Hishammuddin's toughest test

Hishammuddin's toughest test

He is calm, unhurried and wears a friendly face, but can be abrupt in cutting off some questions from the scores of journalists jostling for answers to the one question: So, where is MH370?


As the days tick by since the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 plane disappeared from radar screens early last Saturday, Defence and

Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has become the face and voice of the Malaysian government.

A tough job, what with Malaysia coming under intense international scrutiny over its handling of efforts to find the plane and getting flak from frustrated relatives of the missing passengers and crew.

It is the latest - and perhaps toughest - of a recent series of tests that Datuk Seri Hishammuddin, 52, has had to deal with.

In February last year, it was the armed incursion of Lahad Datu in Sabah by militants from Sulu in the Philippines. Mr Hishammuddin, as Defence Minister, and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi coordinated Malaysia's response to the stand-off, which lasted more than five weeks.

Nearly five months ago, he survived his toughest political battle when he narrowly won the last of the three Umno vice-president seats. Then, in early December, he had a coronary angioplasty to clear a blocked artery.

The political stakes this time are very much higher.

"He is facing tough times as this is an unprecedented incident. This is worse than Lahad Datu," an aide who has been with the minister for more than a decade told The Straits Times.

"Social media has made it more difficult as he has to check everything that we hear, like the life raft found in Port Dickson even though it was outside the search area," the aide added.

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