Malaysia criticised how it has handled airplane crisis

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missing-planeThe disappearance of flight Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is casting a harsh spotlight on Malaysia’s government, as a leadership unused to heavy scrutiny comes under intense international criticism for a litany of confusing messages and a perceived lack of transparency.

Five days after the plane disappeared from civilian radar screens, a huge international search operation has failed to turn up a trace of the Boeing jetliner that was carrying 239 passengers and crew. Frustration over the fruitless search has increasingly been directed at Malaysian officials after a series of fumbling news conferences, incorrect details given by the national airline, and a long delay in divulging details of the military’s tracking of what could have been the plane hundreds of miles off course.

The missteps have ranged from conflicting information about the last time of contact with the jet to the sharing of photos of two passengers in which they had the same pair of legs.

“The Malaysians deserve to be criticised – their handling of this has been atrocious,” said Ernest Bower, a Southeast Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Government officials say they are coping as best they can with an exceptional, highly complex crisis. Confusion, false leads, and misinformation are common in the initial hours of air disasters in any country.

But China, whose citizens made up around two-thirds of the passengers on board the flight, has barely hidden its impatience with Malaysia, urging it several times to step up the search and investigation efforts. The head of the Civil Aviation Authority of China, Li Jiaxiang, told reporters on March 12  that the message had been repeated to Malaysia’s special envoy in the Chinese capital.

Some families of the up to 154 missing Chinese have voiced fury at what they said was the slow release of information. Verbal abuse and water bottles were hurled at representatives of the government-owned airline in Beijing.

“The core of Malaysia’s information hasn’t been consistent from start to finish,” said China’s widely read and influential Global Times tabloid, published by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.

“It certainly hits at the confidence that the rest of the world has in Malaysia’s ability to be the nucleus of the rescue mission,” the paper added.

Other governments have praised the Malaysian effort, but some officials have complained of a lack of communication and information sharing that has slowed initial fact-finding. US officials said Malaysia’s failure to disclose the military’s radar tracking data until days after the plane’s disappearance meant important evidence may have disappeared.

“The lack of communication about what is going on is catastrophic,” said one Western regulatory source, asking not to be identified. “We are in the fourth dimension here.”

Malaysia’s government, one of the longest-serving in the democratic world with the same coalition in power for the 57 years since independence, has struggled to cope with the harsh glare of international scrutiny. The ruling United Malays National Organisation has long been criticised, including by some of its own members, for cronyism, an authoritarian streak and breeding a political culture in which loyalty is prized over talent.

Malaysia’s response has been overseen personally by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who put his cousin – the defense and acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein – in charge of day-to-day operations and interaction with the media.

Malaysia’s apparent mishandling of the situation could have long-term strategic consequences in a region where China’s economic and military might is growing rapidly, said Bower.

“They have no maritime domain awareness and it doesn’t look like they have a strong command and control structure and they’re not well coordinated with friends. Sadly, that’s what the MH370 situation demonstrates,” he added.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

The disappearance of flight Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is casting a harsh spotlight on Malaysia’s government, as a leadership unused to heavy scrutiny comes under intense international criticism for a litany of confusing messages and a perceived lack of transparency.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

missing-planeThe disappearance of flight Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is casting a harsh spotlight on Malaysia’s government, as a leadership unused to heavy scrutiny comes under intense international criticism for a litany of confusing messages and a perceived lack of transparency.

Five days after the plane disappeared from civilian radar screens, a huge international search operation has failed to turn up a trace of the Boeing jetliner that was carrying 239 passengers and crew. Frustration over the fruitless search has increasingly been directed at Malaysian officials after a series of fumbling news conferences, incorrect details given by the national airline, and a long delay in divulging details of the military’s tracking of what could have been the plane hundreds of miles off course.

The missteps have ranged from conflicting information about the last time of contact with the jet to the sharing of photos of two passengers in which they had the same pair of legs.

“The Malaysians deserve to be criticised – their handling of this has been atrocious,” said Ernest Bower, a Southeast Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Government officials say they are coping as best they can with an exceptional, highly complex crisis. Confusion, false leads, and misinformation are common in the initial hours of air disasters in any country.

But China, whose citizens made up around two-thirds of the passengers on board the flight, has barely hidden its impatience with Malaysia, urging it several times to step up the search and investigation efforts. The head of the Civil Aviation Authority of China, Li Jiaxiang, told reporters on March 12  that the message had been repeated to Malaysia’s special envoy in the Chinese capital.

Some families of the up to 154 missing Chinese have voiced fury at what they said was the slow release of information. Verbal abuse and water bottles were hurled at representatives of the government-owned airline in Beijing.

“The core of Malaysia’s information hasn’t been consistent from start to finish,” said China’s widely read and influential Global Times tabloid, published by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.

“It certainly hits at the confidence that the rest of the world has in Malaysia’s ability to be the nucleus of the rescue mission,” the paper added.

Other governments have praised the Malaysian effort, but some officials have complained of a lack of communication and information sharing that has slowed initial fact-finding. US officials said Malaysia’s failure to disclose the military’s radar tracking data until days after the plane’s disappearance meant important evidence may have disappeared.

“The lack of communication about what is going on is catastrophic,” said one Western regulatory source, asking not to be identified. “We are in the fourth dimension here.”

Malaysia’s government, one of the longest-serving in the democratic world with the same coalition in power for the 57 years since independence, has struggled to cope with the harsh glare of international scrutiny. The ruling United Malays National Organisation has long been criticised, including by some of its own members, for cronyism, an authoritarian streak and breeding a political culture in which loyalty is prized over talent.

Malaysia’s response has been overseen personally by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who put his cousin – the defense and acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein – in charge of day-to-day operations and interaction with the media.

Malaysia’s apparent mishandling of the situation could have long-term strategic consequences in a region where China’s economic and military might is growing rapidly, said Bower.

“They have no maritime domain awareness and it doesn’t look like they have a strong command and control structure and they’re not well coordinated with friends. Sadly, that’s what the MH370 situation demonstrates,” he added.

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