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Different versions of MH370 communication irk Chinese relatives

Published on Apr 1, 2014 10:13 PM
 
A Chinese relative (second right) of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 talks with members of the Malaysia Airlines special assistance team during a meeting at a hotel in Beijing on April 1, 2014. The Malaysian Transport Ministry's statement on Monday, March 31, 2014, that the last words from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane were "Goodnight, Malaysian three seven zero" and not "All right, goodnight" was met with irritated resignation by relatives of Chinese passengers here. -- PHOTO: AFP

The Malaysian Transport Ministry's statement on Monday night that the last words from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane were "Goodnight, Malaysian three seven zero" and not "All right, goodnight" was met with irritated resignation by relatives of Chinese passengers here.

While they acknowledged that the two signoffs were not significantly different, the ministry's belated clarification served only to reinforce their view that the Malaysian government has not been straight with them since MH370 went missing on March 8.

"They told us in the first week, in this very room, that the last words were 'All right, goodnight', and now it's changed," said Mr Huang, a man in his 50s whose younger brother was on the plane. "This is why we know they are hiding something from us, because something new is always coming out."

MAS officials had first told the families on March 12 that the last words from the cockpit were "All right, goodnight". The Malaysian ambassador to China, Datuk Iskandar Sarudin, was at that meeting.

The Malaysian government later confirmed this to the media, and MAS chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the signoff was by co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid.

But on Monday night, the ministry statement said that the authorities "are doing a forensic investigation to determine if the last words from the cockpit were from the pilot or the co-pilot".

"The two versions are not very different, but the point is that we can never get a straight answer from them," Mr Huang told The Straits Times on Tuesday. "We families are used to it by now."

On Tuesday afternoon, Malaysia released the full transcript of communications between the cockpit and air traffic control, while about 200 relatives were at a daily briefing given by Malaysian officials, led by air force major-general Affendi Buang.

About 50 Chinese relatives who had flown to Kuala Lumpur were given a Chinese translation of the transcript around the same time.

The spokesman for the families in KL, Mr Jiang Hui, said that it did not seem too different from the English one shown to them earlier. But he expressed appreciation for the official, translated version, which he said showed that Malaysia was taking their requests more seriously and responding better to families' needs.

Maj-Gen Affendi, asked about the discrepancy in the signoffs, would only say that the latest version should be considered "official".

"This transcript and last words are information that you should have had since March 8," one woman, whose husband was on board MH370, pointed out to him. "There have been so many versions from the Malaysian government that we don't know which one to believe."

Later, Mr Steve Wang, a member of the families' representative committee, told The Straits Times that "we are not professionals in this area, so I'm not sure what the significance is between 'All right, goodnight' and 'Goodnight, Malaysian three seven zero', or if it is very significant".

"But to us, it's just another example of their lack of information flow, their confusing messages. That's why the families are so angry," he added.

rchang@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Carolyn Hong in Kuala Lumpur

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