Malaysia feels the heat over response to missing flight
Criticismis growing of government's response, which has seen conflicting stories and a lack of co-ordination feed suspicions of a cover-up
Frustration over Malaysia's handling of the search for a missing airliner is growing amid conflicting accounts surrounding the biggest aviation mystery in recent history.
At a delayed press briefing yesterday, an array of officials from various agencies failed to dispel the confusion over the search for flight MH370, which vanished on Saturday between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.
The incident has caused an outcry in Malaysia, where the media and public have taken aim at officials for a "chaotic lack of co-ordination" in their response.
"Basically, what they are doing is still working under the old paradigm, where they think they can control the news, and everything will be based on official sources," said James Chin, a professor from Monash University's Malaysia campus.
"But unfortunately that world does not exist anymore," Chin added, noting that the Malaysian government is now struggling under closer scrutiny from the international press and the country's thriving social media.
Chin said that the lack of a central spokesman to give out information with authority was also a problem.
"What is happening is that a lot of officials are speaking off the cuff, and reporters are reporting it as official news, because there is no one central place you can go to," Chin said.
Local news website Malaysian Insider said in a recent commentary: "The mood among Malaysians now is moving from patience in the search for the 239 people aboard the missing flight MH370 to embarrassment and anger."
Contradictory accounts and a lack of concrete answers have raised suspicions of a cover-up.
"I personally think that they might be covering it up, but I'm not sure of the reason behind it," said Syed Faris Hakem, 26, a Kuala Lumpur office worker.
"I'm upset that even with the effort of our country and a few other countries, that not a single piece of the flight has shown up or been made public by Malaysia Airlines."
The mood on the country's social media soured yesterday after air force chief General Rodzali Daud denied an earlier report quoting him as saying the jet had been detected by military radar in the Malacca Strait - far from its planned flight path.
He said he had been misquoted, but it followed developments raising questions about the authorities' handling of the situation.
"I think govt is lying about flt chg of course, wild goose chase," a Twitter post said.
In a blog post, industry magazine Flightglobal's operations and safety editor David Learmount said there was an "all-pervasive sense of a chaotic lack of co-ordination" in Malaysia's search efforts.
A picture of confusion over missing Malaysian Airlines flight:
Saturday, March 8
00.41: Malaysia Airlines (MA) flight MH370 leaves Kuala Lumpur with 227 passengers and 12 crew. ETA in Beijing is 6.30am.
07.24: First statement says plane lost contact with air traffic control at 2.40am; search teams from Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore deployed; relatives of passengers asked to call hotline.
09.05: MA says passengers from 13 nationalities; relatives contacted.
14.30: Airline has "no information on the location of the aircraft"; corrects list of nationalities to 14.
16.20: Last known co-ordinates of plane revealed.
Sunday, March 9
02.00: Airline says it last heard from the plane at 1.30am, not 2.40am as previously announced; asks people to pray for flight.
09.30: MA says command centre will either be set up at Kota Bharu, Malaysia, or Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
14.43: MA chief executive makes first public statement.
Monday, March 10
10.00: Eight countries join search; airline working "closely" with Chinese government and says it will "continue to be transparent" in updates.
Midday: Malaysian civil aviation authorities rule out earlier reports that a plane door spotted in the sea is from the missing plane.
20.00: Malaysia extends search to west coast of country; no reason given.
Tuesday, March 11
11.15: Debris and oil slick ruled out as being from missing plane; airline says plane recorded about 50,000 flying hours, not 20,000 as previously reported.
15.00: Malaysian police say one of two stolen passport holders was an Iranian teenager; release photos of the two passengers.
17.29: Airline says four people with tickets did not turn up for the flight.
18.15: Interpol reveals identities of both men who travelled with stolen passports; says they travelled to Malaysia from Doha on valid Iranian passports.
Evening: Media reports say missing plane changed course and was spotted in the Strait of Malacca at 2.40am, citing a senior military official and the head of the Malaysian air force.
Wednesday, March 12
08.30: Malaysian ambassador and MA tell relatives at Lido Hotel in Beijing that the missing flight was passed to Hanoi air traffic control.
Morning: Vietnam scales back search; Malaysian authorities failed to clarify reports that plane changed course at 1.30am.
Midday: Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam tells SCMP that Malaysian counterpart told them the plane had entered Vietnamese airspace but when the Vietnamese tried to get in touch with the missing plane, it received no response.
17.37: Malaysian authorities deny confusion over the plane's possible location. Twelve countries now looking for plane in two areas; in total, 39 aircraft and 42 ships are involved in the search.