Published in The Sun on 31 March 2014
A national disaster which forebodes the loss of numerous lives has a way of bringing people together to share their utter sense of despair and helplessness.
It is a time when differences are put aside to offer sympathy and empathy to those whose family members and friends are victims. It is a time when communities rally together to offer their support, kind thoughts and prayers.
It is at such trying times that a nation’s people are united in their efforts to make sense of the tragedy that has befallen them.
The mystery of the missing MH370 and the likelihood that the crew and passengers have met a tragic end has sent shock waves across Malaysia and among Malaysians. Its disappearance on March 8 with 239 people on board has united Malaysians and the world in seeking credible answers and explanations from the authorities tasked with coordinating investigations into the lost plane.
No doubt at the beginning, due to the lack of specific information and the complexity of the task at hand, there were inconsistencies and contradictions in the official releases.
As leads picked up by certain countries such as the Chinese sighting of debris were followed, some proved to be wrong or inconclusive, which required the search and rescue teams to abandon or change their area of investigation.
It did not help that foreign media networks were laying out wild speculations and theories provided by the well-spoken experts they lined up. This only served to diminish the efforts of the Malaysian authorities who were seen to be much slower, less informed and articulate in managing the crisis.
However, to accuse them of being inept when there was so little to go by in the early stages is unfair and unhelpful. As the country leading the investigation into a multinational disaster involving nationals from 15 countries, Malaysia has shown itself to be more than effective in mobilising the support and resources of 26 nations including its regional partners, the US, UK, China, Australia, Japan and France.
Having little sophisticated search and rescue technology of its own to investigate an air disaster of such mystery and magnitude, Malaysia has used its excellent diplomacy and good regional and international relations to bring together an unprecedented team of investigators manning different aspects of the search and rescue operations.
To coordinate these efforts and corroborate the information coming from different lines of investigation is no mean feat. To present it to the grieving families, the concerned public and the critical media in a coherent form is indeed a formidable task and responsibility.
To face the barrage of questions daily requires the spokespersons to display not only expert knowledge and articulation of the technicalities involved but also the greatest personal fortitude and resilience.
In this we must acknowledge that with more information being released by the international search and rescue parties and with satellite sightings of debris narrowing down to a smaller area of the southern Indian Ocean, there is growing confidence that the evidence required to arrive at conclusive findings about the disappearance of MH370 will surface soon.
Malaysians must stand behind the three spokespersons tasked with facing the world daily to bring the latest developments in the MH370 search and rescue efforts. We have seen them growing by the day, both in their management of information and its articulation.
The acting minister of transport, director of the Department of Civil Aviation and chief executive officer of Malaysian Airlines deserve our support and appreciation as they unravel the facts and evidence surrounding the investigations.
In the press conferences, we see their growing confidence and steadfastness in taking questions from the roomful of local and international journalists. We must give them credit for doing their work to the best of their ability and for exercising great diplomacy in representing their international partners.
Even in the handling of the unreasonable reaction and demands of the relatives in Beijing, they have shown much compassion.
While some of us are quick to criticise the aggressive and uncouth behaviour displayed by some of the relatives, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has reminded us to be understanding of their grief while reminding them that the families from other nations are also in mourning but have not reacted with the same irrationality.
We hope that the numerous pieces of debris sighted will be fished out quickly so that they can be analysed to provide conclusive evidence whether or not they are part of the MH370 wreckage.
If indeed they are, we pray that the black box will be recovered soon. We stand by the grieving families in mourning their loss and understand how important it is for them to have closure. Malaysians are united behind their beloved country at this time of great national distress .