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MH370 CRASH: Chinese passengers' relatives clash with M'sian officials again
Publication Date : 27-03-2014
Calling the conclusion that the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) jetliner had crashed with no survivors a "speculative" one, frustrated relatives of the 153 Chinese nationals on board the ill-fated flight had yet another tense and ugly confrontation with a high-level Malaysian government delegation yesterday.
They were infuriated by what they said was merely a "deduction" of their loved ones' fate using analysis of satellite data that the Malaysian government itself did not understand and could not defend.
"There is a 50km blind spot in the Malaysian military's radar. And no one in Malaysia knows how to do his job. So, my deduction is that the end of Malaysia is near. What do you think of my deduction?" said one family member sarcastically.
The barb was just one of several that were met with cheers and clapping from about 300 other relatives during the meeting, as the Malaysian delegation sat mostly in stony silence.
At various points during the three-hour meeting, the Malaysians were accused of lying and being ignorant and were told to "go back to school".
The delegation, fronted by Malaysian Ambassador to China Iskandar Sarudin and Air Force Lieutenant-General Ackbal Abdul Samad, could not answer many of the relatives' technical questions about the satellite analysis that led British satellite firm Inmarsat to conclude that MH370 had flown through the southern corridor before ending in the southern Indian Ocean.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's announcement late on Monday night was based on Inmarsat's analysis, which used an unprecedented way of calculating the MAS aircraft's final position.
The Malaysians tried to explain that as they were not experts in the subject matter, they had asked the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which first received Inmarsat's data and then decided to forward it to Malaysia, to send a representative to meet the relatives.
But AAIB declined, they told the Chinese, who in turn asked what purpose they hoped to serve in Beijing if they could not answer technical questions.
Iskandar was told repeatedly by the family members to speak. Asked how Sino-Malaysia ties can remain friendly after the incident, he said "no comment".
Asked whether the speculative nature of the satellite evidence meant the passengers could still be alive, Iskandar said Najib had already made a statement on the issue. Asked why Najib made the statement with no proof, Iskandar again replied: "No comment."
At one point, one of the relatives shouted at the ambassador to stop smiling, which he denied.
The families were also furious with MAS, which withdrew all its staff from Beijing's Metropark Lido Hotel after Monday night's announcement.
Although MAS chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said more than 700 caregivers had been assigned to look after the families' needs, not a single one could be seen, the relatives said, adding that no one was manning the 24-hour hotline set up for them.
An MAS official said that the staff had been told to "stay away" by Chinese government officials.
"We saw the situation on Monday night - it was very emotional and tense. We got instructions from the Chinese authorities not to come," he said.
The admission only added to the families' anger. They expressed indignation at the implication, noting that they had neither been violent nor had threatened any MAS staff.
"Your attitude is to use a coward's heart to judge what a gentleman might do," said one, using a Chinese proverb.
The MAS official also said that of the 700 caregivers, about "50 plus" were in Beijing.
When family members pointed out that two-thirds of the affected relatives are in China and so deserved more resources, the MAS official explained that as the care- givers are volunteers, they cannot be forced to come to China. But MAS staff and caregivers have returned to the hotel, he added.
In a sign that the Malaysian government was reaching the end of its tether with the abuse it was getting from the Chinese side, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday reminded all that Malaysians too had lost loved ones who were on MH370.
Speaking at the daily press conference in Kuala Lumpur, he contrasted the reaction of the Chinese families with that of families elsewhere. Those in Australia were "very rational".
"They understand that this is a global effort, not blaming Malaysia directly because we are coordinating something that is unprecedented," he said.
Asked about this, a member of the families' representative committee who gave his name as Steven Wang said that "the people of the world can see what's happening".
"The Malaysian government may say we are blaming them unfairly, or even that China's satellite pictures misled them. But who, from Day One, led everyone to search in the South China Sea? Who said only on Day Five that the plane turned back? Who said only on Day Seven that it flew until 8:11am? Everyone knows whose fault this is," he said.
He added: "Would any other country let an unidentified plane fly like that through its airspace for hours?"