Asia

MH370: Malaysian officials poor communicators, or incompetent, says US official

MH370: Malaysian officials poor communicators, or incompetent, says US official
Malaysia's Transport and Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein speaks at a news conference at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 9, 2014. Photo: Reuters
US expert says search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is the ‘worst’ he’s ever seen in disaster management
Published: 2:15 PM, March 13, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR — The credibility of Malaysia’s leaders took a further battering today (March 13) when CNN reported that a top American transport official had described local officials as being either “poor communicators or, at worst, plain incompetent”.

Former US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) managing director Peter Goelz said this was the worst he had ever seen in disaster management, the Malaysian Insider reported today.

“There has been misinformation and corrections from Malaysian authorities on the whereabouts of MH370,” Mr Goelz told CNN. “Did passengers check in but not board the aircraft? How did the two men use the stolen passports to board the aircraft? Is the wreckage of MH370 near the last location where their radar was detected?

“At best, Malaysian officials have thus far been poor communicators; at worst, they are incompetent.”

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers, dropped off the radar at 1.20am on Saturday. Despite a massive 12-nation search and rescue operation, there have been no clues as to the whereabouts of MH370.

“There is a reason for this,” Mr Goelz said. “As you know, every time there is an accident, especially an international one like this, there is chaos during the first 24 to 36 hours. That is why there is a treaty which everyone has signed, including the Malaysians.

“The treaty explains the necessary steps and measures which are carried out to handle an investigation of this magnitude. It also explains how to involve other countries which have a vested interest, how to control rumours and release factual information.”

Mr Goelz said that, to this day, Malaysia has not followed the treaty, hence the contradicting information being released by various quarters.

The former NTSB head is the latest to take Putrajaya to task over the way the crisis is being managed.

Writing in The New York Times today, US journalist Thomas Fuller, who specialises in South-east Asian affairs, said the lack of coordination among Malaysian agencies and the conflicting updates on the search shows how the country’s leaders are simply reacting to growing criticism of the way the situation is handled, and they do not have a firm grasp on the situation.

“But worldwide bafflement at the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has challenged the country’s paternalistic political culture and exposed its coddled leaders to the withering judgments of critics from around the world,” Mr Fuller wrote.

That authoritarian trait, according to critics, is now reflected in Malaysia’s management of the mysterious disappearance of MH370, which went missing last Saturday shortly after taking off Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing. THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER