Lessons from the gruelling experience of MH370
* This article was written before Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s press conference yesterday.
That the mysterious disappearance of MH370 has plunged the Malaysia into serious disrepute is an understatement. The longest-serving government the world ever had is truly under siege. In no time, the true capability of the government is brought to the fore.
For once perhaps, the Malaysian opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, ceases to be envious of the position of the Barisan Nasional government.
Arguably, this crisis has no precedence and it is unfair to compare it with one. With no wreckage, no debris, no trace of the aircraft or the people, this crisis has become the most baffling in modern aviation.
With 227 passengers from 14 nationalities and 12 crew members onboard the Boeing 777-200ER, managing a global crisis of such a magnitude is surely a daunting task.
Perchance the “crisis management team”, if ever there were one from the outset, could have been oblivious of this fact when the saga begun.
Nay, in all honesty, this writer believed that even the prime minister wasn’t mindful of the far-reaching consequences of not managing well this calamity.
The heightening pressure and demand from aviation experts for more transparency must be taxing enough. Worse still is to endure the intensifying clamour for more information, especially from Beijing and elsewhere, from anxious and despairing family members.
It suddenly dawned on the prime minister that his and his cabinet’s credibility is at stake.
He should have been more than mindful that he couldn’t rely on his cousin in managing such gruelling times. No disputing the fact that he is acting transport minister though. But that alone doesn’t entitle one to helm and direct a crisis team especially if it is beyond our shore.
Never mind the many early chaotic statements issued by the lacklustre director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation, Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, about passengers, their baggage and of stolen passports, which oftentimes were either contradicted or refuted by officials from Malaysia Airlines, within the first 48 hours.
This, nonetheless, is a normal observation in such crises, as opined by many experts.
Never mind the inspector-general of police, who while not wanting to be seen aloof or oblivious of the emerging crisis, has also undoubtedly exacerbated the already confused state. No one would have faulted him as more fingers were pointed at the home minister, who was quick to blame others and absolve himself.
With 14 nations engaged in the search and rescue (SAR) mission, it has turned to be almost like a “free-for-all”. Rumours, speculations and theories abound and debates ensued unabated, both offline, that is, in print, and in online media.
There were ostensibly more probing questions and sometimes commendable suggestions than there were information and undisputed answers. It almost degenerated to a circus.
As if these weren’t enough to almost bring the nation, especially of its leaders to their knees, there were humiliating side-shows of the Raja Bomoh and his paraphernalia, including a “magic carpet”.
I am not about to paraphrase all the more important issues worth pursuing.
Simply put, after a week of investigation, the crisis team is admitting that they are still looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards.
Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is a member of the PAS central working committee and ex-MP of Kuala Selangor.