All for the Wrong Reasons

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

The fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 and the 239 passengers on board is still in abeyance almost six weeks after it went missing somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. The one single important factor that has surfaced out of this unfortunate incident is that it has, unwittingly, exposed the many flaws that are synonymous with Malaysia and, by default, the federal government in Putrajaya.

It does not take the likes of CNN presenter Richard Quest or Bloomberg columnist William Pesek to unravel the truth. It is there for all to see. And that includes you and I, ordinary Malaysians who are so accustomed to the condescending attitude of civil servants and politicians that most have come to regard it as hazards of being Malaysians.

We need not go far to see how local councils fare. How they respond to complaints and how they react to criticisms. It has become a culture, a way of life that has become so embedded, endemic and ingrained in our society. Ridding it may take a lifetime, if we have the luxury of living that long – I speak for myself.

As expected, numerous theories, some absurd, some humorous and some baffling, have cropped up. In the absence of concrete evidences, coupled with the dithering and flip flopping by our very gung-ho politicians and their emasculated civilian and military counterparts, we are made to look like fools in front of a very unforgiving international media.

Compounding our already sullied image was the sight of officials who were struggling to communicate effectively in the English Language. Malaysia Airlines issued three versions of a press statement during the initial stage of the investigation to correct several errors. One was in reference to an “expensive” rescue operation, when it meant “extensive”.

This scenario was repeated almost every evening and carried live on CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Sky News, Bloomberg, Australia Network and many more. Hopefully, this will have an impact on those responsible for our children’s education. English is the language of the world. Ignoring its importance and universality is a risk we can ill-afford.

The poor coordination between agencies and the conflicting reports and updates on the search for the missing MH 370 laid open another glaring flaw. We lack the expertise and the wherewithal to tackle and handle an international crisis of such magnitude. If only our leaders are gracious enough to acknowledge their mistakes we would not have been vilified as such. The country’s international image has taken a severe battering. And this is a fact.

The search for MH370 has assumed a life of its own. It is now centred in an area some 1200 km west of Western Australia. The Joint Agency Coordination Centre formed on March 30 and located in Perth is being headed by retired Australian Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston. Eight countries, including Malaysia have deployed their sea and air assets to locate debris and the all-important black box containing the flight data recorder.

The quest for the missing Boeing 777-200 ER is more focused now. Presently, some 15 aircraft and 14 ships are involved in the joint operation. The use of some very high-tech equipment such as the towed pinger locater has heightened the chance of unveiling the mysteries behind aviation history’s costliest sea-hunt.

There has been some renewed optimism after Australian officials said that they had detected “ping” signals presumably from the aircraft’s data recorder. But time may not be on the searchers’ side as the box’s battery has now passed its 30-day lifespan.

Though many may not have any kind words for the way the authorities have handled or mishandled the crisis, the fact remains that this is something unprecedented. The incident could have befallen any country. Love or loath it, we are the reluctant stakeholder, the one to be blamed for the tragedy and the one to bear the brunt of those whose loved ones were among the 239 passengers and aircrew on the ill-fated flight.

We have made some very unforgivable blunders, some deliberate, some accidental. Correcting a negative perception is no simple task. A massive paradigm shift is definitely in order. And it should all begin in Putrajaya. We have suffered enough, as scorn upon scorn have been heaped on us. Malaysia is in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Will the eventual conclusion of the missing MH370 be the dawn of a new beginning? Your guess is as good as mine.

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