MH370: $5m question

June 10, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

The cash award announced for the missing airliner shows that loss of trust in the Malaysian government is complete.

Three months after it disappeared, where has the search for flight MH370 reached? It has ended up in a fund floated to reward anyone providing information on the Malaysia Airline plane. The $5m corpus being raised by families of some of the passengers on board is proof enough that the trust in the search and rescue operation being overseen by the Malaysian government has been lost.

It is the first time in the history of aviation disaster that there is no clue of an aircraft more than 90 days after it lost contact with air traffic control on way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. It is also for the first time that an award has been announced for information about a plane, especially by a non-government entity.   This whistleblowing initiative underscores the exasperation over the disaster. It is an answer to the irresponsible waffling by Malaysian government authorities, who in numerous press conferences, aroused insatiable curiosity but failed to reply to even the basic questions of the grieving relatives of the victims. The move is an epitaph of the attempts a number of countries have been making to look for the Boeing 777. Led by Malaysia, which came in for severe criticism by governments worldwide for not doing enough to trace the plane, the search operation has piled up costs amid confusion over their allocation among countries. 

The Malaysian government announced yesterday that it had spent $8.6m in looking for the missing aircraft. The sum does not include costs incurred by other countries in the extensive search operation. 

Without giving clear reasons as to why the search hasn’t yielded results, Malaysia has decided to scour new areas for the aircraft — which seems to be another shot in the dark. 

The crowdfunding initiative rests on the premise that authorities are obfuscating facts about the aircraft gone missing. Families hope someone might blow the whistle on a fact that may throw light on the tragedy.

The International Air Transport Association summit recently held in Doha took up the case of MH370 that has pushed experts to look for new ways to track aircraft in flight and to plug loopholes that are potential safety threats. 

Experts at the Doha meet also raked up the issue of Malaysia not scrambling fighter jets immediately after the airliner lost contact. It is an international aviation practice to send warplanes into the sky to look for a missing commercial aircraft. Malaysian authorities have, however, not given a plausible reason for not doing so. 

Amid fading worldwide interest Malaysia is going to look for the aircraft in new territory — as expected it doesn’t still know to which region the search operation will shift. The families may still be holding on to frail hopes of a discovery, but for the world MH370 is the embodiment of a crisis allowed to get out of control.