to hide” and publicly stated that he would give a briefing to Pakatan Rakyat MPs if requested.
But despite such repeated public assurances by Hishammuddin, and the undertaking both in and out of Parliament by Shahidan to arrange for a briefing by Hishammuddin to PR MPs if there is an official request, Hishammuddin and Shahidan have finally reneged on their undertaking for Hishammuddin to give a briefing to PR MPs.
I asked Shahidan in Parliament yesterday why he could not honour his word but he was quite apologetic, indicating with his fingers that he is only a “small Minister” who could not influence a senior Minister to do he had undertaken.
I have been quite sceptical that Hishammuddin would be prepared to give a briefing to PR MPs on the MH370 disaster and I am not really surprised that there has been reneging of this undertaking. Reneging on undertakings on transparency and good governance seem to have become a special characteristic of the Najib administration.
I was also quite sceptical when Hishammuddin gave an assurance to Parliament 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, 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.
This was why my immediate response to Hishammuddin’s announcement on Saturday of an investigation team as well as three ministerial committees on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 – airworthiness, operational as well as medical and human factor groups – was to ask whether Hishammuddin had abandoned the proposal of a Parliamentary Select Committee and a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the MH370 disaster.
Many would regard Hishammuddin’s announcement of an investigation team and three ministerial committees, without a Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH 370 disaster, as an avoidance and evasion of parliamentary responsibility and accountability,
This is because the terms of reference of a Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 would 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.
A Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 should also investigate the whole series of events after the aircraft’s disappearance which have provoked a thousand-and-one questions, controversies, confusion and conspiracy theories and most important of all, 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.
Furthermore, 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 Prime Minister and the Cabinet should seriously reconsider their refusal to establish a Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 as Malaysia must show to the world that we have nothing to hide both in the disaster and its crisis management.
(Media Conference Statement in Parliament on Wednesday, 9th April 2014)