Cabinet should decide tomorrow in support of an Opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 to be appointed in current meeting of Parliament whether the black box is discovered or not

Today is the 20th day of the missing MH370 disaster with still no answer as to “”what, how and why” as to the series of events in the early hours of March 8 resulting in the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft with 239 passengers and crew on board, resulting in the longest and biggest-ever multi-national 26-nation sea-and-air search.

Although the search area has been narrowed considerably from the Northern and Southern Corridors to the south of Southern Corridor in the southern Indian Ocean, and despite the new satellite images revealing 122 objects that could be debris from the Boeing 777, the international search team today which had been bolstered to 11 military and civilian aircraft and five ships have ended empty-handed when they have to call off the search operation today due to bad weather.

Severe icing, severe turbulence and near zero visibility are forecast to deteriorate later in the day in the area some 2,500 kilometres southwest of Perth in the deepest and roughest waters in the world, roiled by the “Roaring Forties” winds that cut across the sea.

The winds are named for the area between latitude 40 degrees and 50 degrees where there is no land mass to slow down gusts which create waves higher than six metres.

However, more and more questions have multiplied with every passing day of the missing MH370, many of which have nothing to do with the technical explanations of the disaster or the retrieval of the “black box”.

For instance, the announcement in Parliament by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim that the government would consider setting up a Parliamentary Select Committee or a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) on the MH370 tragedy only after the “black box” had been discovered is highly debatable and questionable.

Was this decision taken by the Cabinet or only by one or two Ministers?

Yesterday, the Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said that he would be taking to the Cabinet the proposal to set up a Parliamentary Select Committee or a Royal Commission of Inquiry, as he himself cannot make such a decision.

The Cabinet would only meet tomorrow. Can Hishammuddin or Shahidan pre-empt a Cabinet decision and unilaterally conclude that the Government would only consider a Parliamentary Select Committee or Royal Commission of Inquiry into the MH370 disaster if the “black box” is recovered?

What happens if the “black box” is never recovered, as has happened in past air-disasters – does this mean that there would be no investigations as to what could have gone terribly wrong to cause not only a national but an international disaster like the tragic MH370 case?

This would make Malaysia an even bigger laughing stock.

Furthermore, there are many questions that must be answered and which do not depend on the discovery of the ‘black box’.

One such question was provoked by the reply of the Deputy Defence Minister, Abdul Rahim Bakri in Parliament yesterday that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) did not intercept Flight MH370 when it was detected on military radar off the Straits of Malacca on March 8 due to the “assumption” that the flight had been ordered to turn back by the civil aviation control tower.

What is even more shocking is that when the Defence Minister, who is none other than Hishammuddin himself, was asked in his daily media conference on MH 370 later on the same day on Rahim’s statement in Parliament, Hishammudin replied lamely that he could confirm what Rahim had told Parliament.

This does not inspire confidence – when the Minister of Defence cannot confirm what the Deputy Defence Minister had just told Parliament!

If what Rahim said was true, that the RMAF did not intercept MH370 on the “assumption” that the flight was “non-hostile” and had been ordered to turn back by the civil aviation control tower, why didn’t the RMAF immediately cross-checked with the civil aviation authorities?

Wasn’t the failure to cross-check with the civil aviation authorities a gross dereliction of duty, especially as national security was involved?

How many times and in many locations did the military radar tracked MH370 in the early hours of March 8?

We now know that when the civil radar lost track of MH370 at 1.21 am on March 8, the department of civil aviation officers on duty immediately contacted the RMAF which confirmed that military radar had tracked the aircraft which had diverted from its course.

Why was there no follow-up action by both the civil and military aviation authorities between 1.21 am and 2.40 am when the military radar at Butterworth spotted the MH370, as well as after 2.40 am?

These questions need answer which do not depend on the discovery of the “black box.

There are many such questions, such as whether SAR operation was launched at the first available opportunity, when time was of the essence in an air disaster to ensure the safe rescue of passengers nd crew; the loss of over a week before the multi-national SAR operation involving ships, helicopters and aircrafts were switched from the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca and later the Andaman Sea and the Northern and Southern Corridors, and many many others.

I call on the Cabinet tomorrow to decide in support of an Opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on MH370 to be established in the current meeting of Parliament, which ends on April 10, regardless or whether the “black box” is recovered or not.

Immediate action for the establishment of an Opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH370 disaster is imperative for two reasons:

Firstly, it will be a key development to restore national and international confidence in Malaysia and the Malaysian Government to send a clear and unmistakable message that neither Malaysia nor the Malaysian Government has anything to hide and want a full and transparent accounting of the whole series of events constituting the MH370 disaster; and

Secondly, work must begin immedIately to lay the basis for a full-scale investigation into the MH370 disaster. As Malaysia is leading the multi-national SAR operation, similarly, the Opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee should form the nucleus of a multi-national Parliamentary inquiry into the MH370 disaster which had brought 26 nations together in an unprecedented pooling of their resources and intelligence.

I call on the Ministers at the Cabinet meeting tomorrow to overrule any suggestion that an investigation should only be launched after the retrieval of the black box, firstly, as it smacks of an avoidance of a full investigation; and secondly, it would be seen by the world as an attempt by the Malaysian government to continue with a opaque policy rejecting accountability and transparency.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah