Tuesday 1 April 2014


With Thanks to FMT:

 | April 1, 2014
He is Malaysia's saving grace amidst the bungling over MH370

The missing MH370 occupies my thoughts from the moment I wake up to the last minutes of consciousness before I fall asleep.
I think of the people waiting to hear of the fate of their loved ones, spouses wondering what might have happened to their partners, parents anxious for news about sons and daughters, relatives and friends praying for the safety of everyone on board and, most heart rending of all, children waiting for the return of their parents.
I do not know any of the passengers or crew members, and yet I read, watch and listen to every bit of information coming from out there and try to imagine how those with loved ones on the flight are bearing their pain.
I’m sure millions out there share my thoughts and feelings and are thankful that the world has joined Malaysia in the search for closure.
I have to believe that our government is doing all it can to to search for the missing aircraft.
I am comforted by the confidence and precise manner with which Acting Transport Minister-cum-Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein faces the world media and answers the questions thrown at him.
When he does not know something, he says he does not know. When a question can be better answered by MAS CEO Jauhari Yahya, he defers to him.
Hishammuddin is Malaysia’s public face for a world hungry for information, and he does not disappoint. But others who at various time have taken centre stage for their fifteen seconds of fame have been disappointing.
The IGP and the Chief of Armed Forces are often lost in their own self-importance and our nation will be better off if they are kept in the background. Hishammuddin alone suffices.
I cringe as I watch the police and armed forces chiefs bask in their imagined glory on the world stage. These two have not conducted themselves with the honour that their positions demand.
Even Najib has failed
For some reason, our Prime Minister thought it worthwhile to give two press briefings, but what he had to say I and millions of others had already heard from the Internet and other sources. And he was not even clear on what he wanted to say – did the plane crash or not? How could it end its flight it Indian Ocean without crashing?
And he did not have the nerve to take questions from the hungry global media and walked away from the briefings with his tail between his legs.
Obviously, he did not have the confidence to face the unscripted questions of the international media in their unrelenting pursuit of the truth.
Someone among the vast numbers of advisors that Najib has should have briefed him of the possible media frenzy fuelled by the voracious appetite of the public to know what had happened to MH370.
It has been more than three weeks now of Malaysia and MH370 hogging headlines everywhere in the civilized world, three weeks that present an unprecedented opportunity for our nation’s leaders to show the world what they are capable of doing when faced with a tragedy of epic proportions.
Never before and perhaps never again will they find themselves so much on the world stage. And except for Hishammuddin, they have all failed.
It is one thing to enter a room full of friendly and pliant media sycophants in the briefing room at Putrajaya and another to face reporters who do their questioning unscripted and unrehearsed and are relentless in their pursuit of the facts.
To them the PM or the Acting Transport Minister is not deserving of respect until they have proven themselves worthy of it. And most of our officials have not proven themselves worthy of the respect of those hardened journalists.
What did Najib hope to gain by taking centre stage at a briefing that Hishamuddin could have handled with ease? This man continues to astound us with his lack of depth.
Media frenzy
I do not know how MH370 will pan out, but if the world press is to believed—and its global audience makes it imperative for our leaders to take heed—the Malaysian government has failed to be open and transparent to the grieving families and thereby brought shame on our nation.
Background checks on the captain and his crew and passengers should have been part of standard procedure to be carried out as soon as the plane was reported missing. That would be what any responsible government would have done. That the authorities in Malaysia failed to do so does not do much for their credibility.
Did Najib not know that there would be a media frenzy brought on by the demands of a 24/7 news cycle?
Every bit of news, information and hearsay on MH370 was spun around the globe within seconds and then took on a life of its own.
What the government will not tell the international journalists they will not hesitate to find out from other sources, and many of these will speculate and spin.
This is indeed a sorry saga that will not end until there is closure with the discovery of MH370.
I hope that Hishammuddin will continue to helm the press conferences, and as the drama continues to unfold, our prayers are for those on board MH370 and the loved ones waiting desperately for news of them. Al Fatihah.

CT Ali is a reformist who believes in Pakatan Rakyat’s ideologies. He is a FMT columnist.

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