ASEAN-US Security Relations Moving to a New Level


 
east-west-center-asia-pacific-bulletin
Number 256 | April 15, 2014
ANALYSIS

ASEAN-US Security Relations: Moving to a New Level

by Mary Fides Quintos and Joycee Teodoro

Chuck Hagel -The United States has just completed hosting a three-day forum with the ten ASEAN Defense Ministers in Hawai’i, fulfilling US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s invitation to his ASEAN counterparts during last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. The agenda of the US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum included a roundtable discussion on humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR), site visits to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the USS Anchorage–an amphibious transport dock ship designed to respond to crises worldwide–and discussions on various pertinent security issues in the region.

The US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum marked the beginning of Secretary Hagel’s ten-day trip to Asia which included visits to Japan, China, and Mongolia and is his fourth official visit to the region in less than a year, all part of the ongoing US rebalance policy to Asia. This event was the first meeting that the US hosted, as previous gatherings were conducted on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Retreat and ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) Summit.

The US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum was conducted under the ambit of the ADMM-Plus which was established in 2007 to serve as a venue for ASEAN to engage with eight dialogue partners–Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the United States–in promoting peace and security in the region. To date, ADMM-Plus has established five working groups for practical cooperation covering maritime security, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster management, peacekeeping operations, and military medicine.

This most recent meeting was held amid another wave of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea. For ASEAN, a recent water cannon incident near Scarborough Shoal involving Filipino fishing vessels and Chinese Coastguard ships, the standoff at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal again between the Philippines and China, and China’s naval exercises at James Shoal which is claimed by Malaysia are all issues of concern.

Indonesia’s strengthening of its military presence in the Natuna Islands which China included in its nine-dash line is another indication of the increasing insecurity and instability in the region. The meeting provided a good opportunity for informal dialogue on the overall security environment in Asia and the possible implications of developments in Ukraine for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity within the international order. It also served as an opportunity for the United States to reemphasize that it can be relied upon by ASEAN members in supporting the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law and in upholding the freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.

With regard to humanitarian assistance and disaster response, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines Hishamuddin Husseinlast year and the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has demonstrated the lack of capacity of individual ASEAN countries or ASEAN as a bloc to immediately respond to a crisis. Not disregarding the efforts made by the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia, these incidents highlighted the need for the participation of other states particularly in terms of sharing of expertise, technology, and information. The US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum explored areas where cooperation in these areas can be further strengthened. It was a reiteration of the need for multilateral cooperation in non-traditional security challenges that do not respect territorial boundaries.

The increased frequency of high-level visits by US officials to Asia, the provision of resources to its allies in the region, the reallocation of military hardware, along with ongoing military activities demonstrate that the US intent is to have a closer engagement with the region over the long term. These actions are also manifestations of the US commitment to Asia despite fiscal restraints and the looming crises in other regions where the US is also expected to be involved.

Moreover, they send a strong signal that the United States remains the region’s security guarantor regardless of doubts on its capacity to perform that role. However, the US-led hub-and-spokes alliance security model can be perceived as an act of containment against a particular country, hence the importance that bilateral alliances are supplemented by a multilateral institution that is open and inclusive such as ASEAN in shaping the regional security architecture.

The conclusion of the first US-initiated US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum highlights the growing importance of ASEAN to the United States, especially if the event becomes more institutionalized. The message is that the United States views ASEAN as a central and strategic player, not only in the US rebalance to Asia but more importantly in the building of a strong and credible regional security architecture for the Asia-Pacific.

The move by the United States to actively engage ASEAN in its rebalance also shows the maturation of ties between them. By acknowledging ASEAN as an important regional actor, the relationship between the two has clearly been elevated. This also raises a key point with regard to respecting ASEAN’s centrality in the region. Economic power and military size notwithstanding, major powers need to recognize that any credible regional security architecture must include ASEAN.

These deliberate and sustained efforts involving ASEAN in devising the region’s security architecture are clear manifestations that the United States is actively engaging more actors in the region for maintaining peace and stability. More importantly, by involving ASEAN, there is the added assurance that the region’s security environment will work under a framework that is not dominated by a single power.

ASEAN, for its part, should see changes in the regional security environment as both opportunities and challenges. While ASEAN has been successful in engaging the major powers in the region, its centrality must continuously be earned. First, it needs to maintain unity amid differences; it should not be influenced by any external actor that seeks to advance its national interests at the expense of regional interests. ASEAN members must learn how to pursue their respective interests not only through national strategies but also through regional unity.

As a community, ASEAN is expected to act as a bloc championing the group’s interests and not only those of the individual member-states. Second, there should be greater commitment to cooperation not only in HA/DR but also in other non-traditional areas of security. Non-traditional security challenges are often transnational in scope and include multiple stakeholders. ASEAN must continuously enhance regional cooperation and coordination in times of crisis, although individual countries must also develop domestic capacity to respond to security challenges.

ASEAN should start addressing this deficit now otherwise institutional mechanisms will remain only on paper. These challenges will force ASEAN to build and improve on its usual practices and move beyond its comfort zone, in the long run benefitting the bloc as it matures institutionally.

About the Authors: Ms. Mary Fides Quintos and Ms. Joycee Teodoro are both Foreign Affairs Research Specialists with the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies at the Philippines Foreign Service Institute.

The views expressed here belong to the authors alone and do not reflect the institutional stand of the Philippines Foreign Service Institute. Ms. Quintos can be contacted at fides.quintos@gmail.com and Ms. Teodoro at joyteodoro@gmail.com.

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MH370: Is the story credible? Watch this lengthy video–30-Day Update


April 16, 2014

MH370: Is the story credible? Watch this lengthy video–30-Day Update

Presented by Lauren Moret (Part 1)

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world. If so, why are you, Mr. Prime Minister, keeping things from us, your citizens? The truth will be known eventually and you will answer for this.

http://exopolitics.blogs.com/peaceinspace/2014/04/part-1-leuren-moret-confirmed-mh370-shot-down-by-us-over-singapore-airspace-as-uk-inmarsat-leads-30-day-false-flag-psy.html

Obama and Malaysia


April 16, 2014

Obama and Malaysia

US President must walk a delicate line in a country facing increasing international criticism.

Obama-for-BERSIH2Obama for Clean and Fair Elections in Malaysia?

US President Barack Obama is expected to visit Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia this month as part of his push to increase US diplomatic, economic and security engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. But despite the relative size and strategic importance of the other countries, it is his April 27 trip to Malaysia that arguably gives the President his biggest problems.

Given the events of the past few months, Obama will visit a country that has earned some of the worst press in Asia, not only for its fumbling response to the loss of its jetliner, MH370, with 239 people aboard, but to revelations of growing racial and religious intolerance, blatant attempts to silence the Opposition through spurious legal action and bizarre charges by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s own newspaper that the Central Intelligence Agency kidnapped the plane to foment trouble with China, 152 of whose citizens were aboard the missing craft.

The same newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, repeated as a real possibility speculation by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the CIA brought down the World Trade Towers in 2001 as a plot to blame Muslims for the destruction.

anwar-ibrahim2In recent weeks, an appeals court has reversed a lower court decision against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, declaring him guilty of what were clearly trumped up charges of sodomy. The decision, apparently rushed forward, was designed to deny Anwar an almost certain win in a Kuala Lumpur suburban by-election that would have paved his way to becoming Chief Minister of the country’s most populous and prosperous state and would have given him a potent rhetorical platform to challenge the government.

In an equally dubious decision, Karpal Singh, chairman of the Democratic Party, the biggest in the troika of opposition parties, was declared guilty of sedition for saying a decision by the Sultan of Perak could be questioned in court.  The conviction, which is being appealed, bars him from politics. 

The international press that showed up in Kuala Lumpur after the disappearance of the airliner began asking questions that exposed a regime unaccustomed to facing independent scrutiny – questions that a kept mainstream media, all of which are owned by the political parties in power, have ignored for decades. While a vibrant opposition press exists on the Internet, the government simply ignores it or tries to neutralize its reports. Those questions include crony capitalism, gerrymandering and political repression. CNN, the major US and British newspapers and other media assailed the government as authoritarian, corrupt and befuddled.

The feeling in Washington, however, is that the cost of cancellation to the strategic relationship between the two countries would be too high. Obama reportedly is being urged to visit a Christian church while in the country to show US commitment to human and religious rights. Advocates say the President should make at least some gesture of recognition of the fact that a 50.87 percent majority of Malaysians voted against the ruling coalition in 2013 general elections at 47.38 percent but still hold only 89 of the 222 seats in parliament because of gerrymandering. It’s unsure if he will do so. There is speculation that he may just opt for a “meet and greet” and get out of town as quickly as possible to avoid international criticism for propping up a regime that is starting to assume Zimbabwean characteristics of repression and kleptocracy.

“I don’t have any problem with Obama visiting Malaysia, provided he reaches outmalott1 to Malaysians on both sides of the aisle and all sectors of society, including the Christian community, whose rights are being trampled on by their government,” said John Malott, a former career foreign service officer who served as Ambassador to Malaysia from 1996 to 1998 and who has emerged as Malaysian government’s severest western critic. “But this has to be a visit that is based on the reality of what kind of country Malaysia really is today – and not to believe the talking points that Malaysia is still a tolerant multi-racial, multi-religious, harmonious, moderate Islamic nation, an economic success story, and a role model for others. It no longer is.”

Najib visited the White House in 2011 and was given a wholehearted endorsement by the President, who said Najib has “showed great leadership, I think, not only in continuing to show great leadership not only in Malaysia’s economy but on showing leadership on a wide range of multilateral issues.”

Najib PMThe President is said to like Najib personally despite the fact that a wide range of issues have never been cleared up, going back to allegations of Najib’s personal involvement in the US$1 billion purchase of French submarines that according to French prosecutors was said to have netted US$114 million in bribes and kickbacks to the United Malays National Organization. The case is still making its way through French courts.

There is also the matter of the still controversial 2006 murder by two of Najib’s bodyguards of Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu, who according to a now-dead private detective had been Najib’s girlfriend before she was allegedly passed on to his best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, a key figure in the purchase of the submarines. The bodyguards were acquitted on appeal despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, raising questions about Malaysia’s legal system as well.

There have been some rude shocks. Six months ago, in the run-up to his previous delayed visit to the region, the US President hailed Malaysia as an “an example of a dynamic economy” and praised its multi-ethnic, moderate Muslim-dominated society only to see just three days later a court decision ordering Christians not to use the word “Allah” when referring to God, making it the only Islamic country in the world to do so.

After that, the government ordered the confiscation of Malay-language Bibles containing the word – but only in Peninsular Malaysia. Christians using Malay-language Bibles in East Malaysia were allowed to keep them. That is because most of the Christians are tribes indigenous to Borneo that are aligned with the ruling party. In Peninsular Malaysia, they form the bulk of the Opposition.

“So the issue is — how can you talk about establishing a ‘strategic partnership’ with such a government?” Malott asked. “Maybe that is what will have to be downplayed or even canned for this visit. To me, the idea of a declaring a strategic partnership with a government whose faults have now been revealed to the world, day after day, seems politically unwise.”

Malott also questioned what strategic benefits the US can obtain from Malaysia.“What strategic value does Malaysia have that it warrants America to hold its nose and ignore the trampling of democracy and political freedom, not to mention the corruption and cronyism that hurt American business interests there?” he asked. “And with Mahathir, the great anti-American, increasingly calling the political shots and Najib’s popularity the lowest of any Prime Minister in polling history, will a ‘strategic partnership’ with the US survive Najib’s departure?”

ESSCOM: Another Dysfunctional Security Set-Up


April 16, 2013

ESSCOM: Another Dysfunctional Security Set-Up

by Aidila Razak and Hafiz Yatim @www.malaysiakini.com

The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) leads to a duplication of work, said a former Sabah Police Chief.

However, Dato’ Ramli Yusuff, who was Police Chief from 2002 to 2004, refused to comment on whether Esscom should be scrapped, saying that it was a policy issue.

On the same note, Ramli said, Esscom should be headed by the state Police Chief to avoid duplication of the chain of command and ensure a better grip on security operational matters.

“I have studied the area well and I think Esscom, or whatever you want to call it, should be headed by the Police or Army. But I prefer the police because this is an internal (security) matter..,” Ramli told Malaysiakini in an interview.

“This is my personal opinion, but (current Esscom Chief) Mohammad Mentek is from the Immigration Department and he doesn’t know operational matters,” he added.

Ramli, who headed Ops Nyah which saw the deportation of more than 100,000 illegal immigrants from Sabah during his time, said Esscom creates a conflicting chain of command.

“I don’t know… they may have their own standard operating procedures. But to me, as the ex-Police Commissioner, I think it is ridiculous. It is better to increase the assets of the local Police or Army for that matter… These things should be coordinated already,” he added.

Commenting on the recent kidnapping of two women from a resort off Semporna, Ramli said if the Police were in charge, no time would have been wasted. Instead there was “pushing (bertolak-tolak)” between Esscom and the Police to figure out whose jurisdiction the kidnap fell under.

Ramli said when he was Police Chief, there were no incursions or kidnappings because coordination was tight among all enforcement agencies, including the Army.

In fact, he said, he “wiped out” a gang of kidnappers from Sarawak with help from the intelligence and operations teams from Bukit Aman, with which he had worked before.

As Police Chief, Ramli said, he would advise the Chief Minister on security issues and coordinate everything with the Navy, Air Force, Army, volunteer corps (Rela), and Immigration and Customs departments. “I advise politicians, I don’t listen to politicians,” he added.

Visit Malaysia Year without security?

Ramli said the Army and Police shared their assets throughout Sabah, and compared notes on intelligence which he insisted is the most crucial aspect of security operations.

Special attention was also given to tourist areas where more personnel were deployed at outposts and for patrols.

“(The kidnappers) are clever, and they have phones. They will try to invade but if you put your people there, they won’t take it lightly. All our boys were there.

“Security must be in place, especially if you want to have Visit Malaysia Year. Or else who will come?… It doesn’t matter (how long the border is). If it happens in your district you have to know,” he said, adding that ground intelligence should be water tight in “red zones”.

Based on his experience, Ramli said “there is no way” such kidnappings and incursions can take place because the state and security personnel have already identified these “red zones”.

“So I cannot understand why Esscom cannot (handle) this… These are the areas we used to take care of before and we beefed up (security) in all these areas.

“If only the Police and Army can sit down and work together again, it will be very good. We worked based on information on the ground. Now I believe they have many platoons… There is no reason for such things to happen,” Ramli added.

April 16, 2014

Ramli: I’d have hit Sabah intruders fast and hard

by Aidila Razak and Hafiz Yatim

http://www.malaysiakini.com

INTERVIEW: The Lahad Datu incursion last year remains a black mark in the nation’s history but former Sabah Police Chief  Dato’ Ramli Yusuff said if he was at the helm during the crisis, he would have wasted no time hitting the foreign intruders quick and hard.

Ramli, born in a leap year 62 years ago, said if he was in charge, he would never allow armed invaders to prevail.

“I would straight away (have my men) kill them. No negotiations in matters of security – if it is confirmed they are armed intruders, we whack them.I do not negotiate,” he said, when asked how he would react to that armed incursion.

The former senior Police officer, who rose to number three in the Police Force before his retirement, added that there was no compromise when it comes to the country’s sovereignty.

In last year’s armed incursion, the authorities moved in on the Sulu invaders on March 1, after the intruders had holed up at Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu for almost three weeks.

“As far I am concerned, when it comes to internal security, the Commissioner of Police of Sabah is in charge of operations, as he looks after the security of the state.”

Ramli was Sabah Police Chief from 2001 to 2004, and prior to that he had served as the Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department (CID) deputy director for seven years from 1994. He later progressed to become Pahang chief police office (CPO) and later Commercial Crimes Investigation Department (CCID) Director.

As Sabah Police Chief, Ramli said he took three months in 2001 to clear the illegal settlements during the state-wide Ops Nyah II in all 20 Police districts.

He said the Police worked with intelligence gathered from the ground in identifying which houses held the illegals and acted against them.

Within three months, thousands of squatter areas were cleaned and demolished from Pulau Gaya, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Kudat, Marudu, Beluran, Kinabatangan, and Semporna, said the former Sabah CPO, showing aerial pictures of the clampdown on the settlers.

“During that time, the Police, Army, Rela, Immigration, and marines were with us in mounting the operation and moving into the villages, where many had weapons. If the Police were to move on their own, it would be dangerous. In some of the places, it was like moving into fortresses as they were well armed.

“When we moved in, we documented the illegal immigrants by taking their photographs and fingerprints. This was to make sure that they did not come back illegally, with false papers and passports with new names. We warned employers that if they wanted to hire them, to do it legally.”

Death threats

Ramli said biometric documentation was done when he was Sabah Police Chief and the Police would keep a copy while another was handed to the Immigration Department to deter the illegals from coming back. If they returned and were caught, they would immediately be deported.

“All in all, we sent back hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and we charged another 100,000 who did not have documents. The courts were packed with these cases,” he said. Ramli added that if the illegal immigrants surrendered willingly, the Police would deport them without them being charged.

As a result of his stern actions, Ramli revealed he received death threats, and showed an article from the New Sabah Times on this (right).

“They dared to call my office to threaten me. But that did not deter me. I continued to hit them harder. I suspect it was foreigners or illegal immigrants who had called following the arrest of their relatives.”

He said as a result of the strong action taken against the illegal settlers during his time, crime went down by 30 percent in Sabah in 2002.

“The illegals were drug addicts, drug pushers, criminals. They were a major cause of crime. When we hit them hard and sent them away, crime rates immediately dropped,” he said with quiet pride.

Once a Upon Time: Malaysia was known for its Institutions


April 15, 2014

Once a Upon Time: Malaysia was known for its Institutions

Commentary

by The Malaysian Insider (http://www.themalaysianinsider.com)

There was a time when Malaysia was known for its institutions – a civil service that facilitated rapid development from an agrarian economy to an industrialised one, a judiciary that was held in high esteem of the Commonwealth, and a military that defeated a communist insurgency.

Today, more than 50 years as a nation spanning from Perlis to Sabah, we see ineptitude and incompetency, a complete meltdown of Malaysian institutions.

Gani PatailThe Attorney-General now farms out cases to an UMNO lawyer; the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) leads an organisation which does not act when a High Court rules; the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) suffers a credibility deficit; and the Air Force has not covered itself with any glory.

So who do Malaysians turn to in time of need? Not any of the above, it appears. Sad but true. The saga of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared with 239 people on board on March 8, has confirmed what Malaysians have suspected for a long time. That there is not much meritocracy and thinking going on in the civil service.

The authorities, from the Minister downwards, have yet to explain what happened in the crucial hours after MH370 was found missing. A CNN and BBC television report yesterday showed Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein avoiding the question.

Tiga AbdulTiga Abdul (Abdul Muhyuddin, Abdul Najib, Abdul Hisham)

Can the civil aviation sector trust the DCA to do the right thing immediately after a flight vanishes from the radar screens? Why wasn’t the Air Force told that a jet was missing? Why wasn’t plane maker Boeing told immediately? Why didn’t the air traffic control respond to their Vietnamese counterparts when told that there was no contact with the Boeing 777-200ER that was on its way to Beijing?

Why the silence?

These days, Malaysia just has bad jokes passing off as the Civil Service, Police Force, Military and the Public Prosecutor. This is the meltdown of institutions that had shaped the country from its formative years to the Asian tiger that it once was.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) also has to explain how it defends the Chief of the RMAF, Rodzali Daudcountry’s airspace throughout the day. Yes, we have brave men and women in uniform keeping watch but a mysterious blip on the radar moving east to west was left unmolested.

Not even hailed by radio, let alone scrambling jets to check on the blip. Or even to ask the DCA and air traffic control if they were also seeing the blip.Does the RMAF have fighter jets on standby? How many can fly these days apart from those used for parades, air shows and F1 races?

The IGP has decided to play marriage counsellor to a divorced couple rather than enforce the law after the ex-husband forcibly took away his son from the ex-wife’s legal custody. Does the IGP or anyone else in the police force know the law and the offence that was committed, or do they assume there is a conflict in the civil and Shariah law that they cannot take any action?

Can anyone cite religion and get away with a crime? How can people trust the Khalid Abu Bakarpolice to enforce the law passed by lawmakers elected by the people?

Where is the Attorney-General in all of this? Is it more important for him to go to London to figure out who will have custody of the MH370 black box, once found, rather than stay back in the country and decide on whether to prosecute or take action against a man for abducting his child from his ex-wife’s legal custody?

Or just outsource some jobs to an UMNO lawyer – from defending the Registrar of Societies (RoS) in a judicial review brought by the  DAP to prosecuting Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in his sodomy appeal. Is the Attorney-General’s decision to outsource some work a tacit confirmation and acknowledgment that there is no talent left in the A-G Chambers to do the work?

And is there any talent also left in the Civil Service, Police Force and Military? Malaysia’s Civil Service was the envy of many – from working on poverty eradication and affirmative action policies to industrialisation and a respected Judiciary and prosecution. They did more with fewer resources and lesser people then. But they had quality talent back then.

These days, Malaysia just has bad jokes passing off as the Civil Service, Police Force, Military and the Public Prosecutor. This is the meltdown of institutions that had shaped the country from its formative years to the Asian tiger that it once was.

It might take a generation to possibly set things right with these institutions. Or is that just a hope that is fading as fast as the chance of hearing another ping in the southern Indian Ocean?

 

Memali: Not late for truth and justice


April 6.2014

Memali: Not late for truth and justice

dr-kua-kia-soongBy Kua Kia Soong@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Early on November 19, 1985, the Malaysian Police under the direction of the Home Minister laid siege on a house in the Kedah village of Memali in which PAS leader Ibrahim Libya and his comrades were staying in a bid to resist arrest under the Internal Security Act.

There were no lengthy negotiations with the besieged and by noon 14 men, including Ibrahim Libya, lay dead. Four police personnel also died, apparently as a result of friendly fire and several of the survivors were arrested under the ISA.

Certainly this 1985 massacre at Memali shares the same moral shame as the 1948 Batang Kali massacre, when 24 innocent villagers were mowed down by British troops at Batang Kali.

Instead of a remorseful apology to Ibrahim Libya and the other deceased, the Barisan Nasional government has used the Memali massacre as a spectre to warn the electorate against involvement in extremist or “deviant” Muslim sects.In the same way, the May 13 pogrom is continually resurrected as a warning and threat to the Chinese electorate should they choose to vote for the Opposition.

Musa, Dr M, IGP collectively responsible

Musa HitamThe Home Minister at the time, Tun Musa Hitam has recently tried to shift the responsibility for the massacre to the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

In fact, what Musa asserts had been disclosed three years ago, by the then OCPD of Baling, YM Tunku Muszaffar Shah, in his book entitled ‘Memali: A Policeman Remembers’.

The ex-OCPD said that the poor decision-making at the time was the result of political interference and an underestimation of the tenacity of Ibrahim’s followers.

The fact that Mahathir was still in Malaysia when the Memali massacre took place TDMhad also surfaced during the launch of the book. But whether Mahathir was still in Malaysia at the time or already on a visit to China is immaterial – collective responsibility binds those in the relevant positions of power together.

Thus the Home Minister has to take full responsibility for such an executive action as well as Amin Osman, the then Acting Inspector General of Police at the time, for his role in executing the bloody plan.

As with Operation Lalang, May 13 and other historical tragedies in our country, the Government White Paper on Memali attempts to whitewash over the government’s responsibility for the crisis.

Next, the official propagandists dutifully echo the whitewashed rendition of these events, which then becomes immortalised in school textbooks and in officially sponsored films such as Tanda Putera.

In the case of the Memali massacre, The Star’s recent ‘fact box’ cited Ibrahim Libya and his followers among the list of “major violent cases involving deviant groups in the country.”

Defiance against detention without trial

The Memali massacre must also stand out as one of the bloodiest episode of defiance against detention without trial.

After my arrest under the ISA in the early hours of October 28, 1987, I have often pondered what would have happened if I had resisted the Special Branch that morning and decided to barricade myself in my house with a bunch of my supporters.

Would a similar massacre have taken place?In hindsight, I had no intention of providing the Malaysian Police with an excuse to take such drastic action!

Nonetheless, the indignation I felt as an innocent political activist against detention without trial is real and I can understand the emotions of the villagers in Memali when confronted with such a huge Police mobilisation to arrest and detain their leader Ibrahim Libya.

According to Federal territory PAS Youth Chief, Khairil Nizam Khirudin, the Alor Setar High Court had decided that the government should pay compensation to the families of those who were killed.The widows received a small compensation, which suggests culpability on the part of the government, in wrongfully attacking the victims.

And if the victims were “deviants”, why did the National Fatwa council not issue a fatwa against Ibrahim?

According to the White Paper tabled in Parliament in February 1986, the government justified attempts to arrest Ibrahim under the ISA by accusing him of establishing the “Islamic Revolutionary Movement” which aimed to topple the federal government by force.

Ibrahim was reported to have amassed an arsenal of dangerous weapons. That alleged stockpile remains hidden, to this day and it is the responsibility for a commission of inquiry to uncover the truth of this allegation.

Never too late for truth and justice

The 1985 Memali massacre is in our relatively recent past. The Dutch government has only just agreed to pay families from Indonesia reparations for a colonial-era massacre that occurred around the same time as Batang Kali, in 1947.

Talking of Indonesia, their government has still not accounted for the massacre of close to a million people in 1965.

A group of Kenyan survivors, mostly now in their 80s, won the right in 2011 to sue the British government for damages over claims of torture during the 1950s Mau Mau uprising.

A judicial review of the government’s repeated refusal to hold a public inquiry into the alleged massacre at Batang Kali was heard in 2012.

The Malaysian state must take responsibility for the Memali massacre. It has a moral responsibility to apologise to Ibrahim and the other deceased for the tragedy and to compensate the families adequately for the senseless loss of their loved ones.

For the sake of the families of the victims and our collective conscience, we also need to get to the bottom of what happened at Batang Kali in 1948, Kuala Lumpur in May 1969, Memali in 1985, Kampung Medan in 2001.Extrajudicial killings still go on with impunity today.

Pressing need for IPCMC

The report by the police on the events leading to the killing of Ibrahim reads like any of the reports of deaths through police shootings that you can read in Suaram’s annual Human Rights Reports:

“Attempts by a large Police delegation to arrest Ibrahim at his home in November 1985 saw supporters attacking the police with firearms and sharp weapons, before the charismatic preacher was killed…”

If we had had an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) in 1985, the standard operating procedure would have been for the IPCMC to step in to investigate how the casualties were inflicted and if the police could have avoided the killings.

Unfortunately, we can only surmise and conjecture about why the police did not do more to prevent the bloodshed, since they had the house surrounded with hundreds of police personnel.

At a time when our government is at pains to tell the world in regular press conferences that they are being open and transparent, it is fitting and long overdue to open a commission of inquiry on the Memali tragedy and to institute the long overdue IPCMC.

Kua Kia Soong is advisor to human rights watchdog Suaram.

Defense Spending UP. What’s Happening?


April 2, 2014

Defense Spending UP. What’s Happening?

by http://www.malaysiakini.com

The DAP’s Raub MP Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz has demanded answers as to why Malaysia has not sent its two Scorpene submarines to assist the search and recovery operation for the missing Malaysian Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370.

Mohd Ariff (right) – who blogs under the handle ‘Sakmongkol 47′ – raised questions as to what the country has to show for its expenditure on defence, which has gone up from RM13.8 million in 2011 to RM16.1 billion in 2014.

“How is our defence spending structured? Is it structured to enrich a few UMNO cronies or is it structured to strengthen our defences?”

He noted that, when the MAS aircraft was reported missing over the South China Sea in the early hours of March 8, the government had not deployed its “celebrated” submarines to the area because the military said the area is too shallow.

“In any case, our submarines are designed to search and destroy. We responded by saying we only wanted the search part – no need to destroy,” Mohd Ariff wrote.

“We did not send our submarine rescue ship (SRS) either- the one built by a company known as Target Resources Sdn Bhd. We are paying RM6 million a month to Target Resources to be on standby. How come we did not send the SRS? Singapore did.”

The Scorpene submarines – KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Abdul Razak – were commissioned in 2009 and are said to be equipped with TSM 2233 Mk 2 sonar capability.

He suggested that the vessel may not have the equipment for full underwater search capabilities, including a remote-operated vehicle.

What does ‘ended’ mean?

Mohd Ariff, the former Pekan UMNO Information Chief, also questioned Premier Najib Abdul Razak’s conclusion that the aircraft has ended in the Indian Ocean.

Does ‘ended’ mean that it crashed into the Indian Ocean or that it stayed suspended in the netherworld as suggested by the bomoh, he posed.

“Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein came along to say the PM did not say the plane had crashed in the Indian Ocean.

“Even now, Hishammuddin is still muddling (along). Yet there are people who say Hisham has done well. Done well by which standards? By the standards of school dropouts?”

Mohd Ariff listed the nation’s military assets but asked how many of these are still operational.

He claimed that the Royal Malaysian Air Force has 224 aircraft and 84 helicopters; the Army has 74 tanks, 20 towed artillery pieces and 1,318 armoured fighting vehicles; and the Navy has 61 vessels comprising four frigates, four corvettes, two submarines, 39 coastal craft, and four mining vessels.

Inside Singapore’s Socio-Economic Success


April 2, 2014

Singaporean Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam  on Singapore’s Socio-Economic Success

port-of-singaporePort of Singapore

What Really Concerns China About Flight 370?


April 1, 2014

The biggest aviation mystery since Amelia Earhart disappeared isn’t over for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and it may never be. Not with the families of the 154 Chinese passengers (out of 239 people) on board the missing Malaysian Air jet accusing his government of a cover-up. Not with puzzled observers around the world wondering how a government of a reasonably developed nation could be so inept. And not with Malaysians looking at a ruling elite that’s turned crisis management into a management crisis.

The biggest reason the fallout from Flight MH 370 may not be over for a long time might be because of China. Maybe the government of Asia’s most important economy really is livid at Malaysia’s handling of this tragedy. It’s hard not to think there also are ulterior motives at work.

Najib-Xi-Jinping-Malaysia-China-

Yes, Malaysia deserves plenty of blame, dragging out this painful human tragedy for too long. It took 16 days for its leaders to admit what most of the rest of the world figured out long ago: there would be no survivors of a plane crash somewhere far out in the Indian Ocean. In the interim, tales of stolen passports, confused and contradictory statements, fantastic theories about which political party the pilot supported, obfuscation about the Boeing 777′s cargo and daily press briefings by Hishammuddin Hussein — a man who should never again be allowed near a microphone — has tarnished Malaysia’s global brand for years to come. Malaysian Air telling some families that Flight 370 had “ended” was an added insult.

Yet China is doing its best to foster a sense of aggrievement, as if it has been intentionally wronged by this tragic accident. This is part of a broader pattern of exploiting international incidents for domestic gain. Think back to 1999, when NATO forces accidentally bombed China‘s embassy in Belgrade, or 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet and U.S. spy plane collided: China displayed a remarkable tolerance for public protests. Again in 2012, police stood by as protesters surrounded the car of then-U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke. Or take the giant anti-Japanese demonstrations of recent years. Small wonder Japan’s tourists now head to Taiwan and Hong Kong rather than Shanghai or Beijing.

China, of course, is a nation with little tolerance for civil disobedience or protests, particularly in central Beijing. Anyone who has strolled through Tiananmen Square could be excused for wondering if they had been transported to North Korea’s desolate capital, Pyongyang. But for the Communist Party, pointing fingers at foreigners supposedly doing China harm is an ideal way to deflect attention from corruption scandals, income inequality and toxic pollution. It doesn’t take much to suspect that this is what is driving much of the outcry over the loss of MH Flight 370.

It’s certainly not as if the control freaks who run China would have been more transparent than Malaysia’s leaders. More competent and efficient, perhaps. But more forthcoming or doing anything that might risk giving any clues about its military-reconnaissance capabilities? Not a a chance.

But what is China’s end game here? Are Chinese leaders really supporting the interests of the mourning families? Perhaps, but something else might be at play. Tolerating protests where demonstrators bellow wildly and irresponsible chants like “the Malaysian government are murderers” suggest that China senses an opportunity to claim the high ground from a rival for territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China has proven quite adept at getting and keeping such moral trump cards in its back pocket. Don’t be surprised if the country’s Communist Party leaders make a big deal of their MH Flight 370 grievance the next time they find themselves in a dispute with Malaysia.

To contact the writer of this article: William Pesek at wpesek@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net.

MH370: Questions for the US and its Intelligence Services


March 30, 2014

Disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370: The Trillion Dollar Question to the U.S. and Its Intelligence Services

Malaysian media should pose critical questions to the US and its Intelligence Services and not to the Malaysian Government

Let me state from the outset that I totally agree with the press statements by Malaysia’s Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that “we have conducted ourselves fairly, responsibly and history will judge us for that.”

And to a mischievous and presumptuous question from a correspondent of the Financial Times, Datuk Seri with confidence and integrity rightly said without any fear of contradiction that, “I don’t think we could have done anything different from what we have already done.”  Well done!

What technological innovation would prompt the Pentagon's military intelligence agencies to electronically interdict a civilian airliner in mid-flight, while disposing of the collateral passengers as shark bait?

What technological innovation would prompt the Pentagon’s military intelligence agencies to electronically interdict a civilian airliner in mid-flight, while disposing of the collateral passengers as shark bait?

The Financial Times, CNN and other foreign media ought to pose similar questions to the US and its intelligence services and stop insinuating that Malaysia has not been transparent and/or engaged in a cover-up. Foreign media should stop engaging in dirty politics!

 It is my hope that following the publication of this article, Malaysian mass media will focus on questioning the integrity of the US’s assistance to Malaysia in the first three weeks of the SAR mission, notwithstanding its recent offer of more assistance.

I take comfort that my reservations about the US and its intelligence services as well as other intelligence services closely linked to the US, especially British secret service, have been more than vindicated by Reuters in its news report on 28th March, 2014 entitled Geopolitical games handicap hunt for flight MH370

The search for flight MH370, the Malaysian Airlines jetliner that vanished over the South China Sea on March 8, has involved more than two dozen countries and 60 aircraft and ships but has been bedevilled by regional rivalries.

… With the United States playing a relatively muted role in the sort of exercise that until recently it would have dominated, experts and officials say there was no real central coordination until the search for the plane was confined to the southern Indian Ocean, when Australia largely took charge.

Part of the problem is that Asia has no NATO-style regional defence structure, though several countries have formal alliances with the United States. Commonwealth members Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia also have an arrangement with Britain to discuss defence matters in times of crisis.

As mystery deepened over the fate of the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew, most of them Chinese, it became clear that highly classified military technology might hold the key.

But the investigation became deadlocked over the reluctance of others to share sensitive data, a reticence that appeared to harden as the search area widened.

“This is turning into a spy novel,” said an envoy from a Southeast Asian country, noting it was turning attention to areas and techniques few countries liked to publicly discuss.

Ultimately, the only country with the technical resources to recover the plane – or at least its black box recorder, which could lie in water several miles deep – may be the United States. Its deep-sea vehicles ultimately hauled up the wreckage of Air France 447 after its 2009 crash into a remote region of the South Atlantic.

While Putrajaya has been forced to reveal some of the limits and ranges of its air defences, the reluctance of Malaysia’s neighbours to release sensitive radar data may have obstructed the investigation for days.

At an ambassadorial meeting in the ad hoc crisis centre at an airport hotel on March 16, Malaysia formally appealed to countries on the jet’s possible path for help, but in part met with polite stonewalling, two people close to the talks said.

Some countries asked Malaysia to put its request in writing, triggering a flurry of diplomatic notes and high-level contacts.

‘It became a game of poker in which Malaysia handed out the cards at the table but couldn’t force others to show their hand, a person from another country involved in the talks said.

As in the northern Indian Ocean, where Chinese forces operate alongside other nations to combat Somali piracy, current and former officials say all sides are almost certainly quietly spying on and monitoring each other at the same time. (emphasis added)

WantChinaTimes, Taiwan reported,

The United States has taken advantage of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight to test the capabilities of China’s satellites and judge the threat of Chinese missiles against its aircraft carriers, reports our sister paper Want Daily.

Erich Shih, chief reporter at Chinese-language military news monthly Defense International, said the US has more and better satellites but has not taken part in the search for flight MH370, which disappeared about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of March 8 with 239 people on board. Shih claimed that the US held back because it wanted to see what information China’s satellites would provide.

The above is the reality which we have to confront. Therefore, desist any attempt to label the above mainstream media articles as a “conspiracy theory”. Reuters has let the Genie out of the bottle!

Malaysia’s Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Hishammuddin gave hints of Malaysia’s difficulties (as his hands were tied by intelligence protocols and or refusal by the relevant foreign intelligence services and diplomatic reluctance) but our local media failed to appreciate the nuances of his statements by not directing their questions at those parties that have failed Malaysia as their neighbour and in their duties under various defence treaties and arrangements.

Malaysian media, please read at the minimum three times, the sentences in bold AND WAKE UP TO THE REALITY that our country has been badly treated even though our country put all its national security cards on the table so that countries whose nationals are passengers on flight MH 370 could come forward with sincerity to assist in resolving this unfortunate tragedy which is not Malaysia’s making.

Malaysia is but a victim of this tragedy whose plane, MH 370 was used for a hidden agenda for which only time will reveal. 

On the 27th March, 2014, I exposed how Israel is exploiting the tragedy to create public opinion for a war against Iran, a Muslim country that has close ties with Malaysia.

At the outset of the SAR Mission, all concerned stated categorically that every scenario, no matter how unlikely would be examined critically with no stones left unturned – terrorist hijacking, suicide mission, technical failures, inadequate security, criminal actions of the pilot and or co-pilot etc.

Given the above premise, families of the passengers and the crew of MH 370 have every right to ask the following questions of the US and other countries that have sophisticated technologies to track and monitor airplanes and ships in all circumstances.

Such questions should not be shot down by those who have a hidden agenda that such queries amount to “conspiracy theories”. Far from being conspiracy theories, we assert that the questions tabled below and the rationale for asking them are well founded and must be addressed by the relevant parties, failing which an inference ought to be drawn that they are complicit in the disappearance of MH 370.

Let’s us begin.

1)        Was the plane ordered to turn back, if so who gave the order?

2)        Was the plane turned back manually or by remote control?

3)        If the latter, which country or countries have the technologies to execute such an operation?

4)        Was MH 370 weaponised before its flight to Beijing?

5)        If so, what are the likely methods for such a mission – Biological weapons, dirty bombs?

6)        Was Beijing / China the target and if so why?

7)        Qui Bono?

8)        The time sequence of countries identifying the alleged MH 370 debris in the Indian ocean was first made by Australia followed by France, Thailand, Japan, and Britain via Immarsat. Why did US not offer any satellite intelligence till today?

9)        Prior to the switch of focus to the Indian ocean, was the SAR mission in the South China seas, used as a cover for the deployment of undersea equipment to track and monitor naval capabilities of all the nations’ navies competing for ownership of disputed territorial waters? Reuters as quoted above seems to have suggested such an outcome.

10)     Why was there been no focus, especially by foreign mass media, on the intelligence and surveillance capabilities of Diego Garcia, the strategic naval and air base of the US?

11)     Why no questions were asked whether the flight path of MH 370 (if as alleged it crashed in the Indian Ocean), was within the geographical parameters of the Intelligence capabilities of Diego Garcia? Why were no planes deployed from Diego Garcia to intercept the “Unidentified” plane which obviously would pose a threat to the Diego Gracia military base?

12)     The outdated capabilities of the Hexagon satellite system deployed by the US in the 1970s has a ground resolution of 0.6 meters;  what’s more, the present and latest technologies boast the ability to identify objects much smaller in size. Why have such satellites not provided any images of the alleged debris in the Indian Ocean? Were they deliberately withheld?

13)     On April 6th, 2012, the US launched a mission dubbed “NROL-25” (consisting of a spy satellite) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The NROL-25 satellite was likely rigged with “synthetic aperture radar” a system capable of observing targets around the globe in daylight and darkness, able to penetrate clouds and identify underground structures such as military bunkers.

Though the true capabilities of the satellites are not publicly known due to their top-secret classification, some analysts have claimed that the technology allows the authorities to zoom in on items as small as a human fist from hundreds of miles away. How is it that no imagery of MH370 debris was forwarded to Malaysia, as this capability is not classified though other technologies might well remain classified? (Source: Slate.com)

14)     Could it be that the above capabilities were not as touted?

15)     However, in December, 2013, the USAtlas V rocket was launched carrying the spy satellite NROL-39 for the National Reconnaissance Office, an intelligence agency which is often overshadowed by the notorious National Security Agency (NSA), only it scoops data via spy satellites in outer space. The “NROL-39 emblem” is represented by the Octopus a versatile, adaptive, and highly intelligent creature. Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide. The emblem boldly states “Nothing is beyond our reach”. This virtually means that the tentacles of America’s World Octopus are spreading across the globe to coil around everything within their grasp, which is, well, everything (Source: Voice of Moscow). Yet, the US with such capabilities remained silent. Why?

It cannot be said that it is not within the realm of probabilities that the US may not want the plane MH 370 to be recovered if rogue intelligence operators were responsible for the disappearance of MH 370.

If the above questions have been posed to the US and other intelligence agencies and answers are not forthcoming, I take the view that the Malaysian government ought to declare publicly that our national sovereignty and security have been jeopardized by the disappearance of MH 370 and that the relevant intelligence agencies have been tacitly complicit in the disappearance of MH370.

 By coming out openly to explain the predicament faced by our country, Malaysia may prevent a hostile act against a third country.

 I therefore call upon Malaysian mass media to be courageous and initiate such queries as only the US and other intelligence agencies can give definitive answers to the above 15 questions.

It is futile to demand answers from Malaysia as we are not in any position to supply the information as we do not have the capabilities of the global and regional military powers.

 Malaysians must unite behind the government so that our leaders need not feel that they are alone shouldering this enormous burden.      

Matthias Chang is a prominent Malaysian lawyer and author, who served as political secretary and adviser to former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/disappearance-of-malaysian-airlines-flight-mh-370-the-trillion-question-to-the-u-s-and-its-intelligence-services/5375780

 

 

Dr. M’s unbearably convenient memory


March 30, 2014

Dr. M’s unbearably convenient memory

by Terence Netto@http://www.malaysiakini.com

Predictably,(Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamed cannot quite remember whether he was in the country when the Memali incident occurred in November 1985, four years and four months into his 22-year premiership.

His Deputy then, Tun Musa Hitam, said in Kota Baru last Thursday that Mahathir was in the country, not just when the incident occurred on November 19, but also up to four days after the episode in which 14 police personnel and four villagers were killed in Mukim Siong, Baling. At that time, the Malaysian public was given to understand that their Prime Minister was abroad – in China, to be sure.

Mahathir held the customary press conference at the airport upon his return from abroad. He took questions on the Memali incident in which Police opened fire on a house where religious cult leader Ibrahim Libya was holed up with several villagers. The ensuing shootout became a cause celebre.

Pressed for a response to what Musa had said about him being in the country during that incident and then affecting to show he was not, Mahathir (right) parried his former Deputy’s implied attack on his probity with, “I can’t remember.” Mahathir pleaded his advanced years (he will be 89 in July): “Since this happened a long time ago, I need to check back to see what he [Musa] said is true.”  Mahathir has a convenient sense of recall: he remembers what it is expedient for him to remember and trots out pleas of amnesia when it suits his purpose.

At the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam videotape in January 2008, Mahathir not infrequently responded with “I don’t remember” to critical questions on his role in the matter in which a senior lawyer was captured on video attempting to fix the appointment of judges during the period of Mahathir’s tenure as Prime Minister (1981-2003).

At that time Mahathir’s infamous chiding of Malays – “Melayu mudah lupa” (The Malays easily forget) – for their supposed ingratitude came back to haunt him.

“Dr M mudah lupa,” (Dr M easily forgets) became his critics’ catch-phrase of raillery against him when it was seen that the former PM’s powers of recall were conveniently self-serving.

Musa’s motive

Musa HitamPolitical observers are wondering about the motive of Musa, a one-time ally-turned-opponent of Mahathir’s in raising a matter that took place almost 29 years ago. They ought to wonder no more.

Musa (left) is attempting a block. He knows Mahathir wants Prime Minister Najib Razak out as PM. The incumbent PM is beleaguered by the disappearance of flight MH370, now three weeks into the greatest mystery in civil aviation’s history.

The circumstances of the plane’s mysterious disappearance with 239 people on board places Najib, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi and Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein on notice of grave lack of fitness to hold office. Incidentally, all three of the abovementioned individuals are stalling points in the career path of Mukhriz, the Menteri Besar of Kedah, regarded as inheritor of the Mahathir mantle of national leadership.

In most countries in the world, North Korea excepting, an incident like MH370’s disappearance would have had the trio of Najib, Zahid and Hishamuddin with their necks on the chopping block. Not Malaysia where the 47 percent of the voters who endorsed the ruling BN coalition in the general election last May are embodiments of the validity of the philosopher George Santayana’s dictum: “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat.”

Command and control

Twice in the recent days Mahathir has talked about matters that bespeak a desire to return to a command and control role in Malaysian politics. First, he advised that the government should get ready to tackle a financial crisis and trotted out his expertise at prescribing for just such a malady.

Days after this advice, analysts toted up expected losses to the economy from the suspension of the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 because of flight MH370’s disappearance, and from the anticipated further bleeding of our already loss-hobbled national carrier, MAS. They said it would be RM4 billion at the very least.

The second alarm Mahathir sounded was even more unsettling. He said that if he were to return as PM, he would censor the internet which would be a clear violation of the bill of rights he vouchsafed cyber practitioners when inaugurating the Malaysian Multimedia Corridor in 1996.

Well, no prizes for guessing what the former PM would say if reminded of his promise of no restrictions on freedom to publish on the internet: “I can’t remember.”

It has become a mantra of the man who had ruled the country for 22 years (1981-2003) during which he built it up physically and emasculated it morally. The country’s problem is that it has enough masochists who may want more of the same. Not Musa Hitam, though.

 

Ground the RMAF over MH370 Fiasco


March 29, 2014

Ground the RMAF over MH370 Fiasco

by Mariam Mokhtar@http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

 The RMAF has failed everyone on board MH370 and let down a whole nation.

mariam-mokhtarCOMMENT

Seven years ago, two RMAF jet engines disappeared and ended up in South America. That loss was never fully explained. The Defence Minister in 2007/8 was Najib Tun Razak.

Today, a passenger jet with 239 people on board has also disappeared. The circumstances of each are different but the way in which we handled the situation, and the manner in which our leaders dismissed our concerns, is worrying. It is business as usual after the event.

The price of irresponsibility has been high as we have seen in MH370. Lessons must be learned but Malaysian leaders must stop the art of saving face and start facing up to their responsibilities for once. Undoubtedly, several heads must roll.

hishammuddin-hussein-in-lahad-datu-300x225Last year when the Sulu army invaded Lahad Datu, the response from the erstwhile Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (left) was pitiful, “it is only a ragtag bunch of old men having a picnic”.

He ignored the fears of the public. They questioned the role of intelligence gathering and the poor air and sea defences which had failed to note the invasion by armed and uniformed Sulu militants.

The questions I posed last week remain unanswered: “Where was the RMAF when Flight MH370 traversed Malaysian air space in the early hours of Saturday March 8, 2014?” and, “How did the radar operator know from the radar blip that the plane was non-hostile?”

Military radar signals showed that after MH370 disappeared from civilian radar the plane climbed sharply to 45,000ft, higher than the approved ceiling for the Boeing 777, before turning sharply to the west and descending to 23,000 ft. The plane then climbed again this time heading north-west towards the Indian Ocean.

What did the radar operator and the air force do with this information? The “non-hostile” plane acted strangely with funny twists and turns in the air. These must have been the first signs that MH370 was in trouble.

A few days ago the Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri made a rash statement and said that the air force assumed that Flight MH370 had been ordered to turn-back by the civilian air traffic controllers.

The following day when he was attacked for making this statement Abdul Rahim backtracked. He said that he had made this assumption. This U-turn is a typical tactic of the government of Malaysia.

Now Malaysians will not learn whether the RMAF really made this assumption or Abdul was forced to retract his statement and become a fall-guy for the RMAF which is being widely criticised for its apparent blunders.

Common sense mistake No 1: Never assume. The popular urban definition of assume is “Don’t make an ass out of u and me.”

The Air Gorce radar operators failed to double check with the air controllers in Subang. Is it beyond their intellect and curiosity to make a quick phone call?

Local of communication

Perhaps, they were not at their radar screens. Remember the MACC staff who were implicated in Teoh Beng Hock’s death? Their work computer hard drives showed that they were surfing pornography and shopping sites, instead of working. The consequence of making assumptions has been the loss of 239 lives. Precious time was wasted. If only fighter jets had been sent to intercept the unidentified aircraft.

This is what Abdul Rahim said in Parliament: “The turnback was detected in our radar, only we thought the turnback was done by MAS, an aircraft that was not hostile or a friendly aircraft, so we thought maybe it’s an order from control tower.”

“….only we thought…..!” In any civilised country, the public outcry would have demanded the mass resignations of the Defence Minister, his Deputy, the Chief of the Armed Forces, the RMAF Chief, and the Prime Minister. If this had been a wartime situation, Abdul Rahim and all the squadrons of air force planes could have been obliterated.

Common sense mistake No 2: Not keeping abreast of news and not reading enough. Are the radar operators unaware that the two passenger jets which were deliberately flown into the New York Twin Towers were the weapons of death and destruction? In a hypothetical scenario what if a passenger jet had traversed Malaysian air space and hurtled into the Petronas Twin Towers, or other sensitive locations?

Common sense mistake No 3: Never assume that the rakyat are as clueless as the Defence Chiefs. Abdul Rahim Bakri failed to mention the lack of communication between civilian and military aviation authorities. Was he hoping we would not remind him?

On March 12, military radar detected an aircraft some 200 miles northwest of Penang in the Straits of Malacca. At 2.15am on the same day it went missing. We are told that there was no way to determine if the blip was MH370.

Chief of the RMAF, Rodzali DaudThe Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) chief Rodzali Daud (left) claimed that Malaysia was working with experts to confirm that blip was the missing plane. The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Director-General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman explained that the primary radar used by the military could only show the presence of an aircraft and nothing else.

The chief of the Armed Forces Zulkifeli Mohd Zin claimed that the unidentified aircraft was first noticed in the spot where MH370 had disappeared. He claimed he ordered ships to be despatched from Lumut that night towards the suspected location of the aircraft. He then claimed that a C-130 plane was sent to scout the area the following morning.

Air-space is unprotected?

If none of the military brass were aware what the blip meant that night why was Zulkifeli confident enough to despatch ships to that particular location? Was he simply making a remark after the event to pretend he had done something useful? What made him think he was looking at a potential crash scene that night? What else is the military hiding from us?

Why did they make a mistake with the time? MH370 was in trouble an hour into the journey.Is the radar viewed in real time or was the radar operator looking at recorded radar information? If it is not in real time, then are our skies open to invasion?

We know that security checks and passport controls are lax. No wonder Najib Tun Razak wants to guarantee that his spouse, the self-styled First Lady of Malaysia, travels safely on private jets when flying overseas.

More importantly, it appears that our air-space is unprotected. Perhaps, it is time we grounded the Air Force or rename it the Royal Myopic Air Farce. The RMAF wasted those first few hours. We could have at least known where to look for MH370. The RMAF has failed everyone on board MH370 and let down a whole nation.

Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT columnist.

Search is on for Government competence too


Search is on for government competence too

by CT Ali@http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

The government is doing its very best. The tragedy is that its very best is not, in the eyes of many, simply good enough.

 COMMENT

Missing MAS OC_Hishammuddin Hussein-KhalidIt has been a traumatic month for Malaysians.

On March 23, the by-election that we did not have to have took place in Kajang bringing to an end to yet another of PKR’s much touted ‘big leap’ forward that started with a bang but ended with a whimper.

PKR won with a reduced majority. In hindsight, was the Kajang Move a loss or a gain for PKR? The jury is still out on that, and only time will tell but suffice to say that for now the old adage that men proposes and God disposes remains true for PKR.

As it is PKR will have to deal with its aftermath – a reduce majority, Anwar’s conviction and there is still the ‘Khalid as MB’ issue.All I can say to PKR is this: As you make your bed so must you lie in it. While Kajang is only a distraction, MH370 is not. The tragedy of MH370 is threefold.

The first and most heartfelt is the loss of lives of all those on board that MAS flight. Next is the excruciating wait by families, relatives and friends for closure.

The third tragedy is the one that is most public and being played out on the world stage – questions are being asked globally as to the competency of this BN government to manage the search for MH370 and the unfolding drama of families desperate for news of their love ones on the missing plane.

In my living memory I have not seen Malaysia and this BN government caught in a perfect storm not of their own making where 26 different nations are directly involved in the search mission.

The rest of the world is now into the third week of having no news bulletin broadcast without some mention of Malaysia and flight MH370.This failure of the BN government is not because it has not done enough to find out what has happened to flight MH370 after it went missing. Nor has this BN government failed to empathise and sympathise with the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew.

This BN government is doing its very best. The tragedy is that its very best is not, in the eyes of many, simply good enough.The government under Najib Tun Razak is managing the hunt for MH370 in the same manner that it does governance – incompetently bordering on farce.

Inept, incompetent, clueless

NAJIB_RAZAK_091213_TMINAJJUA_05_540_360_100

While what they do domestically can be contained within the borders of our nation, this is not so with the search for MH370 with the whole world watching and a media contingent tasked with foraging for whatever they can find to feed the 24/7 news cycle.

For starters there has been a cacophony of ‘facts’ delivered by the Inspector-General of Police, the RMAF Chief, the Civil Aviation Director-General, the CEO of MAS, the Acting Transport Minister, and the Prime Minister himself – all eagerly wanting to give credence to what Andy Warhol opined that “In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes.”.

There have been conflicting accounts on the last known position of MH370 before it went missing – about MH370 turning back, about an air turn back, about a possible hijack, about transponder being turned off deliberately.

Then there was the inconsistency of passengers getting on board or not getting on board flight MH370.There was then the callous manner by which the police dealt with the Chinese who noisily demonstrated because they were dissatisfied with the manner Malaysian authorities were handling the search for MH370.

The police were only doing what they normally do when there is dissent or any incident that will embarrass BN – they stifle these dissents the only way they know.

Only this time the protesters were foreign nationals and the whole contingent of foreign media were watching and recording the incident – and beaming it to millions of homes across the globe.

Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein did belatedly apologise but the damage has been done, and now the world knows what is standard operating procedure (SOP) for our police when it comes to dealing with dissent.

It has taken a lost plane to enable the incompetence of this BN government to go global. And through it all, the head of this BN government, Najib Tun Razak, does two brief appearances at the media briefings where he failed to answer questions from the media.

All this seems familiar – as familiar as the Sabah incursion recently where the lackadaisical and dismissive casual attitude of those in authority and our political leaders allowed what should have been a minor border incursion.

This incursion could have been repulsed easily but it developed into a major two-week standoff resulting in the death of more than 60 members of the Sultan of Sulu invading troops and 10 Malaysian security personnel.

The MH370 saga has yet to come to an end just yet. We can be assured that as the days unfold, there will also be more unraveling of how inept, incompetent, clueless this BN government is in handling any situation.

And if it were not for the foreign press, no one, especially the rest of the world, would be wiser.

MH370: Asking the Wrong Government for Straight Answers


March 27, 2014

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On March 24, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (above) appeared before the press to announce that missing flight MH370 “ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.” Najib’s statement finally gave the families of the passengers an “answer” on the fate of their loved ones. But it comes after weeks of spectacular obfuscation by Malaysian government officials, who repeatedly fudged details, contradicted each other, or used the tragedy to score points against the political opposition.

Just to add insult to injury, Malaysian Airlines informed the families of the sad news by sending them a text message. Small wonder that some of the relatives are now accusing Malaysian officialdom of orchestrating a “cover-up,” and demanding to see concrete evidence such as the plane’s black box.

The rest of the world has reacted to the half-truths of the Malaysian authorities with bewilderment. But to us Malaysians it’s nothing new: We’ve been putting up with this sort of crap our entire lives. Our officials are incapable of communicating because they’ve never felt the need to. Our corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy regards its own citizens with such top-down contempt that its dialogue muscles have simply atrophied.

So it’s no wonder that Malaysians have spent the past few weeks coping the way we’re accustomed to: by indulging in conspiracy theories, the last pathetic refuge of people who know that they can never expect the truth from their own leaders. So we’ve seen some Malaysians blaming the loss of the plane on everyone from our own government to the United States, China, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, and — why not? — aliens. Yes, it’s sad. And yes, it’s more than a little crazy. But in the final analysis you can’t really blame us. Where else are we supposed to find any answers?

The Malaysian government’s response has been dismal almost from the moment MH370 went missing. In most countries, the prime minister would step forward and take the lead during a catastrophe of this magnitude. In Malaysia, however, our Prime Minister decided to spend his time boasting about his skill at buying cheap chicken, analyzing the economy’s health based on the price of kangkung (water spinach), or strolling around shopping malls. He’s left the bulk of the mundane task of disaster management to the acting Transport Minister cum Minister of Defense, Hishammuddin Hussein, who has figured as the official government spokesman at a number of press conferences following the disappearance of MH370. (Hishammuddin, it’s worth noting, is a cousin of Prime Minister Najib — a coincidence quite widespread in a country where politicians are often linked by clan ties.)

Hishamuddin HusseinJudging by the reactions from passengers’ families and the international media, Hishammuddin (left) hasn’t exactly been doing a stellar job. In the early days of the investigation, the minister and his team event offered a conspiracy theory of their own.

In this case, Malaysian officials speculated — without offering any particular evidence to back up their claim — that the plane’s pilot, a “fanatical supporter” of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and a relative of Anwar’s son-in-law, might have been motivated to hijack his own plane for political reasons.

The day before, a Malaysian court sentenced Anwar to five years in prison on sodomy charges, a decision that bars him for running for office in upcoming elections. Again, none of this comes as a particular surprise. In recent years, government officials have developed the habit of blaming everything and anything on the Opposition, and especially on Anwar.

One side effect of the government’s inept response to the MH370 catastrophe, according to some, is that it has prompted some unwelcome analysis of the country’s political system, which has been dominated by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition for the past 57 years. So is Malaysia’s paternalistic political culture really being challenged now that MH370 incident has exposed its leaders to the withering judgments of international critics? I’m inclined to doubt it. As soon as the MH370 issue cools down, Malaysia’s government will return to business as usual. Nothing will change.

Just consider the scandal surrounding Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister ofSararwak's CM the Malaysian state of Sarawak. According to the Bruno Manser Fund, a Swiss environmental group, and local critics in Sarawak, Abdul Taib, who’s held office since 1981, has amassed enormous wealth (and caused vast environmental damage) through his unchallenged control of the state’s forests. These critics allege that Taib has used his power to enrich his own family and well-connected cronies, who have harvested billions of dollars’ worth of tropical timber.

Early last year, the international corruption watchdog group Global Witness released extensive video footage from a covert investigation that showed Taib’s cousins explaining how they had circumvented state laws to acquired vast tracts of forest land. In January 2013, 20 Swiss members of parliament filed a motion calling for an immediate freeze of assets held by Swiss banks on behalf of the Malaysian Taib family.

In a normal, democratic political system, all this would have prompted official investigations, parliamentary inquiries, demands for accountability. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission did organize a probe to investigate Taib — but the minister simply declared, with apparent impunity, that he would not cooperate with the “naughty” and “dishonest” commission. As a result, Malaysian officials have yet to open a domestic investigation into the case. One year later, in February 2014, the probe made the improbable claim that it could not find any evidence that Taib had abused his power. On March 1 of this year, Abdul Taib was sworn in for a term as Sarawak’s Governor — a position even more powerful than the one he held before.

Taib can get away with this sort of thing precisely because of his cozy relationship with the ruling BN coalition and the party that dominates it (the United Malays National Organization, or UMNO). The ruling coalition sees Sarawak as a vital cache of votes for the party, and within this system, Taib is untouchable.

In our general election last year, the main opposition coalition, led by Anwar Ibrahim, won just over 50 percent of the vote — yet BN still ended up with 60 percent of the seats in the national parliament. That’s because the government uses gerrymandering and elaborate dirty tricks to divide up the election system in ways that ensure continued BN rule, regardless of the way Malaysians actually vote. It’s not surprising, then, that there is zero sense of accountability in our country — and that the government officials who have risen to the top of the system feel little pressure to respond to those pesky demands for information from ordinary people.

The Malaysian government has a long history of ignoring its citizens’ right to know. Just take one of the most notorious cases. Back in 2002, an international human rights group filed an international court challenge alleging that the Malaysian government had accepted millions of dollars in bribes from a French shipbuilding company in the $1.25 billion purchase of two Scorpene submarines. Though the French investigation produced enough evidence to implicate top Malaysian officials, the government summarily denied the claims, and no one was ever punished. Over a decade later, the scandal is still unresolved.

Or take the murder of Mongolian model and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu (which has also been linked to the submarine case). Witnesses linked Altantuya romantically to one of Najib’s best friends and close policy advisors, a man named Abdul Razak Baginda. Sources claimed that she was trying to blackmail Razak with her knowledge of the shady submarine deal before she was killed by two of Najib’s bodyguards.

Rosmah and NajibThough the case implicated both the Malaysian Prime Minister and his wife, the government never initiated any official investigation. The case has remained in limbo ever since.

A private investigator, P Balasubramaniam (known as “Bala”), made a convincing statutory declaration for the prosecution in the Altantuya case — but soon retracted the statement, and subsequently dropped out of sight, along with his entire family.

Bala turned up again a few years later, claiming that he’d been offered $1.5 million by a businessman close to Najib’s family if he’d take back his original declaration. Bala died of a heart attack on March 15, 2013, in the midst of campaigning for the opposition in the upcoming election. Then Olivier Metzner, a French lawyer involved the submarine court case, was found dead in “an apparent suicide” two days after Bala’s death.

Not long after that the Malaysian Court of Appeals decided to acquit the two policemen who had been sentenced to death for Altantuya’s murder. The court’s decision provoked an angry response from Altantuya’s father and the Mongolian government.

But, as we’ve pointed out, foreigners apparently have just as little right to satisfactory information from the Malaysian government as Malaysian citizens do.We Malaysians, in short, have been putting up with this culture of official impunity for decades. Without having much choice in the matter, we’ve become accustomed to living under an authoritarian bureaucracy that mocks our requests for honest dialogue, and revels in its own contempt for basic rules of transparency and accountability. Now the international community is getting its own taste of what dealing with this system is really like.

What’s more, MH370 proves that Malaysia’s political immaturity is not merely a domestic issue, but threatens the citizens of other nations as well. As Malaysian citizens, we offer our sincerest condolences to the families of the passengers and the  international community — and we hope that you’ll join us in the fight against our government’s blatant corruption.

Urgent questions for Malaysian Prime Minister


March 25,2014

Urgent questions for Malaysian Prime Minister

by RK Anand@ http://www.malaysiakini.com

NajiboSince the onset of this crisis, I have disagreed with the speculation that Malaysian authorities have been deliberately withholding or concealing information regarding the status of MH370.

The conflicting and often contradictory details stemmed from incompetence, as opposed to a diabolical plot. Our authorities just lack the experience and expertise in dealing with a misadventure of this magnitude. And to believe that Malaysia has the ability to hoodwink the world is giving our leaders too much credit.

But I strongly feel that satellite “pings” and some form of “analysis never before used” are required to locate the brains of our officials. And the absence of a functioning cerebrum was evident in the events that unravelled last night.

In a hastily organised news conference, a grim-faced Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced that the Boeing 777 had gone down in the Indian Ocean, and that all 239 on board were lost.

The revelation even caught China by surprise. Were the other nations involved in the search and rescue mission notified or were they kept in the dark as well?

The next question is: why the rush?

Najib made a brief statement on the fate of the plane and those on it without divulging specific information or fielding questions from journalists. Instead the media was told that a briefing would be held this morning. Perhaps the Prime Minister was worried that if he did not break the news, the foreign media might beat him to it and steal the limelight.

The relatives of the passengers and crew were shell-shocked and understandably so. In Beijing, tears flowed, tempers flared, chairs flew and walls were punched. Imagine. After 17 days of trepidation as investigators landed at one dead end after another in search of a plane that simply vanished, the Malaysian Prime Minister tells the relatives that all hope is lost.

And this devastating blow comes after days of keeping their hopes alive with the oft repeated “looking into all possibilities” remark. Indeed, since the Beijing-bound flight went missing on March 8, a slew of speculations – some bordering on the bizarre and supernatural – had emerged.

But what actually transpired would only be known once the black box is discovered, which could take days, weeks, months or even years. However, one thing is for certain. The credibility of the Malaysian government has suffered a major dent as a result of this disaster.

No let up in MH370 Search


March 20, 2014

No let up in MH370 Search

by S Retnathan

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Despite obtaining a credible lead on the missing MH370 today, Malaysia has vowed to continue and intensify the search for the runaway aircraft until it is found.

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Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said that the search for the Boeing 777-200 aircraft was continuing and has been intensified despite the Australian government’s announcement this morning that it had satellite images of objects that looked like debris of the plane some 2,500km southwest of Perth on the Indian Ocean.

The Australians are now checking the site but have yet to come up with concrete evidence of the missing plane due to bad weather. The satellite images are learnt to be four days old.

Speaking at his daily press conference on the missing jetliner, Hishammuddin, who is also Defence Minister, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak received a call from his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott this morning, informing him that “two possible objects related to the search” for MH370 had been identified in the Southern Indian Ocean.

AnifahAmanThe Australian authorities in Kuala Lumpur have also briefed Hishmmuddin on the situation, and the Australian Foreign Minister has spoken to his Malaysian counterpart Anifah Aman.

When asked when the images of debris were taken, Hishammuddin only replied that the call from the Australian Prime Minister to Najib came this morning.

“The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) continues co-ordinating the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft within Australia’s search and rescue area, with assistance from the Australian Defence Force, the New Zealand Air Force, and the US Navy.

“AMSA’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) Australia has received satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search for MH370.RCC Australia received an expert assessment of commercial satellite imagery today. The images were captured by satellite. They may not be related to the aircraft. The assessment of these images was provided by the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation as a possible indication of debris southwest of Perth,” he added.

As result of this information, four aircraft have been re-orientated to an area 2,500 kilometres southwest of Perth. A Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft had arrived in the area at about 10.50am while another three aircraft have been tasked by RCC Australia to the area, including a second RAAF Orion, a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion, and a US Navy P-8 Poseidon.

Hishammuddin said the Poseidon was expected to arrive early this afternoon and the second RAAF Orion was expected to depart RAAF Base Pearce, Perth, mid-afternoon. The New Zealand Orion was due to depart this afternoon.

A RAAF C-130 Hercules aircraft has been tasked by RCC Australia to drop datum marker buoys to assist in drift modelling.

They will provide an on-going reference point if the task of relocating the objects becomes protracted.

A merchant ship that responded to a shipping broadcast issued by RCC Australia on Monday was also expected to arrive in the area this afternoon.

The Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Success is en route to the area but is some days away. The ship is well equipped to recover any objects located and proven to be from MH370.

Credible but unconfirmed

“Every effort is being made to locate the objects seen in the satellite imagery. It must be stressed that these sightings, while credible, are still to be confirmed,” Hishammuddin said.

Earlier today, Abbott told the Australian parliament that search and rescue teams had found two objects which could be from the missing Malaysian airline in the Indian Ocean some 2,500km southwest of Perth.

The objects were found in the southern part of Australia in the vicinity of the search and rescue area for MH370 which went missing on March 8. The Boeing 777-200ER jetliner went missing an hour into its flight form the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing, China.

It was carrying 239 passengers and crew. The runaway plane was last spotted by civilian radar heading towards Vietnam over the South China Sea. Its transponders which sends signal to air traffic control on the plane’s location was switched from inside the jetliner off soon after last contact was made.

The plane was spotted by the military radar an hour after that heading towards the Andaman Sea, on the western side of Peninsula Malaysia. Some 27 nations have joined in the search for the missing plane. Malaysian authorities have said the plane flew in either one of the two routes. One was towards the Indian Ocean while the other was across continental Asia, from northern Thailand to Kazakhstan.

The Australian are leading search and rescue operations in the Indian Ocean.Hishammuddin said currently, there are 18 ships, 29 aircraft and six ship-borne helicopters are deployed along the northern and southern corridors of the search.

In the northern corridor, there are four aircraft – two from Malaysia, one each from Japan and the US.

In the southern corridor, there are 25 aircraft – two from Malaysia, Australia (5), China (3), Indonesia (4), India (2), Japan (4), New Zealand (1), South Korea (2) and one each from UAE and USA.

There are a total of 18 ships in the southern corridor including six from Malaysia, Australia (1), China (5) and Indonesia (6).

This deployment, he said, included six helicopters, three each from Malaysia and China.

“Until we are certain that we have located MH370, search and rescue operations will continue in both corridors.

“I can confirm that Malaysia is sending two aircraft to Kazakhstan, and the UK is planning to send a ship to the southern corridor. In addition to the assets I just listed above, a number of countries in the northern corridor are carrying out search and rescue operations within their own territory,” he said.

International force deployment

The Minister also said China was using every means possible, including 21 satellites, to search the area within its borders, and is ready to send more ships and aircraft wherever they are needed.

“In Cambodia, four helicopters are conducting search operations within Cambodian territory, the Laos Air Force is carrying out search operations within Laos, Singapore is using its International Information Fusion Centre, where a Malaysian representative is stationed, to notify mariners and help with the search.

The Thai military is conducting search operations in the northern part of Thailand with all available aircraft and Vietnam is conducting search operations within its territory using an unspecified number of aircraft.

“Together this represents a significant international force deployment. I am thankful for the co-operation of our partners as we continue to focus on finding MH370.

“Our primary focus has always been to find the aircraft. And with every passing day, our efforts have intensified.

“Yesterday I said that we wanted to reduce the area of the search. We now have a credible lead. There remains much work to be done to deploy the assets. This work will continue overnight,” he concluded.

Hishammuddin also said that if parts of the missing plane were found at the location, the next step would be finding the black box.

“Different assets will be used for that,” he said, quickly adding that the two Malaysian submarines were incapable for that kind of search.

Malaysia is not looking looking very good right now


March 19, 2014

Malaysia is not looking looking very good right now

by Anthony SB Thanasayan

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

When the nation has been thrown into utter shock, confusion and sadness over the missing MH370, conflicting statements by officials is not helping our image internationally

COMMENT

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It has been 12 days since Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished into the night sky – and we have not found the aircraft or its 239 passengers on board. The mystery surrounding the exact location of the ill-fated Boeing 777-200ER has all but deepened the intrigue as to its whereabouts since it went off the radars on March 8.

Like scores of Malaysians, I woke up to the news on a Saturday morning. A SMS from a friend at 11.04am read: “Beijing-bound MAS plane shockingly missing-in-action!” My first reaction was to immediately check my phone to confirm the breaking news story. Both of the SMS news alerts which I subscribe to were already screaming out the headlines.

My next reaction was to tune in to international radio broadcasters on the Internet via my mobile phone and on shortwave. The Voice of America, BBC and CNN on Astro were already thick with reports and speculations on what might have happened to the plane and what was being done to look for its passengers.

From then on and until now I have been by my radio, television and the computer sets, following up on the latest developments on MH370. Here are some of the jottings in my notebook:

Politicians, please watch your tongues! Less than 24 hours after the missing plane was revealed, one of you went on and on about how one of the crew personnel was a member of your political party. Excuse me, but was that relevant, especially as the whole of Malaysia, and the world, are worried sick about 239 passengers and not just one person?

Did that fact make the person you were highlighting more important than the others? What was your point in bringing that up, really, at a time when the nation has been thrown into utter shock, confusion and sadness over the catastrophe?

A little later, another politician blasted the media over Facebook for ‘speculating’ about what transpired with MH370. He sarcastically told them to “wait until the aircraft was found” before asking questions. Really? Sir? Now imagine if the press had taken you seriously and followed your stupid advice and stopped talking about the plane?

How much would we know of what we know today, even though it is still very much at the tip of the iceberg stage? Don’t you know that in a moment of confusion and sadness, what is important is to be kept informed? Whatever little we can get goes a long way to calm frazzled nerves and help us stay in control of a situation, no matter how helpless we may feel at the time.

And what better way to deal with rumours and unconfirmed reports by pursuing them and directing them to the right sources for clarification. It is unfortunate that you, as a leader, are simply unaware of the indispensable role of the media. Whatever personal misgivings you might have about the media, please take them elsewhere!

Anyone who has ever taken a plane or has had experiences of losing a loved one in a tragic situation was deeply shaken by the news. The media were our heroes to give us up-to-date information about the search and rescue mission, even though it was extremely difficult and frustrating for them with the government saying so little.

The world is watching 

RTM’s national English broadcaster TRAXXfm featured continuous updates from the moment of the tragedy. These included ‘live’ interviews with local pilots who knew the crew, would-be passengers who missed the ill-fated flight and opened the station’s telephone lines to get the views of its listeners.

Interviews were also conducted with local social media experts on how to tell the difference between professional speculation and false reports. A Malaysian airline official was on standby at the control tower in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to give daily updates of what was transpiring there.

Radio proved to be more convenient for listeners in their cars, especially to hear the live daily press conferences by the government during the times when they were on the move. Astro Awani 501 provided 24-hour news coverage. However, when information was scarce, viewers often ended up watching frequent repeats that made followers tune elsewhere.

CNN, without a doubt, was the overall best broadcaster for the news coverage of MH370. The story has been headline news on its telecast until today. Two of its reporters based in KLIA have been giving worldwide audiences hour by hour details that have been riveting to listen to, even though the aircraft and more concrete details have yet to be found.

Initially they began by interviewing local sources for information that landed them into trouble. Their Malaysian guests didn’t quite grasp the English language that was put towards them by the international broadcaster.

A local NGO, for instance, talked more about what his organisation was doing worldwide instead of how they were helping the victims’ families when interviewed by CNN. The latter had to cut them off as a result.

Things started to really take off when international experts, especially unnamed intelligence sources, came on with their take on the situation. One of the issues that raised the ire of the international broadcaster were the conflicting reports given by Malaysian officials in regards to the investigation and search operations.

This became a news item by itself. CNN pointed out that “part of the problem could be cultural. There has been one coalition governing Malaysia for decades, its leaders not used to being challenged.” CNN went on to quote James Keith, former Ambassador to Malaysia as saying, “(Malaysia hasn’t) had to account themselves in the way that they now have to in the flare up of international publicity.”

Please mind your official press conferences: Don’t forget that you are being watched all over the world during your ‘live’ sessions. (BBC also carries them live on its online page). No matter how grim the situation, VIPs, please freshen up your appearances. Comb your hair, powder up, straighten your ties, tuck in your shirt etc,. It all helps to give a positive atmosphere when dealing with a difficult situation.

And for heaven’s sake, start your PCs on time. Keep them regular and announce when they are coming on often. Welcome questions, no matter how difficult. If you must reject them, do it in a dignified manner. Remember, the whole world is watching and Malaysia isn’t looking very good right now. Don’t crack jokes or laugh at anything because nothing is funny right now.

A special note to Astro Awani: Please stop focusing on the VIPs rubbing their nose, scratching their faces, etc. It’s so embarrassing. Beam in on to them only when it is a second or two before they speak. Waiting for minutes before they start will only unfairly expose them to more possible glitches. All these positively adds calm and control over a situation that we still have a lot more answering to do.

Anthony SB Thanasayan is a wheelchair and animal activist. He is also a former city councillor.