Wednesday, May 6, 2015Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Search for MH370 to go on 'no matter how remote the odds', minister promises

Published on Mar 29, 2014 3:57 PM

MALAYSIA'S Defence and Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had an intimate meeting with Malaysian family members of those on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on Saturday morning, reassuring them of his commitment to find the plane's wreckage "no matter how remote" the odds are. But he stopped short of giving a definite answer on the issue of accountability.

The minister, who showed up with his wife Tengku Marsilla Tengku Abdullah, a princess from the state of Pahang, as well as his son and daughter, said he felt strengthened and more spirited after meeting the family members for close to two hours at The Everly Hotel in Putrajaya, Malaysia, where nine Malaysian families are housed while awaiting news of the search for MH370. The plane is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean according to satellite analysis.

"I gave them strength and commitment, they gave me strength to persevere," Mr Hishammuddin told a crowd of more than 50 journalists and video crew, adding that he was deeply moved by the "hope in their eyes".

Mr Mohammad Sharil Shaari, the cousin of passenger Muhammad Razahan Zamani, a 24-year-old who was onboard MH370 with his wife on a honeymoon trip to Beijing, said the meeting with Mr Hishammuddin was very intimate.

"He was sitting right in front of us. The family members sat around him," said Mr Sharil, referring to the minister who came dressed in blue jeans.

The atmosphere was cordial, but he said many family members have made known their unhappiness with the inconsistent answers they have been getting from the authorities.

"Many in the room were angry, not just me," he said. "The responses that we have been getting are unclear."

The authorities should be more “straight to the point”, he said, adding that his cousin’s mother still cries whenever she sees her son’s picture on TV.

Malaysia’s credibility has been at stake since the MAS jetliner’s baffling disappearance on March 8. Questions have been raised about its security protocol and the often contradicting remarks made by different personnel-in-charge.

Their reputation suffered yet another blow early Saturday when Interpol (International Criminal Police Organisation) issued a terse statement, arguing that Malaysia’s Immigration Department is solely to blame for its failure to stop two Iranian men from boarding MH370 using stolen Italian and Australian passports.

Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Wednesday had suggested that it was impossible to screen every traveller’s passport against Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database, which has a whopping 40.2 million entries. Dr Zahid told Parliament that the check would take too long, and Malaysia’s current database would not have the capacity to hold so much data.

But Interpol defended the efficiency of its database, which it said could offer results within seconds. It went on to state that Malaysia’s Immigration Department had in fact not done a single check against SLTD before MH370 vanished off the radar.

When asked for his comment by the CNN, Mr Hishammuddin maintained that the issue of the passports has been dealt with at the early stage of the investigation, and further questions should be referred to Malaysia Airlines.

“I don’t need to go into an argument with CNN… But if you look at your record, that was discussed and decided in detail.”

MH370 graphic: Object sightings in Indian Ocean

The minister added that he would remain focused on the search and rescue operation, and looking after the well-being of affected families.

“The best we can do is pray and be sensitive to them (the families), that as long as there is even a remote chance of a survivor, we will pray and do whatever it takes.”