Malaysia under scrutiny as plane mystery drags on

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia vehemently denies mishandling crucial information on the fate of missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370, but questions persist as to whether early missteps and secrecy contributed to the disappearance of a huge passenger plane on a clear night.

Foreign media reports, especially those in China’s state media, have accused the Malaysian authorities of incompetence, misleading the public and exacerbating the suffering of the relatives of those missing.

Two-thirds of the passengers on the Boeing-777 that effectively vanished 11 days ago were Chinese nationals.

The Malaysian government has pleaded for patience and understanding, arguing it has no choice but to hold back information that has not been painstakingly verified.

Critics say the lack of progress in the search for the plane is symptomatic of an inefficient ruling elite unused to tough questioning.

“The Malaysian leadership is not used to being held to account on anything,” Michael Barr, an Asian politics expert at Flinders University in Australia, told AFP.

“They are more used to controlling the press and silencing critics,” he said.

The authoritarian Barisan Nasional government has been in power since independence from colonial rulers Britain in 1957.

It has overseen decades of growth that have seen Malaysia emerge as Southeast Asia’s third largest economy, posting a healthy GDP expansion of 4.7 percent last year.