• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 6:42pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 4:24am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 4:24am

Is Malaysia fit to lead widened search for missing flight MH370?

Now that the operation is moving into a new, much wider stage, Beijing should demand better co-operation to find missing plane

BIO

Wang Xiangwei took up the role of Editor-in-Chief in February 2012, responsible for the editorial direction and newsroom operations. He started his 20-year career at the China Daily, before moving to the UK, where he gained valuable experience at a number of news organisations, including the BBC Chinese Service. In 1993, he moved to Hong Kong and worked at the Eastern Express before joining the South China Morning Post in 1996 as our China Business Reporter. He was subsequently promoted to China Editor in 2000 and Deputy Editor in 2007, a position he held for four years prior to being promoted to his current position. Mr. Wang has a Masters degree in Journalism, and a Bachelors degree in English.
 

Nearly eight days after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday made the first definitive comments on how the Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 passengers and crew had vanished.

Someone, he said, had taken "deliberate action" to disable the communications systems and change the course of the jet which could have continued flying for a further seven hours.

While Najib stopped short of calling the incident a hijacking, he admitted the plane could be anywhere in the Indian Ocean, or as far away as Kazakhstan, thousands of kilometres from the South China Sea where its transponder sent its last signal.

His remarks marked the investigation had moved into a new phase which would focus on the crew and passengers.

Najib's statement confirmed much of what had been leaked to the media in the preceding few days - that military radar and satellites had picked up signals of what may have been the missing aircraft, which seemed to be flying on a westerly course, far from its intended flight path to Beijing.

It has also confirmed widespread suspicions that Malaysia's civilian and military leaders had been aware of this information much earlier but failed to disclose it promptly and publicly.

Instead, from the day the plane was reported missing, Malaysian officials gave evasive answers and conflicting accounts for much of last week, exposing their government's incompetence and lack of co-ordination in the eyes of the international community, to say the least.

From the beginning, Malaysian officials said they would not rule out any possibility, including foul play. But it emerged that investigators had only searched the homes of the pilot and other aircrew, and were taking a closer look at the passengers' backgrounds, over the weekend - more than a week after the plane went missing. These should have been done much earlier.

In retrospect, valuable time and resources were wasted as the extensive ocean search around Malaysia, involving 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft, had proved useless, turning up not a single piece of evidence.

Despite the fact so many countries are involved in what is said to be the biggest search and rescue operation in aviation history, it now transpires that certain countries were reluctant to share military radar data of the flight route, which also delayed pinning down basic information of the plane's movements.

The reality may be very different from Hollywood blockbusters in which powerful satellites can pinpoint any person or moving target to within metres. But the missing plane lost its signal in the South China Sea, an area of hotly contested territory that should be bristling with military radars. It is hard to imagine these countries failing to pick up signals from the plane after it vanished from civilian radars.

One can only surmise that, despite the scale of the disaster involving so many lives, various militaries in the area were reluctant to share information for national security reasons and fear of giving away military secrets.

It is quite telling that the Malaysian military, several days after the disappearance of the plane, started to drop vague hints their radar had continued to track the plane. These comments were at first dismissed publicly by Malaysian officials, who only on Thursday said that they were setting aside national security considerations to share military radar data with the US.

It is widely accepted that the host country of a missing airliner should be responsible for co-ordinating the search operation . But Malaysia, which has little experience in handling crises on this scale, proved incompetent.

Now that the multinational search operation is shifting to the Indian Ocean, an important question arises: should Malaysia continue to lead the operation?

Ever since the flight disappeared - carrying mostly Chinese passengers - Beijing has reacted swiftly, sending warships, deploying satellites, and dispatching a work group to Malaysia to aid the search operation.

By all accounts it has been a frustrating exercise for Chinese officials, who have sought more detailed and accurate information from the Malaysians.

It is time for Beijing to step up and lead the operation, using its influence to press the relevant nations to work more closely to solve the mystery.

xiangwei.wang@scmp.com

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13

This article is now closed to comments

ianson
Brilliant CCP mouthpiece article. Tremendous.
Oh, by the way, when was the last time you observed Beijing "promptly and publicly" disclosing information? I guess I'm just dumb but I thought it was their primary goal to suppress information reaching the ears and eyes of the entire population.
mymak
The country of a 1,000 guesses. Good to see the results of only favoring one race in Malaysia. Great policy to deny to Chinese Malaysians equal education opportunities reaps great rewards. Now the world can see them for what they are.
CatInAFlap
Like it or not the people best equipped to conduct this investigation are in either the US, Europe and Australia.
Hello007
First the Chinese would have to come to the facts who they will be dealing with : -
"To campaign for the post of a division head alone, one would have to have at least RM1million in his pocket. Overall, a whole division polls would amount to RM6 million spent on the ground just to gain the votes.

The appointment is much sought after, for it is through these Umno appointments that one gets other forms of income as these posts will open doors to Umno ministers and top players who will in turn allow them access to projects worth millions of ringgit. "
****www.fz.com/video/face-face-ibrahim-ali-rm1m-spent-be-umno-division-chief
The next question is are they fit for the job ?
3rd question - Is there a country you can trust your families with when this all been happening for decades without a squeak from the ministers and judiciary ?
For over thirty years, Sarawak has been governed by Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, who controls all land classification, forestry and plantation licenses in the state. Under his tenure, Sarawak has experienced some of the most intense rates of logging seen anywhere in the world. The state now has less than five per cent of its forests left in a pristine condition, unaffected by logging or plantations and continues to export more tropical logs than South America and Africa combined.
****www.globalwitness.org/insideshadowstate/
Last but not least , did they knew the plane flew over their their own airspace ???
dienw
Another "apology request" in the works?
ejmciii
The arrogance of you PRC people defies belief. I think we need another word for your level of arrogance. Like China has some magical tool to find the plane. Please. What a joke.
wailunscmp
when did the SCMP became the party mouthpiece?
honszeker
Totally rubbish. With 6 battle ships, a dozen planes and 10 satellites, what did China find? Zerlich. Let Malaysia do its thing!
khor.hankong@gmail.com
ianson I agree with you. You are dumb.
Malaysian authorities may be good at something but in this instance they shown themselves to be incompetent.
What we from you a just word vomit because you do not like the man.
andreaswagner
There are only a few countries on these planet that have a chance of finding out anything about this plane, and that are the US, Australia, and a few North European. Forget the rest.

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