KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Putrajaya has major security flaws if it claims that the military could not detect Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 as the plane deviated from its Beijing-bound route back over the peninsula, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has said.
The former deputy prime minister stressed that the Malaysian military radar at the Gong Kedak air force base in between Kelantan and Terengganu is a “very sophisticated” system that can track the border of Thailand to the central Malaysian peninsula, the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
“The air force staff might be asleep but … the beeps would be so loud that they must have been alerted and there would [be the] recording of the radar,” Anwar told Thailand’s The Nation newspaper in an interview last week that was published today.
“The plane crossed five provinces, Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, Perak, Penang our heartland. We have major security problems if the government says it could not detect it,” added the opposition leader.
The Malaysian military has said that fighter jets did not intercept the Boeing 777 plane when it diverted from its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route and crossed back over the peninsula because the commercial jet was not viewed as “hostile”.
They have, however, not publicly acknowledged that the military had tracked the jetliner in real time as it flew back over the peninsula, according to a Reuters report on April 11.
The report quoted a senior government source and four other civilian and military officials as saying that air traffic controllers and military personnel had assumed that the plane had turned back to a Malaysian airport because of mechanical trouble, after it vanished from civilian radar screens at 1.21am on March 8.
The international newswire noted that the assumption was made despite the cockpit not issuing a distress call or making any other communications, which could have indicated that the jetliner was hijacked.
Reuters also reported that Putrajaya has started investigating military and civil aviation authorities to find out why they missed the chance to identify and track Flight MH370 in the initial hours after it disappeared.
In his interview with The Nation, Anwar also attacked Putrajaya for attempting to link Flight MH370 pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah to him.
“All Umno blogs and Malaysian media made reference that Zaharie was a fanatical supporter of Anwar,” said the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and PKR de facto leader.
Anwar acknowledged that seven hours after the Court of Appeal convicted him of sodomy, Zaharie, who is an active PKR member and is related to his daughter-in-law, took off with the flight.
“He was known to have expressed his views against frauds in the elections and corruption in this country and supporting reforms. He supports democratic transition, free elections, which means he is against any form of extremist, fanatical or terrorist activities,” Anwar pointed out.
British tabloid the Daily Mail reported last March that Zaharie was an “obsessive” supporter of Anwar and quoted police sources as saying that they feared the Court of Appeal’s five-year jail sentence against the opposition leader had left the pilot “profoundly upset”.
Anwar also hit out at Putrajaya for not releasing the cargo manifest of Flight MH370, with the police merely saying that there were four tonnes of mangosteens on the plane.
“The Thais and Malaysians laugh about it because we know this is not the mangosteen season and you cannot get four tonnes off-season easily,” he said.
“The passenger list and the cargo manifest are there on all flights. Why are we hiding them? And there was also Interpol’s report of stolen passports and we overlook(ed) that,” added the opposition leader.
The international police agency has slammed Putrajaya for claiming that it takes too long to check passports with an Interpol database, after the Malaysian government attempted to deflect criticism for allowing two Iranian passengers on Flight MH370 to board the plane with stolen passports.
Anwar told The Nation that the Malaysian government lacked transparency and accountability in managing the MH370 disaster.
“It's a tragedy, not only for the crew members, the passengers and their families, but it also opens up some of the major flaws in our opaque system of governance. No transparency and accountability,” he said.
Anwar cited the previous disappearance of two jet engines, which he said no one was held accountable for, and the murder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu, of which he said there were no records of her entry and exit from Malaysia.
“This tradition of an opaque system of cover-up has happened many times in the past. But it was not of interest to the international community until MH370,” he said.
Despite a massive international search in the southern Indian Ocean, where the plane is believed to have crashed, no wreckage or human remains have been found.