'10 years on, people still accusing me over disappearance of MH370' - Former aviation chief

Ex-CAAM head still faces accusations, doubts closure for himself or families

07 Mar 2024 11:37am
A piece of unknown debris floats just under the water as seen from a Royal New Zealand P3 Orion while it searches for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, over the Indian Ocean on March 31, 2014. - FILE PIX by AFP
A piece of unknown debris floats just under the water as seen from a Royal New Zealand P3 Orion while it searches for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, over the Indian Ocean on March 31, 2014. - FILE PIX by AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Ten years on, people are still questioning and accusing me over the disappearance of MH370, laments Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, former chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM).

Discussing the enigmatic disappearance of the ill-fated aircraft that continues to baffle the world, he addressed accusations of concealing information about the plane vanishing.

The aircraft took off from KLIA in the early hours of March 8, 2014, bound for Beijing, only to disappear without a trace, sparking a global mystery that endures to this day.

Despite various assumptions and theories by aviation experts to date, the million-dollar question as to why the aircraft backtracked over Peninsula Malaysia, is still unanswered.

He described the MH370 tragedy, in which 239 passengers and crew disappeared, as the most challenging case he had ever handled and the greatest aviation mystery to date.

As for the families of those missing, closure has remained elusive, creating a profound burden for both them and Azharuddin to bear.

He attributes this painful memory to being the key figure leading and managing the search for the aircraft on a particularly tumultuous day.

CAAM, previously known as the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), oversaw the operations of the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre, and Azharuddin was at the helm of the DCA when the tragic incident unfolded.

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Azharuddin said people are still curious and constantly ask him about the search mission that was conducted.

However, some families still do not believe the (CAAM) even after a decade, he said sorrowfully.

"Whenever I attend a wedding or a community surau, people come forward and ask me what exactly happened,” he told Bernama recently.

People still question, no closure

"Looking at the way the aircraft flew back, went to Penang, Langkawi and Sumatra, and then returned again, it has to be flown by a pilot who knows what he is doing and someone who has flown a Boeing 777 aircraft because he followed the track or flight path a commercial airlines fly.

"But who is the pilot, no one knows. Was it Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah? Or was it someone else? If it was Zaharie, where was the co-pilot?” he elaborated.

He further emphasised that the MH370 aircraft lacked safeguards such as equipment preventing unauthorised individuals from taking control of the plane.

The Malaysia Airlines aircraft with 239 people on board left the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing at 12.41 am that day and vanished from the radar screen about two hours after departure.

Netflix docuseries based on assumptions

Following that, there is the Netflix three-part series titled 'MH370: The Plane that Disappeared,' which aired in March last year, featuring three theories, including sensational conspiracies.

According to Azharuddin the theories outlined were based on assumptions and unacceptable.

"I was so unhappy with the outcome of the series that I wrote a (nasty) letter to them (producers) over my dissatisfaction.

"They initially informed me that the series would be narrated centered on the theme of grief, and conducted an eight-hour interview with me,” he said.

The British docuseries explored three distinct conspiracy theories as it sought to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the aircraft.

Will we ever able to find MH370?

Following its disappearance, massive search operations involving several countries were conducted in the southern Indian Ocean but neither the plane nor its wreckage was found.

Malaysia and some international companies have conducted extensive search operations covering millions of square kilometers through air, surface sea, and undersea endeavours in an effort to locate the elusive missing aircraft.

On March 4, 2024, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has expressed Malaysia's readiness to reopen the investigation into the missing MH370 flight if new and compelling evidence comes to light.

Meanwhile, Minister of Transport Anthony Loke has provided assurance that the ministry is committed to securing Cabinet approval for entering into a new contract with Ocean Infinity to resume the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

He mentioned that upon the completion of Ocean Infinity's proposal, Malaysia will initiate contact with the Australian government to seek their cooperation, facilitating an immediate commencement of the search.

Families and relatives of MH370 are still clinging to hope for closure, and as uncertainty looms over the prospects of renewed optimism, let's remain optimistic that the latest attempt will ultimately deliver justice and closure for the 239 lives lost and their grieving loved ones. - BERNAMA