KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia and Australia are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will cover every aspect of the recovery process of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a Malaysian newspaper reported on Friday.
The extensive agreement is currently being finalised by Kuala Lumpur and being drafted to safeguard both nations from any legal pitfalls that may surface during that phase.
The agreement will also address specific areas, including which parties will handle the wreckage or any parts of the plane, including the black box, once it is found, New Straits Times reported.
Another critical area concerns the handling of human remains.
Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told the New Straits Times that the MoU only involved the two nations and it was in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation's ruling which underscored the jurisdiction of Malaysia and Australia in this case. Details of the MoU will not be made public.
The New Straits Times has learnt that Canberra is studying the MoU. Kuala Lumpur is hopeful that the MoU will be concluded soon and endorsed by the Cabinet at its next meeting.
It will come into effect as soon as any part of the Boeing 777-200ER is found.
"The MoU spells out exactly who does what and the areas of responsibility," Mr Azharuddin said, adding that Malaysia would lead most of the investigation, with Australia and other foreign agencies, assisting.
A source with an intimate knowledge of the MoU said the papers also addressed the question of who would carry out autopsies on the remains of the passengers.
"The retrieval, identification and recording processes that will be applied for each passenger and crew are vital to ensure that there are no issues with their next-of-kin," the source said.
The scope and breadth of the MoU is comprehensive, detailing even where the remains will be brought to immediately upon recovery and where they will be taken to for autopsy.
Particular attention was paid to this considering that the 239 people on board the missing airliner came from 15 different countries, with different cultural and religious beliefs.
"Australia has its own laws on the handling of bodies of accident victims, and so does Malaysia... So a specific agreement on this is crucial.
"The 13 other governments whose citizens were on board the aircraft will also be approached to see how we can best handle them," the source said.
They include China, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indian, Indonesia, Iran, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Ukraine and the United States.
The report also said that if there was a need for a post-mortem, it will most likely be carried out in Perth, as this would be more efficient.
The source said Malaysian doctors and specialists would be deployed to Perth to lead the autopsy team and would be considered as part of the investigation team.
Meanwhile, the investigating team looking into the criminal aspects of the missing flight, on Thursday carried out a chronological re-enactment of everything they believed had happened before the plane took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, on March 8. The timeline for the re-enactment began from the night of March 7, from the time the passengers and crew checked in, right up to the runaway and MH370's parking bay.
The exercise, kept closely under wraps, involved only police personnel and ran through late into the night.