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Sunday 21 September 2014

Malaysian government 'hiding crucial information on lost jet'

Barney Henderson in London

Published 04/04/2014 | 02:30

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Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Stephanie Went keeps watch for any sign of debris aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force April 4, 2014. Malaysia's prime minister visited the Australian search base for missing Flight MH370 on Thursday as a nuclear-powered submarine joined the near-four week hunt that has so far failed to find any sign of the missing airliner and the 239 people on board. REUTERS/Australian Defence Force/Handout via Reuters (MID-SEA - Tags: MILITARY TRANSPORT MARITIME) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Stephanie Went keeps watch for any sign of debris aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba as it continues the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
In this Tuesday, April 1, 2014 photo made available Thursday, April 3, 2014, crewmen on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion Rescue Flight 795 search for debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in southern Indian Ocean, 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) northwest of Perth, Australia. No trace of the Boeing 777 has been found nearly a month after it vanished in the early hours of March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Kim Christian, POOL)
Crewmen on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion Rescue Flight 795 search for debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in southern Indian Ocean, 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) northwest of Perth, Australia
A Korean Air Force P3 Orion returns from the search operation for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 (AP)
A Korean Air Force P3 Orion returns from the search operation for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 (AP)

Malaysia's government is deliberately concealing information that would help to explain what happened to missing flight MH370, the country's opposition leader has claimed.

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In an interview that cast doubt on the official investigation into the disappearance of the plane, Anwar Ibrahim said the country's "sophisticated" radar system would have identified it after it changed course and crossed back over Malaysia.

Mr Anwar, who knew the pilot of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that went missing in the early hours of March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, called for an international committee to take over the Malaysian-led operation because "the integrity of the whole nation is at stake".

He indicated it was even possible that there was complicity by authorities on the ground in what happened to the plane and the 239 people on board.

In an interview, Mr Anwar said he had personally authorised the installation of "one of the most sophisticated radar" systems in the world, based near the South China Sea and covering Malaysia's mainland and east and west coastlines, when he was the country's finance minister in 1994.

The 66-year-old was once deputy prime minister in Malaysia's ruling coalition, which has governed the country since independence from Britain in 1957.

However, after falling out with the country's leaders, he was charged with sodomy, imprisoned twice and beaten in custody. He now leads a pro-democracy coalition of parties that lost last year's election despite winning more than 50pc of the popular vote amid allegations of corruption by the government.

Mr Anwar said it was "not only unacceptable but not possible, not feasible" that the plane had not been sighted by the Marconi radar immediately after it changed course.

The radar, he said, would have instantly detected the Boeing 777 as it travelled east to west across "at least four" Malaysian provinces.

BAFFLING

Mr Anwar said it was "baffling" that the country's air force had "remained silent", and claimed that it "should take three minutes under SOP [standard operating procedure] for the air force planes to go. And there was no response."

He added: "We don't have the sophistication of the United States or Britain but still we have the capacity to protect our borders."

He said the families of the 153 Chinese victims among those on board were right to demand information from the Malaysian government, which had permitted a multi-national search operation to spend a week looking in what it must have known was the wrong place.

"Why didn't we alert the Chinese, the Vietnamese that the operation should cease in the South China Sea and let them spend millions on search and rescue in a place that they know fairly well cannot be the site of the plane?"

As hope fades of recovering the plane's black box before its batteries start to fail, which could be as early as Monday, Mr Anwar said it was "at the least, incompetence" on the part of the Malaysian government that it is still not known what happened to the plane, but was also a deliberate "intention to suppress key information". "Unfortunately the manner in which this was handled after the first few days was clearly suspect," he said.

"I believe the government knows more than us. They have the authority to instruct the air force or Malaysia Airlines. They are privy to most of these missing bits of information critical to our understanding of this mysterious disappearance."

Mr Anwar indicated it was a possibility that officials on the ground were complicit in what happened on the plane. But he later added that "the realm of possibilities is so vague, I mean, anything can have happened".

Malaysian authorities did not respond officially to requests for comment on Mr Anwar's accusations, but have previously accused him of politicising the crisis. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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