Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammddin Hussein in his statement yesterday repeated ad nauseum that “we have nothing to hide” demonstrating a grave guilt complex on this issue.
In fact, Hishammuddin’s reiteration umpteenth time yesterday that “we have nothing to hide” is the most potent proof that he realizes that he is fighting a losing battle in the credibility war both nationally and internationally because of lack of openness and accountability in the MH 370 disaster crisis management.
While continuing to declare that “we have nothing to hide”, he continues to evade accountability and responsibility for what happened in the crucial and critical first few hours of the first day of the missing MH 370 tragedy on March 8, and even enlisted the help of Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) chief Angus Houston in the latter’s first public appearance in Malaysia yesterday since heading the multinational search for MH370.
I could not believe it when I read the media report that when asked about the Malaysian government’s preliminary report on the missing MH 370 made public on May 1 and how much attention should be given to past mistakes, Houston parroted Hishammuddin saying that efforts should be focussed “wholly and solely” on the ongoing search.
Houston was reported to have said: “We need to continue the search. We owe it to the families, and I think we owe it to the flying public around the world that we continue this search, so that we can get to the bottom of what happened to MH370”.
Houston was not being very professional in parrying the question with a non sequitur, as nobody is suggesting any halt to the search for the missing MH 370, which is now beginning the ninth week of its disappearance, i.e. 57th day.
However, the inability for eight weeks to find any wreckage or clue of the aircraft can no more be the reasons for the authorities concerned to avoid answering questions about past mistakes in the first few critical and crucial hours of the disaster – or the world’s longest-search for the missing aircraft which some said could drag on for years would also be the world’s longest-running cover-up for human and technological faults and mistakes resulting in the MH370 disaster.
If Hishammddin and Houston are right that the focus on the missing MH 370 should be on the search and not on past mistakes, then Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), had no business complaining that Vietnam’s air controllers having breached protocol by enquiring about the missing Flight MH 370 only 17 minutes after the plane vanished from radar on March 8.
Azharruddin said that at 1.19 am on March 8, Kuala Lumpur air traffic control had ordered the Beijing-bound MH 370 to change frequency to their Ho Chi Minh counterparts, but Ho Chi Minh only enquired about the jet at 1.38 am, when they were not contacted.
Azharruddin said: “If Ho Chi Minh wasn’t contacted by the aircraft, the protocol is five minutes.”
He said that once MH370 had passed the Igari navigational waypoint in the South China Sea, the plane was officially the responsibility of the Vietnamese air traffic controllers.
Azharuddin said it was for the controllers at Ho Chi Minh to say why it took them 12 minutes longer than prescribed by aviation protocol before contacting their Malaysian counterparts for verification.
I support not only Azharuddin’s right but responsibility to raise this question about Ho Chin Minh air controllers in breaching protocol in taking 17 minutes before enquiring about the missing MH 370.
Similarly, all Malaysians have the right to inquire why after Ho Chi Minh control tower enquired about the missing MH370 at 1.38 am on March 8, it did not trigger sufficient alarm until four hours later before a search-and-rescue (SAR) operation was launched.
But Hishammuddin does not want such questions to be asked, as he wants everyone to focus on the search for the missing Boeing after 57 days and not on past mistakes.
Similarly, why was there a three-hour gap between the launching of the SAR operation at 5.30 am and the review of the military radar at 8.30 am, and the further 2-hour gap between the review of the military radar and report to the Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
There was also another half-an hour gap before the first RMAF plane was scrambled in search of the missing MH370 at 10.54 am.
All these gaps as well as many other questions call for answers, including Hishammuddin’s flip-flop on the issue of a Parliamentary Select Committee or a Royal Commission of Inquiry on the missing MH370 disaster.
Hishammuddin cannot regain national and international confidence in the crisis management of MH 370 disaster by reiterating umpteenth times the refrain that the Malaysian government has nothing to hide, but only by fully observing the principles of openness and accountability in every aspect and facet of the handling of the Mh370 disaster in the past nine weeks.