KUALA LUMPUR - The search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is "bigger than politics", and Malaysians should "put aside their differences" at this crucial time, said Malaysia's Defence and Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on Tuesday at a daily press briefing.
Mr Hishammuddin urged Malaysians to unite amid speculations that the missing jet's captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, might have had political motives to sabotage the plane.
Captain Zaharie was earlier identified as a long-time member of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), helmed by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, and also a distant relative of Mr Anwar's daughter-in-law.
Mr Anwar was sentenced to five years jail over sodomy on March 7, the day before MH370 went missing in the early hours of March 8. The sequence of events has led to speculations that Captain Zaharie might have a reason for taking "political revenge", following revelations by the Malaysian authorities that the plane was deliberately diverted from its intended flight path to Beijing by a skilled person with up-to-date aviation knowledge.
Mr Hishammuddin stressed on Tuesday that the search for the missing flight remains the top priority and Malaysians should put aside their differences and focus on recovering the plane and the 239 passengers and crew on board. He added that Captain Zaharie's political affiliation was highlighted by foreign media, and the Malaysian government has never intended to bring it up in an attempt to deflect attention from its search mission.