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Do We Trust the Malaysian Government Searching for Missing MH-370?
The Missing Malaysian Plane
The whole event of the missing aircraft MH-370 has baffled the world for the last four weeks. What happened to that plane? Where is the plane? Why were the transponders seemingly deliberately turned off? Are there any survivors? Why has no debris been found if the plane crashed? But what has compounded the mystery, is the political background of this investigation. Namely, the actions of the host country Malaysia and its government’s lack of information; it’s contradictory press conference statements and it’s general failure to look competent in the eyes of the world. I am not speculating what happened to the plane but the culture of current Malaysian politics.
The intransigence of the Malaysian government begs the question; is the failure to inform the world, the relatives of the passengers and fellow aircraft investigators from the international community, due to incompetence or the result of a sinister cover-up?
There have been documented examples of frustration with the Malaysian government from the bewildered relatives of passengers desperate to seek closure about their loved ones. The bottom line is that not many people have faith in the Malaysian government. Neither did the pilot of the plane Captain Zaharie Shah, a pro-democracy supporter of the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim. Malaysians, it seems, are well aware of the shortfalls of their government but what is it about Malaysia that has truly shocked the world, especially the western world? Is it it’s intransigence; is it the bizarre press conferences with scribbled notes about numerous and unfruitful leads about the search and rescue or the appalling treatment of grieving relatives? Or is it the failure to track it's own plane and allow passengers with fake passports to board a jet in these times of a real terrorist threat, whether it is from Chinese Ughurs or Al-Quaeda.?
Like the mystery of the missing plane and the southern Indian Ocean it is reported to have crashed, many are finding the Malaysian modus operandi unfathomable.
Press Conference March 26th
A Modern Democracy or a Corrupt Ruling Elite?
Malaysia, is theoretically a democracy with regular, contested elections but many would argue that this style of democracy is illusory and the government is plagued with corruption and lack of transparency in it’s actions. Since becoming independent from British Colonial Rule in 1957, Malaysia has been ruled by the same governing coalition, the Barisan Nasional Coalition Party. Superficially Malaysia appears modern, prosperous and safe. The country itself is a relatively wealthy country compared with neighbours Indonesia and the Philippines, with a per capita gross domestic product of about $10,400. Over recent years it has become a global centre for high-tech and electronics manufacturing. It boasts an efficient transport system and a modern infrastructure. Before the disappearance of Flight MH-370, Malaysia Airlines which is state-owned had not suffered a fatal crash since 1995.
But Malaysia’s political structure in reality, however, belies this image of post-Colonial modernity. The long-ruling Barisan Nasional Coalition has continued to win elections since 1957 under dubious means.
In the most recent national elections, held in May 2013, the coalition government won the largest number of seats in parliament, although the opposition actually won the popular vote. The Prime Minister Najib Razak, the man we see overseeing the Flight MH-370 press conferences was voted in by alleged gerrymandering, massive financial bribes to voters, and many other election irregularities. In addition, the ruling party managed to pip the post by appealing primarily to the most hardline elements within its coalition- the politicians and electorate disdainful of the country’s multi-ethnic identity and freedom of expression that have developed in the past 20 years.
Despite the victory of Barisan Nasional, the country on a whole is sceptical about it’s right to rulership. According to a public survey by Transparency International, a majority of the surveyed households perceives the government to be highly corrupt and business executives surveyed in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014 state that the unethical business practices of Malaysian companies present a distinct disadvantage for doing business in Malaysia.
It is common business practice in Malaysia for Government contracts to be awarded to well-connected companies, and the policies of awarding huge infrastructure projects to selected companies without open tender. In another recent survey, 90 percent of Malaysian corporate executives said bribery and corruption are worsening in the country, whilst 64 per cent believed that business can't be done in Malaysia without paying bribes.
Since independence in 1957, Malaysia has had only six prime ministers and the senior ranks of the ruling coalition have gained little fresh blood. Today, most Malaysians, especially the middle class are unhappy with the conspiratorial manipulations conducted under the Election Commission (SPR) and Barisa Nacional. There have been a number of cases of voting manipulation including an incident where 88 registered voters had the same address. other practises are allowing immigrants to vote by issuing of fake Identification Cards, and the emergence of voters that were no longer alive.
Corruption charges against officials are rife but the perpetrators are often acquitted and the government is seen to do little about corruption.
In the current crisis of the missing plane, Prime Minister Najib Razak has made few substantive comments, with acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein performing on the international stage. Hussein, while under the glare of the media spotlight has made a number of well-documented contradictions on the disappearance of the plane as well as insensitive gaffes (he agreed with a Tweet that the disappearance of the plane was a blessing in disguise). He, himself is the son of the third Prime Minister of Malaysia and the grandson of Dato Jahon Jaafar, a prominent Malay leader and the founder of UMNO. He is also the cousin of the current Prime Minister.
His wife, Yang Mulia Tengku Datin Seri Panglima Marsilla Tengku Abdullah, is a princess from the state of Pahang, malaysia.
Hishammuddin is classic example of nepotism and “jobs for the boys” mentality rife in the Malaysian government. It is said by many that Malaysia’s problems emanate from the unsuitability of post holders for their actual job. They are unqualified and only hold the post because of cronyism and nepotism.
This ruling elite cannot be easily toppled and freedom of expression is stifled. Malaysia’s media outlets are state-controlled, and do not or cannot challenge the government line. Any groundbreaking investigative journalism regarding the disappearance of the MH-370 does not have a chance of being reported in such circumstances. It must be bewildering for the Malaysian government to witness the more unleashed journalistic instincts of the Western media, always looking for someone or something “accountable.”
Malaysia, therefore, are constantly being suspected in some wrong-doing or cover-up in this baffling incident. From the initial failure to inform families of the disappearance of the jet which had been missing for 15 hours before anyone was alerted, to the change in the wording of the final pilot transcript.
Is it me, but do the government seem to be stalling under endless shoals of “red herrings” hiding under the cover of an International Rescue?
Map of satellite images
Malaysian Airlines Was Already in Trouble
In Malaysia, this lack of accountability filters down to state-owned enterprises such as Malaysia Airlines, which before the disappearance of the doomed MH-370 was notorious for insider dealing, corruption, mismanagement and lack of transparency. Malaysia Airlines’ parent company has lost money the last three years, including a the huge amount of $350 million in 2013.
One comprehensive study of government-linked companies, conducted by a group of economists in Australia and Malaysia, found that Malaysian state-run firms had worse corporate governance than publicly traded Malaysian companies and investors have backed off from putting money into poorly managed state-run companies, actions that have lowered overall valuations on the Malaysian stock market.
There is genuine disillusionment among Malaysians with their government, a disillusionment shared by MH 370 captain Zaharie Shah whose image has been shown round the world wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Democracy is Dead.” The day before the disappearance of the jet he attended the court case of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, whose views he supported and was said to be bitterly disappointed that the leader was sentenced to six years imprisonment, on trumped up sodomy charges. Ibrahim fell out of favour with the ruling elite 20 years ago and has been falsely imprisoned on numerous occasions to the criticism of Amnesty international and the US Government.
There has even been speculation, that Captain Shah may have driven the plane on a deliberate path to destruction to highlight the corruption within the Malaysian government, though those who knew him have fervently discounted this. But one thing for sure, whatever happened to this plane, it has put Malaysia under a global spotlight and the country is not inspiring confidence in piecing together a coherent explanation of what happened to Flight MH-370.