Malaysia ‘hiding flight MH370 information’ claims opposition leader

Published: April 3, 2014


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In this photo taken April 29, 2014 provided by the Australia Defence Force, multinational air-crew and aircraft involved in operation "Southern Indian Ocean" are assembled for a photo at RAAF Base Pearce, in Perth, Western Australia. Seven nations, including Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., South Korea, Malaysia, China and Japan, have flew daily search mission out to the southern Indian Ocean in the massive multinational hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. AP Photo/Australian Defence Force, Cpl. Nicci Freeman

BARNEY HENDERSON
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

London - Malaysia’s government is deliberately concealing information that would help to explain what happened to missing flight MH370, the country’s opposition leader has claimed.

Airlines debris-Indian Ocean

Malaysian Airlines crew members are seen at a departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia, 03 April 2014. EPA/AZHAR RAHIM

In an interview that cast doubt on the official investigation into the disappearance of the plane, Anwar Ibrahim said the country’s “sophisticated” radar system would have identified it after it changed course and crossed back over Malaysia.

Mr Anwar, who personally knew the pilot of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that went missing in the early hours of March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, called for an international committee to take over the Malaysian-led operation because “the integrity of the whole nation is at stake”.

He indicated that it was even possible that there was complicity by authorities on the ground in what happened to the plane and the 239 people on board.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Anwar said that he had personally authorised the installation of “one of the most sophisticated radar” systems in the world, based near the South China Sea and covering Malaysia’s mainland and east and west coastlines, when he was the country’s finance minister in 1994.

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The 66-year-old was once deputy prime minister in Malaysia’s ruling coalition, which has governed the country since independence from Britain in 1957.

However, after falling out with the country’s leaders, he was charged with sodomy, imprisoned twice and beaten in custody. He now leads a pro-democracy coalition of parties that lost last year’s election despite winning more than 50 per cent of the popular vote amid allegations of corruption by the government.

missing jet mystery

Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein is filmed during a press conference for the missing Malaysia Airlines, MH370. AP Photo/Joshua Paul

Mr Anwar said it was “not only unacceptable but not possible, not feasible” that the plane had not been sighted by the Marconi radar system immediately after it changed course.

The radar, he said, would have instantly detected the Boeing 777 as it travelled east to west across “at least four” Malaysian provinces.

Mr Anwar said it was “baffling” that the country’s air force had “remained silent”, and claimed that it “should take three minutes under SOP [standard operating procedure] for the air force planes to go. And there was no response.”

He added: “We don’t have the sophistication of the United States or Britain but still we have the capacity to protect our borders.”

He said the families of the 153 Chinese victims among those on board were right to demand information from the Malaysian government, which had permitted a multi-national search operation to spend a week looking in what it must have known was the wrong place.

“Why didn’t we alert the Chinese, the Vietnamese that the operation should cease in the South China Sea and let them spend millions on search and rescue in a place that they know fairly well cannot be the site of the plane?” As hope fades of recovering the plane’s black box before its batteries start to fail, which could be as early as Monday, Mr Anwar said it was “at the least, incompetence” on the part of the Malaysian government that it is still not known what happened to the plane, but was also a deliberate “intention to suppress key information”. “Unfortunately the manner in which this was handled after the first few days was clearly suspect,” he said. “One fact remains. Clearly information critical to our understanding is deemed missing.

“I believe the government knows more than us. They have the authority to instruct the air force?…?or Malaysia Airlines. They are privy to most of these missing bits of information critical to our understanding of this mysterious disappearance of MH370.”

Mr Anwar indicated that it was a possibility that officials on the ground were complicit in what happened on the plane. However, he later added that “the realm of possibilities is so vague, I mean, anything can have happened”, adding: “Whether they [the authorities] are complicit in a terrorist act, I’m not in a position to comment.”

A source close to the government accused Mr Anwar of attempting to exploit the tragedy for political gain. “The international media response, completely condemning Malaysia, is unfair. It’s been partly orchestrated by Malaysia’s opposition,” the source said. “The situation is unprecedented. And the search has actually been handled well. The government is coordinating an enormous operation, and both the commanders on the ground and all the international investigators involved have been complimentary about Malaysia’s efforts.”

Malaysian authorities did not respond officially to requests for comment on Mr Anwar’s accusations, but have previously accused him of politicising the crisis.

Efforts to recover the plane in the southern Indian Ocean, more than 1,000 miles off the coast of Perth, continued last night over a search area roughly the size of Poland. A British Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine is helping to hunt for wreckage, including the black box, before it stops emitting “pings”.

Lt. j.g. Nick Horton (L) and Lt. Clayton Hunt, naval aviators assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 16, perform preflight checks in the flight station of a P-8A Poseidon prior to a mission on April 1, 2014, from Perth Australia, to assist in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. KEITH DEVINNEY/AFP/Getty Images

Mr Anwar was convicted for sodomy, an offence under Malaysian law, for the third time hours before the flight went missing and is currently on bail pending appeal. He claimed that the government moved his court date to stop him standing in provincial elections.

Investigators and media have focused on the plane’s pilot, Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a supporter of Mr Anwar’s pro-democracy opposition coalition, despite there being no evidence against him.

Reports have claimed that Capt Zaharie was a “fanatic” who could have hijacked the plane in despair at the latest setback to the opposition leader. Both Mr Anwar and Capt Zaharie’s family have strongly denied any such possibility.

“After personally having been subjected to such unjust accusations, I strongly feel that you should not cast aspersions against people until you have evidence to support it,” he said.

“If you say or suggest that the pilot may have been involved, what about the concealing [of information]? He could not have concealed the radar readings. He could not have instructed the air force to remain completely silent. Or the prime minister to remain completely silent.”

Describing him as an “ardent supporter”, Mr Anwar said he had had several exchanges with Capt Zaharie and that he “was nice, smart, articulate – but there was clearly a strong passion for justice”.

The disappearance of MH370 has placed the Malaysian government under unprecedented international scrutiny, with persistent criticism that the release of official information has been both inaccurate and inconsistent.

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s defence and transport minister was criticised yesterday for claiming that MH370’s disappearance was a “blessing in disguise” because its loss meant he now “understood the beauty of unity, the sweetness of having each other”.

Mr Anwar said that “to save the country”, an international committee should be established consisting of representatives of countries whose nationals were among the passengers, such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysians and Australians.


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