Over half of Malaysians say their government have been withholding information in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, a survey by a Malaysian opinion research firm has found.
The poll results, reported in news portal The Malaysian Insider, indicated that 54 per cent of the 1,029 respondents believed the Malaysian government hid information about Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The Boeing 777-200 plane disappeared from civilian radar screens hours after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing on March 8.
Some 26 per cent of the respondents said the government had been truthful, while one fifth said they were unsure.
Almost all of the ethnic Chinese Malaysians who took part in the poll, along with a slight majority of Malay and Indian respondents, said they doubted the government had been transparent about information on the missing flight.
The survey was conducted by the opinion research firm Merdeka Centre from March 24 to 30, according to The Malaysian Insider.
Over a thousand respondents, proportional to the population in each parliamentary constituency, were selected through random stratified sampling methods in line with ethnicity, gender and age, said the firm.
The survey results did not surprise Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive Officer of the Kuala Lumpur-based think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, who said the Malaysian government had a reputation for keeping information to itself.
“In fact, having press conferences on a daily basis is unthinkable before the MH370 crisis,” said Wan Saiful.
A common practice of the Malaysian government in handling domestic issues, he said, was to make announcement without taking any questions from the press.
Malaysian authorities have attracted much criticism for its poor handling of the missing jet crisis, especially during the first week when different government bodies were busy giving conflicting statements, and were later revealed to have withheld crucial radar data.
“The government is not willing to give away military secrets like the radar capability, and that it does not have the technical capability to confirm much of the information, and lacks efficient communication among different government departments,” said James Chin, a political science scholar.
The professor from Monash University in Malaysia said the half-century-long authoritarian leadership led to the state’s lack of transparency.
“Malaysia is a semi-authoritarian state. The ruling party has been in power since the founding of the country, and it is not used to being questioned,” said Chin.
Nearly a month into the search, Malaysia’s acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on April 5 that an independent investigator would be appointed to try and find out what happened to flight MH370.
Wan Saiful said the disappearance of MH370 has thrust the Malaysian government into the international spotlight and thus forced it to become more transparent to the media.
“There has been great improvement, thought we are still far from meeting the international standard,” he added.
But Chin was not as optimistic.
“It [Malaysian government] will go back to their common practice after the flight saga ends. Unless there’s a change in power, there will be no chance for a more transparent government.”