Correction of the last words from the cockpit of MH370 – why it is even more imperative for an opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on MH 370 before Parliament adjourns on April 10!

The 25th day of the missing Malaysian Airlines (MAS) MH370 starts with another emotional roller-coaster not only for the loved ones of the 239 passengers and crew onboard the Boeing 777 airliner, but for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, territory or politics.

This is the medley of shame, sadness and anger felt by most Malaysians when they learn of the correction issued by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) just before midnight confirming that MH370’s last radio communication was “Good night Malaysian 370” and not “All right, good night” as earlier reported.

The Chinese broadcaster CCTV had on Sunday reported that the last words from the cockpit of MH370 before it disappeared from civilian radar were actually “Good night, Malaysian 370”, and not “all right, good night” as the Department of Civil Aviation had previously claimed.

The final sign off, said as the plane left Malaysian airspace and was about to enter that of Vietnam at 1.19 am on March 8, is much more formal than the words that were originally reported.

I believe I share the feelings of the overwhelming number of Malaysians when I cringe at the DCA’s clarification, feeling shame, sadness and even anger that we have made another mistake which should not have occurred, as it reflects most adversely on the competence of our system of governance and therefore on our national pride.

The past 25 days have exposed at least half-dozen mistakes and weaknesses, viz:

  1. Time when plane lost contact - The conflicting times when MH370 lost contact, with the MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya at first saying it was 2.40 am but contradicted by the DCA Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman a few hours later that it was 1.30 am. But FlightRadar24 chief executive officer Fredrik Lindahl gave the time as 1.21 am.
  2. Air turn back – RMAF chief General Tan Sri Rodzali Daud first mentioned about a likely aircraft turn-back on March 9, with Berita Harian on Tuesday, 11th March quoting Rodzali that MH370 had turned back as “kali terakhir pesawat itu dikesan berada berhampiran Pulau Perak, di perairan Selat Melaka, pada jam 2.40 pagi oleh menara kawalan udara berhampiran sebelum isyarat hilang tanpa sebarang petunjuk”. The Berita Harian report was denied by Rodzali later on Tuesday.
  3. Adding to the confusion, Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, spokesman for the prime minister’s office, said in a telephone interview with New York Times said that he had checked with senior military officials, who told him there was no evidence that the plane had recrossed the Malaysian peninsula, only that it may have attempted to turn back.

    “As far as they know, except for the air turn-back, there is no new development,” Tengku Sariffuddin said, adding that the reported remarks by the air force chief were “not true.” (New York Times 12/3/04)

  4. MH 370 flew on for hours – on March 13, 2014, Wall Street Journal reported that “U.S. Investigators Suspect Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane Flew On for Hours”, which was promptly “debunked” by the acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in his MH370 daily press conference the same day.
  5. ACARS turn off before / after final radio transmission
  6. On 15th March, Hishammuddin said the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled before someone said, “All right, good night” from the cockpit.

    The next day, 16th March, MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari said “We don’t know when the ACARS system was switched off” as the ACARS was working normally just before the last words were heard but failed to send its next scheduled signal about 30 minutes later.

  7. RMAF “assumption” that turn-back was ordered by control tower.
  8. On 26th March, Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri told Parliament that RMAF did not attempt to intercept MH370 when it was detected on military radar off the Straits of Malacca on March 8 as the RMAF had "assumed" that the plane was ordered to turn back by flight traffic controllers.

    On 27th March, he issued a clarification outside Parliament that his remarks in Parliament on MH 370’s turn back had been proven erroneous and that it was based on his own assumptions.

  9. Last words from the cockpit – that its “Good night, Malaysian 370” and not “all right, good night” as revealed by Malaysia’s Ambassador to China, Iskandar Sarudin, when speaking to passengers’ relatives and friends at a Beijing hotel on March 12.

The latest error about the last words from the cockpit - discovered only after the passage of 19 days - has reinforced the case for the establishment of an opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 Disaster, regardless of whether the “black boxes” of MH370 could be retrieved.

This is because the establishment of an opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee will send a clear and unmistakable message, both nationally and internationally, that the Malaysian authorities have nothing to hide and is prepared to find answers to the thousand-and-one questions which have surfaced in the past four weeks, not just about the “what, how and why” about the events leading to the disappearance of Flight MH370 on March 8, but also a whole series of questions and controversies surrounding the disappearance of the Triple Seven and the Search-and-Rescue (SAR) Operation, including:

  • Whether a week had been wasted looking for MH370 in the South China Sea before switching the area of search from the east to the west, moving from the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Northern and Southern Corridors, and eventually to southern Indian Ocean; and
  • Whether three days had been wasted looking for MH370 in the wrong part of the Indian Ocean because of poor co-ordinating among countries working on locating the missing aircraft as reported by Wall Street Journal today.

Hishammuddin is in Hawaii to attend a meeting of ASEAN and US defence officials, scuppering his briefing tonight for Pakatan Rakyat MPs on MH370 which the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim had promised in his speech in Parliament last Thursday.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is flying to the Pearce Air force base in Perth tomorrow to see the SAR operations first hand.

I would urge both of them not to delay any further but to reach a decision for the establishment of an opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on MH 370, especially as Malaysian MPs should not be treated worse than legislators in other countries like the United States who are given access to latest developments in the 25-day MH370 international disaster.

Parliament will be adjourning next Thursday April 10, and it will a gross remiss of duty if Parliament adjourns without establishing the opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 so that it could start preparatory work for a full-scale investigations into the MH370 disaster.

The MH370 disaster is an international disaster and the Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 will have to consider initiating global parliamentary co-operation resulting in an international investigation into how in the hi-tech world today, one of the world’s most popular and safest aircrafts can vanish into the skies, with 239 passengers and crew on board without leaving any clue for 25 days!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah