Last Saturday, 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, viz:
1. 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; and
*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.
These announcements should not have been made by Hishammuddin.
Hishammuddin is the supremo of the missing MH 370 SAR (search and rescue) operation, which is entering into its 36th day with its relentless roller-coaster anguish and torture for the families and loved ones of the 239 passengers and crew onboard.
The new development yesterday was the news that MH370’s “black box” had been located , followed by a swift subsequent denial and the disturbing report today asking “Where are the debris” and the aviation expert opinion that the aircraft’s “black boxes” are not likely to be located without the discovery first of the aircraft’s debris, which have not been found so far.
However, although Hishammuddin is the supremo of the missing MH 370 SAR, he should not be supremo or even have any role in the investigation stage for the MH370 disappearance disaster, especially with regard to the conduct of the SAR operation.
The principle that the supremo of the MH 370 SAR should not be the supremo of the MH 370 disaster investigation must be observed in the interests of ensuring the confidence and credibility of the MH 370 disaster inquiry, especially as there is a crisis of trust and confidence in the SAR among the families and loved ones of the 239 passengers and crew on board, Malaysians in general and the international community.
This important principle was highlighted by the denial of the RMAF chief General Tan Sri Rodzali Daud of the CNN report two nights ago that military aircraft were scrambled to pursue Malaysia Airlines’ MH 370 on March 8, saying it was “totally false” and confirming Defence Minister Hishammuddin’s earlier denial.
Despite the denial of Hishamuddin and Rodzali, the CNN news report should be the subject of an independent and intensive investigation, which is another reason why Hishammuddin should not have any role in the investigation phase of the MH 370 disaster as he would be an important witness of the investigation.
The most appropriate vehicle for such an independent investigation would be an Opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on MH 370, and if what Hishammudin and Rodzali had said in response to the CNN report are the truth, a report by the opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Commirtee endorsing Hishammuddin and Rodzali ‘s explanations would only further reinforce national and international confidence in the credibility and authority of the Malaysian system of governance.
The CNN report two nights ago and the special Reuters write-up yesterday entitled “Putrajaya starts investigating confused initial response to disappearance of flight MH370” cannot be shaken off by a bare denial or by disregarding it, as both have brought about a sea-change in public expectations, whether among the families of the 239 passengers and crew but also in the national and international community, for answers to the thousand-and-one questions about the many confusions, contradictions and weaknesses in the initial response to the disappearance of MH370, particularly in the first eight hours.
Answers to the mistakes and weaknesses in the system of governance in the initial hours and days of the MH 370 disaster are being sought now, and cannot wait until the discovery of MH 370’s black-box or wreckage which can be for an indeterminate period, for this has become an important and integral part of the closure for the anguish and suffering of the families of the 239 passengers and crew, concerned Malaysians as well as concerned well-wishers worldwide.
The RMAF chief was also reported today as saying that after the MH 370 disaster, the Royal Malaysian Air Force needs sophisticated aircraft for SAR operations.
It is totally premature for RMAF to ask for a bigger budget and more sophisticated assets when it has as yet to come out with a coherent statement as to what RMAF had done in the initial hours and days of the MH 370 disaster.
Let the RMAF come out with a coherent and credible statement as to its role in the initial hours and days of the missing MH370 before RMAF start asking for more budgetting and an increase of defence assets.
Malaysian MPs are patriots and will support additional budgets or more sophisticated assets for the RMAF where there is a real national need, but RMAF must be able to present a case for more defence budgets and expenditures for more sophisticated assets – starting with producing a coherent statement of what the RMAF had done to avert the MH 370 disaster, and its conduct in the initial hours and days of the MH 370 disaster.
Are the problems faced by the RMAF a problem of lack of sophisticated military assets or failure of a defence system in being able to make full use of the available assets to forestall a disaster like the MH 370 tragedy?
(Media Conference Statement in Batu Pahat on Saturday, 12th April 2014 at 11.30 am)