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Thread: Governance: Incompetency through moronocracy - Malaysia’s authoritarian ways reflected in poor handling of missing MAS plane crisis, says paper

  1. #1
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    Oct 2008

    Governance: Incompetency through moronocracy - Malaysia’s authoritarian ways reflected in poor handling of missing MAS plane crisis, says paper

    Malaysia’s authoritarian ways reflected in poor handling of missing MAS plane crisis, says paper

    MARCH 13, 2014

    An acclaimed American journalist who specialises in South East Asia affairs has given a scathing appraisal of Malaysia's handling of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, saying it has exposed a servile attitude among the country's leadership.

    Thomas Fuller, in an opinion piece in the New York Times today, said the lack of coordination between Malaysian agencies and the conflicting updates on the worldwide search for the jet only shows how the country's leaders were reacting to growing criticism of the way the situation is handled.

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

    Fuller pointed to two major court cases involving top opposition leaders Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Karpal Singh, both sentenced to jail and fined respectively, in what many believed was a continuing effort to suppress the oppostion.

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

    The Boeing 777 was carrying 239 people, including a 12-member MAS crew.

    Ambiga Sreenevasan, who until recently led the electoral reforms coalition Bersih, said Malaysian leaders appeared to have been jolted as the world focuses on the search and rescue efforts.

    “Malaysians have come to accept that their leaders don’t answer questions,” she said.

    “When you are not seriously challenged in any meaningful way, of course you get complacent and comfortable," she told the paper.

    Pollster Merdeka Center said the Malaysian response showed a weakness born out of a system which waits for instruction from the top, in addition to the culture of not questioning the authorities.

    “There’s a tolerance for a lack of attention to detail. You have a tendency of not asking so much and not expecting so much.

    “There’s always been a kind of wait-for-instructions-from-the-top attitude,” said Merdeka Center director Ibrahim Suffian, speaking to the New York Times.

    Other have, however, acknowledged that the crisis was unprecedented for Malaysia, which has not been faced with handling a case of global proportion such as the MAS plane's disappearance. – March 13, 2014.
    The map shows the latest area where rescuers searching for the missing flight MH370 will be looking. From the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean and back again, people are not just looking for a missing plane but also firm leadership. - AFP pic, March 13, 2014.

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    And this is how ex-authoritarian rulers react to criticisms, even to the extent of blaming other countries who were kind enough to help us:

    Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said international media should not criticise Malaysia and its national carrier over their handling of the missing flight MH370.

    "It is very easy to criticise but we are facing a situation that has never been experienced by any country in the world.

    "If you say Malaysia failed (in handling the missing flight situation), that means the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and all those other countries (helping in the search and rescue) also failed, why don't you blame them also?" he asked.

    He said this to reporters after attending the 'Program Siri Bicara Profesional bersama Tun Dr Mahathir' as a panel member at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam on Tuesday.

    On March 8, the Beijing-bound flight with 227 passengers and 12 crew disappeared from the radar screen at 1.30am, about one hour after leaving KL International Airport (KLIA).

    The China's state-run media had lashed out at Malaysia and its national carrier over their handling of the missing passenger jet, calling for a swifter response effort and tightened airport security.

    Meanwhile, Mahathir said the search and rescue mission for missing flight MH370 was being handled very well by the Malaysian authorities.

    He said he had visited the families of passengers on board the flight and their needs was well taken care of by the Malaysia Airlines as they had accommodated requests to care for up to five persons per family.

    Meanwhile he advised people not to come up with any theories concerning the search and rescue operation conducted to locate the aircraft as it did not help the situation.

    "Wait for the facts and let us not have theories, it does not help anybody," he said.

    On another note, Mahathir dismissed reports saying he had resigned as Proton advisor.

    Earlier at the function, Mahathir also launched UiTM's alumni portal.

    - Bernama

  3. #3
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    Fmr. NTSB official: Malaysian officials are the 'worst I've seen'

    March 12th, 2014
    05:55 PM ET

    – There has been misinformation and corrections from the Malaysian authorities on whether wreckage of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 had been spotted where the last radar detection of the plane was, whether passengers checked in but didn't board the plane, on how the men who were using stolen passports.

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

    "This is the worst I've seen it," said former National Transportation Safety Board managing director Peter Goelz.

    "There's a reason for this. You know, anytime there's an accident, an international one like this, there's chaos during the first 24, 36 hours. That's why there's a treaty that everyone signs, the Malaysians have signed," said Goelz.
    The treaty, says Goelz, lays out how to take on an investigation of this magnitude, how to involve the other countries that have an interest, and how to control rumors and release factual information.

    "To this day, the Malaysians have not followed that treaty," said Goelz.

    For more of our interview with former NTSB official Peter Goelz, check out the video above.

    Posted by Jake Tapper, Sherisse Pham
    Filed under: World Lead

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    Malaysian officials are either poor communicators or just incompetent, says expert


    MARCH 13, 2014

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

    Former National Transportation Safety Board managing director Peter Goelz said this was the worst he had ever seen in disaster management.

    "There has been misinformation and corrections from Malaysian authorities on the whereabouts of MH370," Goelz told CNN.

    "Did passengers check in but not board the aircraft? How did the two men use the stolen passports to board the aircraft?"

    "Is the wreckage of MH370 near the last location where their radar was detected?" Goelz asked.

    "At best, Malaysian officials have thus far been poor communicators;at worst, they are incompetent," he said

    Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers, dropped off the radar at 1.20am on Saturday.

    Despite a massive 12-nation search and rescue operation, there have been no clues as to the whereabouts of MH370.

    "There is a reason for this. As you know, every time there is an accident, especially an international one like this, there is chaos during the first 24 to 36 hours," Goelz said.

    "That is why there is a treaty which everyone has signed, including the Malaysians."

    "The treaty explains the necessary steps and measures which are carried out to handle an investigation of this magnitude," Goelz told CNN.

    "It also explains how to involve other countries which have a vested interest, how to control rumours and release factual information."

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

    Goelz is the latest to take Putrajaya to task over the way the crisis is being managed.

    Acclaimed American journalist who specialises in South East Asia affairs, Thomas Fuller, writing in The New York Times today, said the lack of coordination between Malaysian agencies and the conflicting updates on the worldwide search for the jet only shows how the country's leaders were just reacting to growing criticism of the way the situation is handled, rather than having a firm grasp of things.

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

    That authoritarian trait, according to critics, is now reflected in Malaysia's management of the mysterious disappearance of MH370, which went missing last Saturday shortly after taking off Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing. – March 13, 2014.

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    1:00PM Mar 13, 2014

    Gov't feels international heat over plane crisis

    27 29 29

    MH370 "Malaysia's governing elite has clung to power without interruption since independence from Britain almost six decades ago through a combination of tight control of information, intimidation of the opposition and, until recently, robust economic growth.

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

    "Relatively free from natural disasters and other calamities, Malaysia has had little experience with handling a crisis on this scale.

    "It is also an ethnically polarised society where talent often does not rise to the top of government because of patronage politics within the ruling party and a system of ethnic preferences that discourages or blocks the country’s minorities, mainly ethnic Chinese and Indians, from government service."

    The above are excerpts from a New York Times article published yesterday, which is the latest in a series of reports which have taken Malaysian authorities to task.

    The article quoted Lee Ee May, the former aide of a Malaysian opposition politician, who said: "The world is finally feeling the frustration that we’ve been experiencing for years."

    Lee, who said that Malaysian leaders have never faced such pressure to perform before, added that she was embarrassed with how Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein rejected a reporter's assertion yesterday that the search for the airplane had been disordered.

    "It's only confusion if you want it to be seen to be confusion," Hishammuddin had said at the news conference before an international audience.

    Beijing sees red

    Also quoted was former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan, who told New York Times that the Malaysian government is accustomed to getting its way, and the crisis surrounding the missing plane is holding officials accountable in ways unfamiliar to them.

    "Malaysians have come to accept that their leaders don't answer questions. When you are not seriously challenged in any meaningful way, of course you get complacent and comfortable," she added.

    Meanwhile, Ibrahim Suffian, the director of independent pollster Merdeka Centre, said the authorities response to the crisis revealed a lack of precision both in government and in the society over all.

    "There's a tolerance for a lack of attentiveness to detail," he said. "You have a tendency of not asking so much and not expecting so much."

    Apart from this, he said it also highlighted a lack of competence in government. "There's always been a kind of wait-for-instructions-from-the-top attitude," he added.

    In another development, the South China Morning Post reported that Beijing had slammed Malaysia's "pretty chaotic" answers concerning the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

    Guo Shaochun, head of the Chinese government task force in Kuala Lumpur, said that Beijing "requests that Malaysia releases authoritative and substantial information" on the missing plane.

    "It's pretty chaotic, so up to this point we too have had difficulty confirming whether [information is] accurate or not," said Qin, responding to conflicting information provided about the flight path of flight MH370, according to the daily.

    "[China] has requested Malaysia to verify the 'turn-back' rumours and act accordingly," Qin later said in a statement on the ministry's website, "and notify the situation to China timely."

    Following the intense criticism, Malaysian authorities have claimed that they are doing their best.

    Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad had also defended the efforts taken by the Malaysian side to locate the plane.

  6. #6
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    Oct 2008
    How to hold a presser on missing planes and other major crises

    Primary tabs

    First Published: 9:45pm, Mar 13, 2014
    Last Updated: 3:56pm, Mar 14, 2014


    by Deborah Loh

    FZ.COM/Sam Fong

    • The press conference of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner held yesterday was much better than the chaotic and confrontational briefing held the day before.

    THE press conference on Thursday, Day 6 of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner was much better than the chaotic and confrontational briefing held the day before. Maybe the media relations team for the search operation authorities did feedback the criticism on social media to chief spokesperson, Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, after all. For one, he stopped his trademark smirk and grin, which several on Twitter had said was inappropriate for the occasion.

    What we can learn from how the authorities have handled the missing MH370 crisis – from the media relations perspective at least – is that it's okay not to have the answers to everything immediately. But when lives are at stake and where the international spotlight is on, it is better to be transparent about why you don't have the answers. Equally important is to explain the processes involved in order to get those answers.

    The various authorities in the search for the missing plane are no doubt doing their best under incredibly strenuous circumstances. And to those handling media relations for these authorities involved in unravelling the mystery of the missing flight MH370, here are some suggestions on how your press conferences could be calmer, more organised and more fruitful for the media corps. In turn, you won't suffer scorn for being incompetent or worse, be accused of hiding vital information.

    Firstly, it's helpful to explain technical processes and terms, even if it may sound pedantic and even if journalists don't use every detail in their reports. The benefit of details is to provide context and understanding of a situation and can make a difference in the way a report is written.

    For example, the confusion over whether MH370 did or did not fly back across the northern part of the Peninsular and over the Strait of Malacca. Only from the press conference on Day 5, Wednesday, since the plane was reported missing, did the media know – and by extension, most lay readers – that there are such things as primary and secondary radars; one able to pick up details of an air craft's identity, the other merely able to record blips on a screen without more information. The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), which revealed this information, still doesn't know conclusively if the unidentified flying object seen over the Strait of Malacca was indeed MH370.

    Some questions that come to mind for the layperson: What is the difference in purpose between a primary and secondary radar, what are the differences between the radar capabilities of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) and the military, and why wouldn't a primary radar be able to identify positively if a blip was a commercial airline or not? What does a reciprocal heading after an air turn back mean and under what circumstances is such a manoeuvre made by a pilot? Are radar data collected by individual agencies assessed together in a time of crisis like this? What are the standard operating procedures when a commercial airliner goes missing, and how, what criteria, and at which point are other agencies such as the armed forces, coast guard or counter terrorism units, etc, brought in to be part of the operation?

    And let's not go into the earlier confusion and contradictory statements over passengers who checked in but didn't board the plane. These are examples of information on developing angles the authorities could have offered, prior to Day 6. Instead, journalists had to seek out other experts and commentators to fill the gaps the authorities failed to cover, opening the door to even more speculation.

    Secondly, visual aids can be helpful when explaining the search area, points of last known radar contact, radar coverage of air traffic control by different countries, and possible flight trajectories, rather than talking heads trying to make complex and technical details understandable. Visuals enhance understanding and reduce the possibility of misreporting or coming to inaccurate conclusions.

    Thirdly, anticipate what the press will ask. Monitor what is being reported worldwide about the missing plane in newspapers, websites, blogs, social media and TV talk shows. Experts of all kinds and aviation authorities in other countries are being called upon by the world media to analyse the possible reasons for the plane's disappearance. Showing awareness of the various issues and theories that are being raised is better than saying you haven't received any information on the matter when speculation is already out there.

    It's good to note that the presser on Day 6 saw Hishammuddin and team ready with answers to the two top issues of the day – the images of floating debris picked up by Chinese satellite in the South China Sea, and the Wall Street Journal report that MH370 could have flown on "for hours" based on data bursts received from its Rolls-Royce engines.

    Fourthly, break down information on all developing angles to minimise chaos and irritation during press conferences, which are telecast live on local channels and international media as well.

    Consider segmenting the press briefing to deal with and take questions on each facet of the story – radar and air traffic control information, search area updates, oil slicks and other sea surfaces images, passenger data, stolen passports, terrorism or hijacking theories, and so on – one facet at a time, so that it is thoroughly discussed. For this, the minister or spokesperson can't limit a press conference to 30 minutes or less and cut short reporters' questions and make as if he or she has to rush off for the next function.

    Fifthly – and by appearances this seems to have been a key problem with the communications side of the search operation to date – coordinate the information coming out of the different agencies and counterparts so that a clear, concise and watertight chronology of events is presented, which helps journalists understand the context of the latest developments.

    Why, for example, did the RMAF not disclose earlier, as it became public on Day 1 that the jet had gone missing over Vietnam waters, that its radar had picked up an unidentified aircraft crossing back over the Peninsular and over the Strait of Malacca? Why did the revelation that the plane had possibly made a turn around only come later? (There was a clue, however, which most media may have missed, in a Bernama report on Day 1, 8 March 2014, and by Day 2, the Straits of Malacca was already included in the search, said the DCA chief.)

    Other nagging questions: Why did Vietnam say on Day 5 that it had detected the plane's turn around before losing contact with it on Saturday, and had told Malaysia about it then, but received no reply? If Malaysia knew about the turn around then, why did the RMAF chief only mention it in his interview with Berita Harian that was published on Tuesday? (Although why he then denied it only to re-confirm it during Wednesday's press conference is baffling.)

    Reading or hearing such information in a piecemeal manner only raises more questions: Has the search been focused on the wrong areas? And if so, where might the missing plane be now? And if we have been looking in the wrong places all this while, what are the chances of the crew and passengers' survival?

    Had all the information possessed by each authority about radar readings been laid on the table early on, the embarrassment of the RMAF chief could have been avoided and the flaying by the media for incompetence, perhaps, might be a bit more muted. The rationale for the wide search area spanning the South China Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, the Malacca Strait and the Andaman Sea could have been understood from the onset, and the magnitude of the task appreciated from early on. The net could have been cast wider sooner, hopefully increasing the chances of finding the aircraft. News reports would have been more focused, perhaps less speculative and accusatory.

    All the above will mean that agencies and their international counterparts must work together under a clear chain of command. It means forming a crisis team with one lead agency and one commander-in-chief who has a bird's eye view of the whole search effort and who can connect the dots for journalists when gaps appear. If this is being done, great – but it simply isn't apparent enough, judging from the way the press conferences are handled. Hopefully Day 6 will mark the start of improved communications.

    It is true that part of public relations involves managing perceptions. And in a time of crisis, it can make or break reputations and boost or destroy credibility, even when the answers sought are not yet to be found.

    As the authorities work tirelessly to find the missing plane, public relations should not be used as a defensive tactic in the face of criticism. Adopting a rhetorical approach is not helpful to anyone, such as by saying that people are confused only if they want to be.

    Nor should public relations be used to cover the gaps to missing answers. Instead, it should shed light on the pain and difficulty in the search for answers, and do so in a way that inspires confidence and builds credibility, even if hopes for survivors fade.

    Deborah Loh dabbles in a bit of public relations as a freelance writer.

    Read more:

  7. #7
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    Why Malaysia Will Say Almost Nothing About the Missing Plane

    By Joshua Kurlantzick March 12, 2014

    Photograph by Daniel Chan/AP Photo
    Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman speaks during a press conference on March 10

    With an international team of investigators still seemingly baffled about what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared over the weekend, relatives of the passengers and diplomats from countries touched by the mishap have vented their frustration with the Malaysian government. For days, it seems, Malaysian officials and the state-owned carrier have released almost no information about the flight or working theories of why it vanished. Malaysia Airlines did not even inform relatives for 15 hours that the plane had disappeared, sending the distraught families to a hotel in Beijing to wait, and Kuala Lumpur’s envoys still have mostly kept the relatives in the dark days later.

    More than 100 friends and relatives of the vanished passengers signed a petition on Monday calling on the Malaysian government to be more transparent and answer questions. Several of the relatives threw bottles at Malaysia Airlines employees who came to speak with them in Beijing, where the missing plane had been headed, but mostly the officials maintained their tight-lipped approach.

    The frustration felt by families of the missing is understandable and reasonable, but no one should have expected much better from the Malaysian government. Although theoretically a democracy with regular, contested elections, Malaysia has been ruled since independence by the same governing coalition that has become known for its lack of transparency and disinterest—even outright hostility—toward the press and inquiring citizens. For a relatively wealthy country, Malaysia is also unusually prone to corruption. Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the revelations that al-Qaeda members had convened planning meetings in Malaysia, the government has become intensely controlling of any information about potential terror threats while maintaining a liberal visa policy for arrivals.

    STORY: Why Do Airlines Keep ‘Black Box’ Flight Data Trapped on Planes?

    Malaysia’s actual air safety record is, according to aviation experts, relatively strong. That achievement is unsurprising for a country with a per capita gross domestic product of about $10,400, which has become a global hub for electronics production and other high-tech manufacturing. Before the disappearance of Flight MH370, Malaysia Airlines had not suffered a fatal crash since 1995. Kuala Lumpur, where the plane originated, has an even higher GDP per capita than the rest of the country—about $18,000—and boasts a vast, modern skyline, efficient transport, and gleaming new suburbs.

    But Malaysia’s politics have not kept pace with its economic expansion. The long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition has continued to win elections through massive gerrymandering, outright thuggery, and opposition parties’ inability to stop squabbling and make connections with rural voters.

    In the most recent national elections, held in May 2013, the Barisan Nasional coalition won the largest number of seats in parliament, although the opposition actually won the popular vote; only gerrymandering, massive handouts to voters, and many election irregularities ensured the Barisan Nasional’s victory. In addition, the ruling party squeaked home by appealing primarily to the most hardline elements within its coalition, politicians and voters disdainful of the country’s multiethnic identity and the incremental freedoms of expression and social life that have developed in the past 20 years.

    STORY: Missing Malaysian Air Flight Highlights Stolen Passport Epidemic

    So even though Malaysia is far richer than neighboring Indonesia or the Philippines, those countries’ histories of democratic politics have made their politicians more accountable and more attuned to public expectations. Since independence in 1957, Malaysia has had only six prime ministers and the senior ranks of the ruling coalition have gained little fresh blood. In the current crisis, Prime Minister Najib Razak has made few substantive comments on the plane, while Malaysia’s major state-controlled media outlets, which in theory could have been ahead of the plane investigation story, have been very timid in their reporting.

    This lack of accountability filters down, especially at state-owned enterprises such as Malaysia Airlines, which are notorious in Malaysia for insider dealing, corruption, and lack of transparency. Even before the crash, Malaysia Airlines’ parent company had lost money the last three years, including a huge loss of more than $350 million in 2013, in part because of its terrible management. One comprehensive study of government-linked companies, conducted by a group of economists in Australia and Malaysia, found that Malaysia state-run firms had worse corporate governance than publicly traded Malaysian companies not controlled by the state. Partly because investors understood that state-run companies were so poorly managed, the study found lower overall valuations on the Malaysian stock market. In other words, these state companies traded at a discount because of their mismanagement.


  8. #8
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    Malaysia under fresh fire over handling of plane crisis

    MARCH 16, 2014

    China today criticised Malaysia's handling of the missing MH370 jetliner, saying it wasted precious time and resources by releasing 'dramatic information' on the plane a full week after it vanished. – The Malaysian Insider pic, March 16, 2014.
    China spearheaded fresh criticism today of Malaysia's handling of the missing MH370 airliner drama, saying it "squandered" precious time and resources by releasing dramatic information on the plane's fate a full week after it vanished.

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak revealed yesterday that an investigation indicates that flight 370 was deliberately diverted and flew for several hours after leaving its intended flight path, though he stopped short of saying it was hijacked.

    The startling revelation after a week of confusion and competing theories, prompted questions over how long Malaysian authorities had been privy to the new data, and whether they had missed an opportunity to intercept the diverted plane.

    "It is undeniable that the disclosure of such vital information is painfully belated," a scathing editorial by China's state-run Xinhua news agency said, noting the "excruciating" seven days it entailed for relatives of the missing.

    Its suggested Malaysian officials were guilty of an "intolerable" dereliction of duty.

    Two-thirds of the passengers on board the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing were Chinese.

    There was particular anger and frustration that Malaysia had taken so long to cancel search operations in the South China Sea if it already knew the plane had doubled back and flown towards the Indian Ocean.

    "And due to the absence – or at least lack – of timely authoritative information, massive efforts have been squandered, and numerous rumours have been spawned," the editorial said.

    Najib revealed Saturday that the Boeing 777's communications systems had been manually switched off – one after the other – before the jet veered westward.

    He cited satellite and military radar data that made investigators believe it had been deliberately diverted by someone on board and flown on for hours – either south into the Indian Ocean or north towards South and Central Asia.

    "As the leader of the international search and rescue mission, Malaysia bears inescapable responsibility," it added.

    There was similar outrage among users of the micro-blogging network Weibo – China's version of Twitter.

    "The Malaysian government's behaviour in this affair can be summed up in one word: 'deceptive'," said one typical comment.

    The now week-long search for the Boeing 777 initially focused on waters in the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam, where the plane disappeared from primary radar on March 8.

    Much of the data confirmed by Najib had already been leaked in the US media, but it was only on Saturday that he announced the end of search operations in the South China Sea.

    The prime minister insisted that Malaysia had not allowed national security concerns to prevent the "real time" sharing of confidential information with other authorities.

    "We understand the desperate need for information... but we have a responsibility to the investigation and the families to only release information that has been corroborated," he said.

    Malaysia Airlines also issued a statement defending the delay between acquisition of the satellite and radar data and Najib's statement.

    "It was critical that the raw satellite signals were verified and analysed ... so that their significance could be properly understood.

    "This naturally took some time, during which we were unable to publicly confirm their existence," the statement said, adding that validating new information before releasing it would remain "paramount".

    But security and aviation experts continued to question why so many resources were deployed in searching the South China Sea for so long, and how the Malaysian military had failed to identify the plane as it backtracked over the peninsula.

    "It is an astonishing failure of security," said Ajaj Sahni, executive director of India's Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi.

    "And it seems an astonishing failure of technology in every aspect that something like this could happen."

    Terence Fan, an aviation expert at the Singapore Management University, said Malaysia's crisis management was flawed and had tested public confidence.

    "Why did they need days to 'corroborate' from their own radar images that the airplane could have turned west?" Fan said.

    "Couldn't they have known from day one that the different communications systems on the aircraft were turned off at different times?" he added. – AFP, March 16, 2014.

  9. #9
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    Oct 2008
    Updated: Sunday March 16, 2014 MYT 8:17:39 AM
    Flying into a crisis


    Gathering updates: Members from various media agencies covering a press conference on the missing MH370 by Najib at Sama Sama Hotel.

    The mystery of the missing MH370 has thrown Malaysia into the international limelight, calling into question its management of the situation.

    OVER the past week, Malaysia’s public image has taken a battering internationally over its handling of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared from commercial air traffic control radar at 1.30am on March 8 and vanished.

    At first, when news of the missing plane with 239 (including 12 crew) on board flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing broke, there was the usual shock, concern and hope of finding it – or least the debris.

    But day after day, with no sign of the plane or debris, no clues or answers, and lack of information coupled with conflicting statements by the Malaysian authorities, the mood turned to anger, ridicule and frustration.

    As the bizarre scenario unfolded day by day, of the flight possibly making a turn back, of the transponder possibly being deliberately switched off, and of the plane being diverted and flown towards the Indian Ocean, a more complex picture than what was initially thought started to emerge.

    It took a week before Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was finally able to confirm for a fact yesterday that the transponder of the Boeing 777 aircraft had indeed been deliberately switched off and the plane was intentionally steered away from its original flight path by someone on board.

    Was Malaysia right in the early days to give out only drips of information as it managed the crisis until it got the real facts? That certainly did not stop speculation and confusion.

    Crisis expert Vivian Lines, chairman of Asia Pacific Hill+Knowlton Strategies, says that in crisis training exercises a decade ago, the first 24 hours are often referred to as a “Golden Hour” because the airline could use the time to assemble its teams, understand the situation and then control the initial statement to the media.

    Dr McLean (LEFT): ‘The key here is for MAS and the authorities to speak with one voice.’ Smith (MIDDLE): ‘The situation was made worse because there was no new information to report.’ Lines (RIGHT): ‘Initial success faded quickly as soon as it became clear that the aircraft could not easily be found.’

    “Today, with the immediacy of social media, a ‘Golden Hour’ has become a ‘Golden Nanosecond’,” he says.

    “When Asiana flight 214 crashed upon landing in San Francisco last year, there were pictures on Twitter in less than a minute and the airline was never able to get ahead of the news.

    “Malaysia Airlines was fortunate. Manage­ment had the ability to control that first announcement. There was no burning wreckage to be tweeted around the world. While they had to wait to see if the flight would reappear on radar or notification would come that it had landed somewhere, they could use the time wisely, presumably to gather their crisis teams and plan for whatever announcement they needed to make.”

    When the first announcement created an immediate viral response, MAS was ready, he says.

    “Their web blacksite was activated and they were prepared for the storm of media, anguished relatives, and netizen journalists that surround any major incident.

    “A total of six statements were issued during the course of Saturday and, in many ways, this was a well-executed communications response backed up with actions designed to respond to the needs of relatives.”

    However, says Lines, that initial success faded quickly as soon as it became clear that the aircraft could not easily be found.

    With frustration mounting along with the desire for information, it was then left to multiple people to make statements to the media.

    “Much of this conflicted, adding to the frustration, hurting the credibility of the response effort and creating speculation and multiple side stories,” he says.

    “With little hard news to report, there was an information vacuum as we have never seen before in this age of constant noise and 24/7 viral news feeds.”

    One of Australia’s top crisis management experts, Michael Smith, believes that while MAS’ response in the first two days was excellent, all that fell apart when several agencies became involved in the messaging and there was no consistent voice.

    “There were leaks and theories – all of which were magnified by the media which was starving for any information. The situation was made worse because there was no new information to report. Different agencies seemed to be pushing different agendas,” says Smith from Inside PR.

    Risk and crisis communication expert Dr Hamish McLean points out that in a crisis, the blame game starts quickly, sometimes within 48 hours, and this is driven by misinformation, the lack of facts and the need to “find who is responsible”.

    There is also tremendous pressure for information from families, politicians, media and the public, he says. But if there are too many official voices, and if information is released before facts are known, this only leads to confusion.

    “The last thing MAS needs is for officials to join in the speculation by responding prematurely to the ‘what if’ questions. This needs to be balanced, of course, with the need to provide timely information”, which is somewhat like a tightrope situation in a crisis with no end in sight.

    He stresses that the key here is for MAS and the authorities to “speak with one voice”.

    “By one voice, you can have different spokespeople but the messages must not conflict. Ideally, the number of spokespeople should be limited,” says Dr McLean, who is a lecturer at Griffith University, Australia.

    “There should be extensive coordination behind the scenes. Questions from the media must be anticipated and responses agreed before media conferences are held or information is provided.

    “Effective crisis management is all about coordinated, timely and factual information.

    “Although the media want to hear from various agencies and officials, having too many representatives giving information is not always the best approach,” he shares.

    Lines adds that it helps to make good use of all communication channels.

    “Making the full press conference available on-line, streaming it live or providing teleconference facilities for international media or bloggers is quite common.

    “A regular blog or vlog from the CEO during the incident also demonstrates care and concern and enables the airline to humanise what actions are being taken.”

    In today’s digital age, Dr McLean points out that social media drives speculation and rumours with “lightning speed”.

    “Without the facts, traditional media is reporting social media commentary, which is adding to speculation and placing MAS and the authorities under more pressure,” he notes.

    Concurring, Smith says social media makes it even more difficult to handle a crisis because there are many wild and unfair and untrue postings, which raises the anger level among families and stake­holders.

    “Take control early and maintain consistent messages from the one place. Do not allow multiple agencies to confuse the messaging,” he advises.

    Touching on the bushfires in Australia, Smith says it is common in crisis situations for people to suspect that the government is hiding something unless the prime authority, which is the government, takes controls and appoints an overall leader for the crisis response, including communications.

    And to be effective in the role, Lines says that a spokesperson needs the seniority and gravitas to humanise the situation with concern and empathy, while managing what is said, to ensure consistency and accuracy.

    “In the absence of an aircraft, the lack of a strongly coordinated and accurate communications response became the global story.

    “This has probably impacted more on Malaysia’s image than that of MAS, hurting both credibility and professionalism,” he says.

    It was only when acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein stepped up to take charge of the press conferences from Wednesday that “greater clarity and consistency started coming through”, he says.

    One of the things to bear in mind is how unforgiving a crisis can be.

    Dr McLean says people judge an organisation in a crisis within the first 48 hours based on what they say and what they do.

    “MAS is in a very difficult position because there are so many unknowns. A lack of information inevitably intensifies the ‘blame game’.

    “MAS must continue to hold the communications agenda. This crisis is unprecedented – this is a worst-case scenario and will rewrite crisis management for the aviation industry.”

    He notes too that in the thick of the “blame game”, with people demanding information that is not available and even if MAS is doing everything to help the families, for some that will never be enough in such distressing and emotional circumstances.

    “MAS must remain very focused on families. A key point is that they must inform families of updates before the media. There is nothing worse than distressed families finding out information in the media.

    “When this happens, they feel they are being kept in the dark, not trusted or valued. This leaves an impression that the organisation cares more about the media than the families, despite all the assurances and empathetic messages.”

    But what should MAS do if it all points to a hijacking or foul play but they can’t be certain because the aircraft is still missing and no demands have been made? Do they tell affected family members?

    “Wait for facts. Don’t speculate. The media will do that,” says Lines.

    In the case of the missing MH370, it has already been said that nothing is off the table and all aspects are being looked into, he says.

    “Address it that way. Be open. Say ‘we continue to explore every avenue’. The most important thing is to establish how this happened so that we can explain this to the relatives and friends who need and deserve an explanation.”

    For Lines, it is clear that for Malaysia there is a need for better planning of communications across departments and ministries, with a clear communications protocol on who should speak, on what and when.

    Once MH370 is located, he says, there won’t be an information vacuum any longer but just a massive pent-up need for closure on the part of many relatives, the need to identify what went wrong, a demand for accountability, and the need to rebuild brand and reputation.

    “That is the time when effective communication will really be critical and the help of outside professionals is required.”

    Lines believes airlines would most surely be revisiting their crisis communication protocols and doubling their training efforts while countries would be reviewing how they would have handled a similar event if it was to happen to their national carrier.

    Dr McLean says the crisis presents an opportunity to rewrite the book on crisis management.

    “Every country – and the aviation industry – can learn from this event. No one is immune from aircraft incidents such as this.

    “A key lesson for MAS is to work hard on the lessons from this event and avoid what many other organisations have done – internal finger-pointing to wipe the slate clean.”


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 'may have been deliberately flown west'

    Military radar-trafficking evidence now suggests flight MH370 may have been hijacked or sabotaged

    A Royal Malaysian air force team search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 over the Strait of Malacca. Photograph: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

    Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may have been deliberately flown west towards the Andaman Islands after it last made contact with air traffic control nearly one week ago, military radar-trafficking evidence now suggests, in a twist that Malay officials have said supports theories the plane might have been hijacked or sabotaged.

    Sources told Reuters that the flight path of an unidentified aircraft, which investigators believe was MH370, followed a route with specific navigational waypoints, suggesting someone with aviation training was at the helm.

    Separately the Wall Street Journal reported that the missing jet hadtransmitted its location repeatedly to satellites in the five hours after its last contact with air traffic control before abruptly shutting off, according to US military and industrial sources. It said it did not know the flight path to this point but noted that the US had moved surveillance planes into an area of the Indian Ocean 1,000 miles (1,600km) west of the Malayasian peninsula.

    The last known position of MH370 was at 1.21am at 35,000 feet roughly 90 miles off the east coast of Malaysia, as the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board made its way towards Vietnam, en route to Beijing.

    If the unidentified aircraft picked up on the military radar reported by Reuters is indeed the missing jet, then data suggests the 777 veered dramatically and deliberately westwards, heading northeast of Indonesia's Aceh province towards a navigational waypoint used for carriers headed towards the Middle East.

    From there, plot indications show the plane zigzagged towards the Thai island of Phuket and then, at 2.15am, continued on northwest route P628, which would lead it towards the Andaman Islands and perhaps onward to Europe. Malaysian military officials have previously confirmed that an aircraft that could be MH370 was last seen on military radar at 2.15am some 200 miles off Malaysia's west coast.

    "What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards," a senior Malaysian police official told Reuters.

    The revelations emerged the same day as reports that the aircraft's two communications systems were systematically shut down and that manual intervention was the probable cause.

    According to two US officials who spoke to ABC News, the 777's data reporting system was shut down at 1.07am, while the transponder – which sends back information to civilian radar regarding performance, location and altitude – was turned off at 1.21am.

    US authorities have since decided to move their search operation towards the Indian Ocean after an undisclosed suggestion that the plane may have crashed there. "We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean," a senior Pentagon official said.

    The USS Kidd destroyer, which has helicopters aboard, will be moved to the western tip of the Malacca Strait, where it meets the Andaman Sea.

    That most of the leads on the potential location, and fate, of the missing aircraft are coming from US authorities indicates that it is the Americans – and not the Malaysians – who know more than they are letting on. The fact that US investigators cannot divulge more may be due to the fact that they are merely assisting the Malaysian investigation and not leading it: per international protocols, the country where the missing aircraft was registered must lead the investigation.

    While Malaysian police have spent the past week investigating whether any personal or psychological problems plaguing the crew or passengers may have had a role in the jet's disappearance, in addition to mechanical failure, hijacking or sabotage, Friday's revelations that the plane may have flown towards the Andaman Islands are the first real indication that foul play could be the cause.

    At a press conference late on Friday afternoon, Malaysia's defence and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said authorities were investigating the possibility that the plane's communications systems had been deliberately shut down and said there were four or five possibilities as to why the they may have been turned off.

    "It could have been done intentionally, it could be done under duress, it could have been done because of an explosion," he said. "That's why I don't want to go into the realm of speculation. We are looking at all the possibilities."

    Hishammuddin confirmed that MH370's "whole passenger manifest", including crew, were being looked into and added: "If investigation requires searching the pilots' homes, it will be done."

    Aviation experts from the UK, in addition to a team from Rolls-Royce – which manufactured the 777's engines – were due to arrive in Malaysia on Friday night to help with the investigation, the civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said.

    Some 57 ships, 48 aircraft and 13 nations are now taking part in the search and rescue mission, which has been expanded further east into the South China Sea and further out into the Indian Ocean. Indian officials confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that authorities had begun searching the 572 islands comprising the Andaman and Nicobar island groups using heat-seeking devices to help find the missing plane, and would likely extend the search to the Bay of Bengal.

    "The challenge of looking over land is that the islands are covered in very dense forest and most of them are hilly," Colonel Harmit Singh told the Journal. "Nothing has shown up as of now."

    Hussein said Malaysia was investigating all potential leads and said: "We want nothing more than to find the plane as quickly as possible. But the circumstances have forced us to widen our search."

    Speaking at the daily foreign ministry press briefing in Beijing, spokesman Hong Lei would not be drawn on whether China believed the plane had flown for several hours or whther it had asked the US about the reports.

    He added that China had asked Chinese commercial vessels to take note of any floating objects which might be connected to the missing flight. A subsequent comment suggested this applied to vessels in the Strait of Malacca.

    The Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday evening that search vessel Haixun 31, which had been at work in the Gulf of Thailand, was heading to the Strait of Malacca to continue work there.

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