Since Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) went missing on March 8, over a week has passed, and there is still no sight of the plane. The lack of progress in the search has scorched the Malaysian government and Malaysian Airlines, and left grieving relatives feeling even more helpless.
On Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak held a press conference, at which he confirmed that the plane's communications had been deliberately disabled and it had flown for more than six hours off course.
He also stated that the radar of Malaysia's air force had picked up the traces of the jet heading westward. It is probable that the plane has crossed over the Malaysian Peninsula and headed to the northern part of the Strait of Malacca.
Many presumptions such as technical failures can no longer hold water. The plane may well have been hijacked, which although has not been officially confirmed by the Malaysian government.
But no matter how dramatic the turn is, it still cannot shift the public's attention from the lousy job that the Malaysian government has been doing since the plane went missing.
The concerns about what direction the jet was flying after it lost contact with air traffic control have been hovering for days, and the Malaysian government is unable to give credible answers.
In the very first few days when search and rescue is of vital importance, vessels from many countries such as China, Vietnam and the US, rummaged almost every corner of the Gulf of Thailand. They acted based on the statement of the Malaysian government, which said the plane might have crashed after it lost contact before it reached the east coast of Malaysia.
However, they found no reliable trace of the plane. When hope gradually faded away in this area, some Western media and US intelligence agencies thought the plane might have headed westward into the Indian Ocean.
After the search area was widely expanded, India also joined in the operation on Friday, searching the areas near the border of the Indian Ocean. The Indian army has sent planes to blanket hundreds of isles over the Andaman Islands.
In the meantime, two of China's nine ships, which were initially deployed at the Gulf of Thailand, also turned and sailed into the Strait of Malacca. Bangladesh and the US also shifted their attention to this new search area.
Tracing the plane has now become an international effort. More than 10 countries and tens of vessels are involved in the search, which is also expanding as new information emerges. But at the initial stage, information released by the Malaysian government has not been helpful, but has created chaos in the search. This incident shows that the country's air defense and monitoring are very weak.
The lack of national strength and experience in dealing with incidents has left the Malaysian government helpless and exhausted by denying all kinds of rumors. The communication failures make the search and rescue process harder.
As time passes, the Malaysian government has lost authority and credibility on this issue. Exact information is key to any rescue effort, but the Malaysian government has been offering only ambiguous messages. It even got the direction of the flight wrong after it lost contact and traversed the peninsula. Last week's efforts were in vain.
After these failures, the Malaysian government will face the stern eyes of other countries. If the search continues to be fruitless even following the new information, Malaysia would be better off handing over its command in the international rescue operation.
No country can conduct such a massive operation alone no matter how powerful it is. Miracles can only be made together. More collaboration will be badly needed in the next step of the search and rescue operation.
The author is Head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham. firstname.lastname@example.org
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