KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Malaysia’s radar system has the ability to track an aircraft flying westwards from the peninsula right up to the Indian Ocean, former finance minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said, fuelling a now popular view that the country had allegedly responded too late to the MH370 crisis or has been withholding information.
Anwar, now the leader of Malaysia’s federal opposition, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview this morning that he had been the finance minister when Malaysia procured the Radar Marconi system.
He said with the system, Malaysia should have been able to detect the plane’s movement when it made the “air turnback” westwards, diverting off its original flight path to Beijing.
“They had the capability to detect any flight from the west — or from the east to the west coast, from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean,” he said, according to CNN’s report on the interview, which was aired at 3am local time.
In an April 13, 2000, report by local daily the New Straits Times, Italian firm Alenia-Marconi Systems was awarded a contract in 1994 to supply Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) with primary and secondary radars.
As at the time of the newspaper report, Malaysia had five primary and seven secondary radars installed at the Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Johor, Subang, Langkawi, Labuan and Sepang airports.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was headed to Beijing with 239 people when it lost contact with ground control shortly after take-off on the morning of March 8, nearly two weeks ago.
The wide-body Boeing 777 aircraft was at the time believed to have disappeared from view at 1.30am when it was facing northeast to Vietnam, less than an hour after it left the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 12.41am.
At 7.24am that morning, one hour after MH370 was due to arrive at the Beijing airport and over six hours after last contact, MAS issued a press statement to confirm the plane’s disappearance.
Malaysia has now become the target of criticisms from the world over as the search for MH370 continues to wield no answers, irking the Chinese especially, who have 153 of their own on board the missing aircraft.
Anwar appeared to subscribed to the same opinion in the interview with Amanpour, telling the senior broadcast journalist that the problem lies with the Malaysian government.
“I find it shocking that (the government officials) are not able, that they were not able, or they give some very scanty sort of information.”
“The problem is credibility of the leadership. They are culpable because there is a general perception that they are not opening up, that there is an opaque system at work,” he was quoted saying in CNN’s report.
Yesterday, the MH370 briefing centre in Sepang turned into a scene of chaos when relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane tried to stage a protest against Putrajaya’s handling of the crisis.
Five of them stormed the media room at the Sama-Sama Hotel and began shouting at Malaysian officials while holding a banner saying, “We demand the Malaysian government reveal the truth”, expressing their doubt towards official information released to date.
One of them, a middle-aged woman, was seen crying out aloud, telling the officials to return her son immediately.
“I have been here for four days I want my son back,” she said in a thick Mandarin accent while the media jostled with each other to record the incident.
The incident forced hotel security to push them out but the five refused, causing skirmishes between them.
The relatives, who were among those Malaysia Airlines had flown in from Beijing, were later told to calm down in a waiting room guarded by police officers.
Reporters were unable to interview the five as security officials barred their way.
The relatives had also tried to storm the media room amid a press conference nearby by Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein but was prevented from entering the room by security personnel.
Their sudden protest comes after more than a week’s worth of scathing editorials in China’s state-run newspaper Xinhua, demanding greater openness from Kuala Lumpur and MAS.
China’s Premier Li Keqiang had asked Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to provide details about the missing flight “in a timely, accurate and comprehensive manner”
Some desperate relatives have threatened to go on hunger strike in an attempt to get answers about the missing aircraft from Malaysian officials.
Two-thirds of the 239 people on board the Beijing-bound jumbo jet are Chinese nationals.