The Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein should stop his “cat-and-mouse” game of “yes, no, yes, no” on whether there would be Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH370 disaster as such vacillation further erodes trust and confidence even among Malaysians in the government handling of the MH370 disaster as highlighted by the latest opinion poll.
In an opinion poll commissioned by The Malaysian Insider and conducted by Merdeka Center in the last week of last month from March 24 to 30, 54% of the 1,092 respondents from all the parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia polled believed Putrajaya was not transparent in releasing information about Flight MH370 which vanished 38 days ago on March 8.
In response to the question whether they thought Putrajaya had been truthful or had been hiding anything about MH370, 54% of respondents felt Malaysia had been hiding information, 26% said the government had been truthful while 20% were unsure.
Chinese respondents were almost unanimous in giving the thumbs down to the BN federal government while the slight majority of Indian and Malay respondents, too, believed Putrajaya had been hiding information.
This time, respondents from both rural and urban areas were united in believing that Putrajaya has been less than forthcoming with information about MH370.
This second opinion poll shows that the level of trust and confidence even among Malaysians in government transparency and competence in the handling of the MHJ 370 disaster have progressively worsened since the beginning of the tragedy, as in a similar opinion survey in the first two weeks of the tragedy from March 8 to 20, 50% of Malaysians were unhappy with Putrajaya’s handling of the crisis. In other words, an increase from 50% unhappy with the government’s handling of the crisis in the first two weeks to 54 per cent in the third week.
The survey for the first two-weeks of the MH 370 disaster revealed that only 43% were satisfied with the way Putrajaya was dealing with the issue, which has fallen further to 26 per cent in the third week.
The survey in the first two weeks of the MH 370 disaster was done on 1,005 respondents – 60% Malay, 31% Chinese and 9% Indians.
Although the approval towards Putrajaya’s handling of MH 370 varies distinctly according to racial lines, the trust and confidence quotient among different race groups in the government’s handling have all worsened in the third week.
In the first two weeks of the disaster, the majority of Chinese and Indian respondents were dissatisfied, at 74% and 59% respectively. Only 18% of Chinese and 36% of Indian polled said they were satisfied.
But 63% of Malay respondents expressed satisfaction with the handling compared with 30% who said they were not.
By the third week, however, Chinese respondents were almost unanimous in giving the thumbs down to the BN federal government while the slight majority of Indian and Malay respondents, too, believed Putrajaya had been hiding information.
The continued fall in trust and confidence, among all racial groups in Malaysia, in the government’s handling of the MH 370 disaster is because of the endless drips and drabs of information being doled out; ever-lengthening list of clarifications, confusions and contradictions; frequent twists and turns and “flip-flops” and the vast “black holes” in information in the past 38 days of the MH370 disaster which not only aggravate the pain and anguish, but are most nerve-wracking for the families of the 239 passengers and crew on board, Malaysian and international well-wishers and completely confidence-sapping as well.
This is best illustrated by the five confusions, twists and turns and flip-flops in the past week, viz:
1. Did the RMAF scrambled planes to intercept MH370 in the early hours of March 8
CNN stood by its report on Thursday night (April 10) that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) had scrambled its search aircraft on the morning of the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 737 at around 8 am, but did not inform authorities until three days later despite the denial by the Defence Minister, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein and the RMAF chief Rodzali Daud.
The RMAF denial lacks credibility as up to now, RMAF has not been able to come out with a coherent and credible account of what it had done in the initial hours to forestall or minimize the MH370 disaster.
2. No sense of guilt or remorse that Deputy Defence Minister had plunged Malaysian government and country into a greater international crisis of confidence with irresponsible and rubbishy statement in Parliament
On Thursday, the Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, absolved the Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri of “misleading” Parliament when the latter told Parliament on March 26 that RMAF did not attempt to intercept MH370 when it was detected on military radar off the Straits of Malacca on March 8 as the RMAF had “assumed” that the plane was ordered to turn back by flight traffic controllers.
The next day, Rahim explained that his statement in Parliament was erroneous as he had personally made such an assumption.
There was no sense of guilt or remorse that the Deputy Defence Minister had plunged the Malaysian government and nation into a greater international crisis of confidence with such irresponsible and rubbishy pronouncement.
3. Co-pilot had made a telephone call when it was flying low near Penang?
Saturday (April 12) front-page headline report by UMNO newspaper New Straits Times that MH370 co-pilot Fariq Abdul Rahman had made a call from his mobile phone as the plane flew low near Penang, before it went missing.
Although Hishammuddin and the Communications and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek who “checked with relevant parties” subsequently refuted the veracity of the New Straits Times report, the government’s handling of the MH 370 suffered another major blow, especially as NST is a UMNO-owned publication.
What’s worse, the NST report of a “mid-flight phone call” has given new life to various conspiracy theories, including the hijack theory which claims that Flight MH370 is in Afghanistan and that the 239 passengers and crew are all alive.
Is the Malaysian government giving credence to such conspiracy theories with the NST front-page report of the co-pilot’s “mid-flight phone call”?
4. UMNO mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia’s CIA conspiracy theory on MH370
Equally reprehensible as NST’s co-pilot “mid-flight phone call” story was Mingguan Malaysia’s endorsement of the conspiracy theory about US CIA involvement in MH 370’s disappearance in a bid to sour relations between Malaysia and China. (April 6).
What is shocking is that Hishammuddin, as the Malaysian supremo of the MH 370 SAR operation, took more than a week to refute the Utusan Malaysia as he made the denial only yesterday (April 13) after I had stressed at a media conference on Friday that he must either confirm or deny the Utusan write-up about CIA involvement in the disappearance of MH370.
Both New Straits Times and Utusan became overnight “celebrities” being the most quoted in the international media, but their media “notoriety” was achieved at the expense of further blows in the prolonged international crisis of confidence at the Malaysian handling of the MH370 disaster.
5. Hishammuddin’s “cat-and-mouse” game on RCI and PSC on MH 370
Yesterday, The Malaysian Insider in its report “Steam gathers for RCI as search for MH370 black boxes narrows” quoted Hishammuddin as saying after visiting the preparations for a defence exhibition at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur that Putrajay is close to setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on MH 370.
Reason? The increasingly positive signs that MH 370 “black boxes” will be found.
But all reports point to the contrary, as it is six days since the last strong ping from possibly MH 370’s black boxes have been detected, and all indications are that their battery power had expired and search for the black boxes will have to proceed despite the ping silence.
Hishammuddin has taken the position that the decision whether to set up a RCI or a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on MH 370 will only be made after the “black boxes” are retrieved.
This is a most unreasonable and unacceptable position – as does this mean that the government will oppose any independent, full-scale and comprehensive inquiry into the MH 370 disaster if the black boxes are not recovered?
Hishammuddin should stop his “cat-and-mouse” game on whether there would be a Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 as such vacillation further erodes trust and confidence even among Malaysians in government handling of MH370 disaster as highlighted by latest opinion poll.
This is why I am calling on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to convene an emergency Parliament before May to establish a Parliamentary Select Committee on MH 370 disaster, where Hishammuddin as the supremo of the MH 370 SAR mission, should play no role in the MH 370 investigation process.