MH370: Time to Reassess the Shortcomings

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(Substitute the chill beer, wine and other liquors on a board with locally made, sugar high cendol and a plane is guaranteed not to crash into the sea – so says a joker in Malaysia. Perhaps he is right but then again this is not the right time and the place to say these things. Some people just don’t get it, do they? Image source: http://www.infoway.co)

The fate of the missing plane has somehow been determined – more or less. We can only say our deepest condolences to the families of the crew and passengers of MH370 and hope they would find some kind of closure and peace over the lost of their loved ones. MH370 will be remembered.

Despite this affirmation after 4 weeks into the incident, this however does not mean it would be the end – we still have the daunting task of finding the MH370’s black box. As one Australian commander had said, it is not an issue of finding the needle in a haystack but rather it is an issue of finding the haystack first. And once this is found (no doubt will be with great difficulty), we will still a long way to go before we can determine with surgical certainty on what had really happened to MH370. It’s our solemn duty to ensure that we get down to the actual reason for the MH370 deviating from its original flight path and ending up in the Indian Ocean. It’s strange that a plane that was heading north ended up deep south for no good reason.

Having said this, we should not also lose sight of the existing weaknesses that need to be addressed to avoid a similar incident in the near future. And over the last few weeks, other than the need to relook into how we can improve on crisis management, there have been calls to relook into beef up the security and control at airports:-

Has Malaysia paid a high price with its Third World standards and attitude towards security and asset management issues, was the question posed by a veteran newsman when commenting on the missing Malaysia Airlines Beijing-bound flight MH370.

Former New Straits Times editor-in-chief Datuk A. Kadir Jasin said that while waiting for news on the missing MH370, it cannot be denied that the control and security checks at Malaysian airports, including the Kuala Lumpur International Airport can be said to be “relaxed” compared with those in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

“Is this the repercussion for the corruption, abuse of power and negligence which have reportedly happened repeatedly in KLIA?” he asked in his latest blog posting, adding his voice to the growing criticism over poor airport security at the country’s main gateway.

(Source)

As angry as Kadir Jasin may be, one cannot dismiss the fact that the 2 Iranians had easy ride out from KLIA on fake passports and this does raises some serious questions on the security and controls in our airports. Even if the 2 Iranians had come in legitimately (using Iranian passport), then why no red flags raised when they exited on fake passports? Why didn’t the system showed the Immigration officers that no one had entered using the fake passport (for them to exit with the same passport)? Is because our immigration system does not keep track of passports details coming in and out OR is it because some one had been careless and failed to check this important fact?

MACC seemed to have an answer:-

“However, we did find that the Iranians managed to slip through due to the policy of speeding up the clearance of foreign visitors. “We recommend that the government gives more weight to security to prevent such instances instead of giving priority to customer oriented service,” he said during a briefing session on “Is MACC Credible?” at Wisma Bernama, here Monday.

He added that it was quite impossible for Immigration to check all passports against Interpol’s system which lists more than 40 million missing passports in a short time.

(Source)

Unfortunately, it is not a good answer as this also means criminals, terrorists and other parasites of the society have an easy way in and out of the country. And in MH370, we were dealing with Iranians. What about the string of the so-called Nigerian students who come to this country for nothing but scams and drug peddling? It seems to be on the rise too. When we going to ban these parasite “students” outright from coming to this country and contributing to the crime statistics? When another plane goes missing? When there have been a massive shootout in public over a failed drug deals?

And then there is an issue of the failure of the Malaysian military to properly track and intercept a commercial plane that had deviated from its flight path. This issue has been a big question for many people.

The Time reports:-

The world wants to know how a rogue Boeing 777 can fly at will over Malaysia without military jets being scrambled. “Clearly they had let an unidentified aircraft pass through Malaysian sovereign territory without bothering to identify it; not something they were happy to admit,” writes aviation consultant David Learmount, who had previously decried “a chaotic lack of coordination between the Malaysian agencies.”

The Malaysian military spotted the missing jet passing through three military radars over the country’s far northeast, before it headed out over the Strait of Malacca. But despite its erratic behaviour, the American-made F-18s and F-5 fighters on alert at Butterworth Air Force base sat idle. Had the jets been scrambled, the world would have been saved a massive and extraordinary search operation.

“There was clearly a significant failure of response on behalf of the Malaysian Air Force. There’s no real way around it and you might imagine heads would roll for that,” says Anthony Davis, Bangkok-based analyst for defence-and-security-intelligence firm IHS-Jane.

(Source)

And this:-

According to the NYT report, a four-person air force crew based in Butterworth watching for intrusions into the country’s airspace either did not notice or failed to report a blip on their defensive radar and air traffic radar that was moving steadily across the country from east to west, heading right towards them.

Even the crews at two other radar installations at Kota Baru did not designate the blip as an unknown intruder, while the jetliner continued to fly across the country without anyone watching or alerting a superior or the national defence command, despite the fact that the radar contact’s flight path did not correspond to any filed flight plan.

And as a result, combat aircraft never scrambled to investigate.

(Source)

Once again, the question is whether it is a failure of the system or the people behind the system? And it cast a dark shadow on the integrity of our air defence system and tracking of what flying in and out of the country (never say that Malaysia is immune to attacks like the 9/11, not after we had the Sulu intrusion in the past).

Then RMAF responded with this:-

In revealing this today, Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri said the air force decided to ignore the radar signal because the aircraft was categorised as non-hostile in nature.

“We thought the aircraft was non-hostile, we assumed it was a directive of the control tower that had directed the plane to turn back,” he told the Dewan Rakyat today.

Many have pointed out that a telephone call from the military to the air traffic control on that morning could have alerted the tragedy, saved lives and millions of ringgit used for the search and rescue operations. The civilian air traffic control was also faulted for not raising the alarm when the aircraft went missing off its radar.

(Source)

Now that is out in the open, it is unsettling to know that the military assume things (some commentators mentioned being lazy) when they detect something out of the ordinary. And there seems to be a massive breakdown of escalations when the DCA failed to contact the plane.

Moving on, here’s one to turn your stomach around and puke in disguise:-

Amid the frantic search for the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, a pro-government Islamic talk-show host has drawn up a list of lessons to be learnt from this saga, including the advice that female flight attendants be allowed to don the hijab. Ridhuan, in the Sinar Harian column, also urged Malaysia Airlines not to imitate Western values and suggested the airline stopped serving liquor on its flights.

“Those who ask for liquor are those who are used to drinking. Distract them with more nutritious local food like cendol and such,” said Ridhuan, referring to the sweet coconut milk dessert.

(Source)

Frankly speaking, I don’t know whether this supersedes the Bomoh coconut clown show at KLIA in this crisis but thing for sure, it by far most, this has to be one of the dumbest statement coming from a fellow Malaysian. Then again, there’s nothing new from this Chinese who tries too hard to be a Malay.

One would just hope that the foreign media does not pick up this little bit of insult and turn it around for another round of laughter at the expense of the missing crew, passengers and the country as whole. It is dangerous too as he now implies that the plane had crashed only because the airline had served liquors and female flight attendants not wearing to the “right” uniform. Has he forgotten that the iconic current uniform itself is a modern manifestation of the baju kebaya, itself is part of the Malay traditional dress? On the case of liquor, no one is forcing anyone in the plane to take them – it is just part of the service. Just fly Emirates (the largest airline in the Middle East) and you will know.

Didn’t I say that this has to be one of the dumbest statement coming from a fellow Malaysian, did I? The joker is barking on the wrong side of the tree.

Let’s focus on what is more important in respect to the tragedy and have some courtesy and due respect to all those who had perish in this tragedy and hope we make amend on shortcomings without any delays so that the nation will not face another tragedy at this scale.

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