Some criticism of Malaysia's handling of missing MH370 plane 'unfair': Shanmugam

Some of the criticism being levelled at Malaysia for its handling of a missing jetliner has been unfair, said Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam on Friday.

Calling the mystery of Flight MH370 a "most unusual, bizarre situation", he said there have been many theories over what could have happened.

"I don't think enough account has been taken of the fact that there was very little to go on, very little that the Malaysians or anyone knew of the matter," he said during a lunch with Singapore's Foreign Correspondents Association at the Shangri-La Hotel.

The Malaysian government has come under fire, both from overseas and from its own citizens, since the Beijing-bound airplane went missing after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8.

Some criticised the country's leaders for releasing information too slowly, while others said Prime Minister Najib Razak jumped the gun when he said on Monday that the plane was lost at sea in the Indian Ocean, but without providing further proof.

China has also urged for more transparency in the investigation.

Mr Shanmugam was also asked about the apparent lack of cooperation between Asean members during search efforts for the jet, and whether this was linked to competing territorial claims of islands in the South China Sea.

He disagreed with the point, adding there was "no lack of will" in wanting to co-operate.

"I don't believe any of the Asean countries were tardy in their response in any way," he said.

But their response also had to be seen in the context of the resources these countries have.

Singapore dispatched a free-swimming submersible which can search up to 500m underwater, but how many other Asean countries had such equipment, he asked.

Most of these countries are at a stage of development where their budgets go to healthcare and education, he said.

"The amount of money you would set aside for training a large corps of disaster relief personnel in the overall scheme of things is there, but not in the level of Japan and China or the US," he added.

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