Crisis brings out the best in Hisham

Crisis brings out the best in Hisham
Shoulder to cry on: By sharing in the grief of the next-of-kin of missing MH370 passengers and crew, Hishammuddin has revealed his compassionate side.

Sometimes it takes a crisis for someone to emerge as a leader. For Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, the MH370 crisis seems to have been his moment.

In the early hours of March 8 when MAS flight MH370 went missing, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein was in Janda Baik with Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for an Umno function.

Both Umno vice-presidents were in a room they were sharing when they received the worrying news in the wee hours that flight MH370 from KL to Beijing had disappeared from radar without a distress call.

Once it was light, Hishammuddin, who is also acting Transport Minister, left Janda Baik and headed for the Air Traffic Control Tower at KLIA to see what was going on.

In the first four days, there was a lot of confusion with contradictory statements being made by different personalities to try to explain even the most basic of things about the disappearance of MH370.

These included the exact time the plane went missing, the last contact it had with Air Traffic Control (ATC), the number of passengers with stolen passports on the flight, and whether all those who had checked in had boarded.

With the eyes of the world watching, it was not only confusing but embarrassing for Malaysia.

That was when Hishammuddin took charge and things started coming together.

Eloquent and professional

Live press conferences were conducted at 5.30pm almost daily to deliver the latest updates. And it was here that Hishammuddin, 52, an LSE law graduate who is comfortable speaking both English and Bahasa Malaysia, shared information about the mystery of the missing plane that had caught the attention of a worldwide audience.

He was eloquent and professional. True, there were a few times when he bristled at some questions but to his credit he was still able to maintain his composure and answer calmly.

He was also not afraid to show emotion when dealing with grieving and angry family members demanding answers on the whereabouts of their loved ones.

He apologised when overzealous security members grabbed a distraught Chinese national who had gate-crashed the press conference at Sama Sama Hotel to get answers about her loved one on the flight.

At a recent TV3 interview, Hishammuddin wiped away a tear while he was connected with a father, Hamid Ramlan, a 56-year policeman whose daughter, Norliakmar, was on the ill-fated flight.

Hamid had thanked him for the search and rescue efforts, told him how the family is feeling and asked him not to stop looking for the plane.

"The one question that families want answered as to where their loved ones are and where the plane is, we simply do not have the answer," he has humbly said repeatedly over the weeks while promising that Malaysia will keep searching until MH370 is found.

His active engagement on Twitter and Facebook has also won him a huge number of fans.

Victor Lopez, a 15-year-old from France, even wrote in to tell Hishammuddin of his admiration and ask for his autograph - to which the minister obliged and then posted on twitter.

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