Singapore defends Malaysia's efforts on missing plane

Singapore defends Malaysia's efforts on missing plane

SINGAPORE - Singapore on Friday came to Malaysia's defence after scathing criticism of Kuala Lumpur's handling of the disappearance of a passenger plane with 239 people on board.

Singapore Foreign Minister K Shanmugam also said Malaysia's Southeast Asian neighbours did what they could to help in the early days of searching for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, but most of them lack the necessary resources for large scale assistance.

"I think some of the criticisms are unfair," Shanmugam told the Foreign Correspondents Association in Singapore.

"I don't think enough account has been taken of the fact that there was very little to go on, very little that the Malaysians or anyone knew about the matter," he said, describing the plane's disappearance as a "most unusual, bizarre situation".

Flight MH370, carrying mostly Chinese nationals, vanished from civilian radar on March 8 while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

A massive international search is currently focused on the southern Indian Ocean, where the aircraft is thought to have crashed after mysteriously veering off course.

Malaysia has come under relentless criticism for alleged incompetence and been accused of a cover-up, especially by families of the Chinese passengers, as well as from China's media.

The Chinese government has also urged more transparency in the investigation.

In the early days of their daily press briefings after the plane went missing, Malaysian officials made a series of contradictory statements that added to the confusion.

Notably, there have been about-turns regarding the crucial sequence of events in the plane's cockpit before it veered off course, and Malaysia's armed forces have been criticised for failing to intercept the diverted plane when it appeared on military radar.

Shanmugam said Malaysia's Southeast Asian neighbours responded well to the situation, but lacked the assets that the United States, China and other countries had.

"I think there was certainly no lack of will in terms of wanting to cooperate," he said.

"But in order to do something like this we also need the assets and the resources."

Most Southeast Asian countries are at a stage in their development where their budgets go to healthcare, education and social services, he added.

"The amount of money you would set aside for training a large corps of disaster relief personnel in the overall scheme of things is there, but not in the level of say Japan and China or the US," he said.

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