KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia constantly upholds to the principle of responsibility in taking any action or decision relating to the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 incident. This was stressed by Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein when responding to various queries and accusations hurled at the search and rescue (SAR) operation that entered the 22nd day today.
The main issues that were raised included how the Malaysian military radar did not detect the plane, which did an 'air turn-back' in the early morning of last March 8, was Flight MH370. "That was still very premature speculation at that time. I can confirm that we need to re-look and play back the possibility. We have asked the military to play back because the standard operating procedure (SOP) was not triggered off. It was only when we played back, we saw those dots. That is not known by anybody.
"I am sharing with the Malaysian media my experience. At the early stage when they told me that one per cent possibility (that spotted dots were MH370) I said continue your search," he told a special media conference for Malaysian journalists here today.
He said the SAR operation conducted by international bodies eventually detected the plane's final signal that was recorded by satellite, which narrowed the search area to the southern corridor.
Flight MH370, with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board, went missing last March 8 about an hour after departing from the KL International Airport (KLIA) at 12.41 am. It was scheduled to arrive in Beijing at 6.30 am the same day.
An initial investigation on the military radar recording revealed that it was likely that the Flight MH370 pilot did an 'air turn-back' or returned to KLIA.
This was confirmed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last March 15 that Flight MH370 flew to the west direction from its original route.
"It is easy to make accusations, it is easier to speculate but we have to take action with responsibility. I feel we have done the best we can," Hishammuddin said.
Initially the search effort was concentrated in the two corridors, namely the northern corridor from the borders of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan up to the northern part of Thailand and the southern corridor that comprised areas from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
However following Najib's announcement last March 24 that Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean, the SAR operation in the northern corridor has halted.
Hishammuddin reiterated that Malaysia had never withold any information on Flight MH370 and the country was open-minded, especially involving military data-sharing.
"If you say I am witholding information, what information am I witholding? If, at the end of the day, there is something about the pilot or terrorism. What if when we find the black box then we find it is a terrorism plot," he said, adding that the government would then be accused of being irresponsible in saying things now without corroboration.
On speculation that MH370 landed in the Diego Garcia American military base in Indian ocean, Hishammuddin was positive that the United States was not involved based on the many assets deployed for the SAR operation, including tracing the black box.
He said if such a conspiracy existed, it was unlikely that the US would want to spend millions of dollars and mobilise various assets since the search began in the South China Sea.
"I do not know, we can check. Maybe if I speak no-one will believe. Maybe we can get confirmation from the parties concerned themselves," he said.
Asked on the biggest challenge faced over the last three weeks, Hishammuddin said it was when the search effort was about to be concentrated on the northen and southern corridors.
Apart from diplomatic challenges to get the co-operation of the big countries like Kazakhstan, China and India, he was also worried to see the terrain in the southern corridor.
"When the prime minister was compelled to make an announcement that the last time the plane was at the southern corridor, I was very worried because there was no place to land, no land mass," he said.