MH370: Web debate over custody of black box

MH370: Web debate over custody of black box

KUALA LUMPUR - As hopes grow of finding Flight MH370's black box, there is growing online debate about which country should have custody of the recorder if and when it is found.

Malaysia has formed a committee to look into the question of jurisdiction when it comes to analyses of the jet and its black box.

But Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister, said it did not matter to him whether the investigation was carried out in Perth or Kuala Lumpur once the plane is found.

"Personally, I just want to find the truth. I want to know what happened to MH370. Doesn't matter how or who or where," he told The Straits Times in an interview with Singapore media yesterday.

Although the Boeing 777-200ER is registered in Malaysia and owned by Malaysia Airlines, jurisdiction is a tough call without confirmation of its ultimate location.

Under the International Convention on Civil Aviation (ICAO), Malaysia as the country of origin of the aircraft must launch an investigation and secure the wreckage. But Malaysia has asked Australia to lead the search in the southern Indian Ocean.

"Under the ICAO, we have responsibility of looking after the black box. But there are diplomatic challenges when it involves 14 different nations," Mr Hishammuddin said.

Malaysia formed three committees last week, one to oversee affairs concerning next of kin, one for military affairs and one to oversee technical aspects of the hunt for MH370. The technical committee is studying the jurisdiction of the wreckage once it is found.

These committees are working with experts from the United States Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch, France's aviation accident investigation bureau and the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

The flight, bound for Beijing, disappeared from radar less than an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12.41am on March 8.

Following an initial search in the South China Sea, on March 15 Prime Minister Najib Razak said investigations pointed to a "deliberate" action to turn the plane back west soon after take-off.

Although initial background investigations of the 227 passengers - out of 239 on board MH370 - suggested they were not suspects, Mr Hishammuddin said investigations were still ongoing.

"Should there be new leads to suggest otherwise, we will revise the status of our investigation on any of the passengers based on the fresh information or intelligence received," he said.

lestkong@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 9 in The Straits Times.

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