The search for the missing plane off Western Australia. Photo: AFP
The Sydney Morning Herald
One of the most influential figures in Malaysia’s ruling party claims information about flight MH370 is being hidden and the Australian-led search for the plane off Western Australia is a waste of time and money.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said the plane’s disappearance on March 8 was “most likely not an ordinary crash after fuel was exhausted”.
“The plane is somewhere, maybe without MAS [Malaysia Airlines] markings,” he said. “It is a waste of time and money to look for debris or oil slick or to listen for pings from the black box.”
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, pictured in 2003. Photo: Reuters
Dr Mahathir, 88, who was prime minister for 22 years from 1981, wrote in his personal blog he could not imagine that “the pilots made a soft landing in rough seas and then quietly went down with the aircraft”.
“Someone is hiding something. It is not fair that MAS and Malaysia should take the blame,” he wrote.
Dr Mahathir suggested the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency had knowledge of the disappearance of the plane with 239 people on board but was not sharing it with Malaysia.
He also claimed that Boeing, the plane’s maker, and “certain” government agencies, have the ability to remotely take over control of commercial airliners such as the missing Boeing 777.
“For some reason, the media will not print anything that involves Boeing or the CIA,” he said.
In another blog last month, Dr Mahathir, who remains a power broker in the ruling United Malays National Organisation, questioned whether the plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean and blamed Boeing for its disappearance.
During his time in power, Dr Mahathir was often critical of Western countries such as the US, even once suggesting the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York were staged as an excuse to mount attacks on the Muslim world.
His comments on MH370 reflect deep suspicion in Malaysia of foreign involvement in the plane’s disappearance despite Prime Minister Najib Razak saying last week that nobody knew what happened on board, or precisely where the plane was, more than two months after it disappeared.
Mr Najib said experts had identified that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean, where the search was focused, discounting dozens of other theories and reported sightings.
But Dr Mahathir wrote in his latest blog that planes “don’t just disappear … certainly not these days, with all the powerful communications systems, radio and satellite tracking and filmless cameras which operate almost indefinitely, and possess huge storage capacities”.
“Can it not be that the pilots of MH370 lost control of their aircraft after someone directly or remotely activated the equipment for seizure of control of the aircraft?” he wrote.
Meanwhile, relatives of the 12 crew members on the plane claim Malaysia Airlines abandoned them after discovering they had engaged US law firm Ribbeck Law Chartered for legal assistance.
Jacquita Gonzales, the wife of Patrick Gomez who was the in-flight supervisor on MH370, said the airline sent relatives an email last Friday advising that caregivers who had been assigned to help families had been terminated.
The airline earlier this month closed family assistance and accommodation centres in Beijing.
“From day one they [Malaysia Airlines] said that we are all family. ‘Anything you want, just come to us, we will help you.’ That’s why caregivers were assigned to us,” Ms Gonzales, 51, said. “But to take away our caregivers, our lifeline to MAS, just like that … it’s actually not right because our caregivers are not there to advise on legal matters.”
Ms Gonzales said the airline had told relatives to now engage with the airline through lawyers.
“As far as I am concerned, my husband is still an employee of MAS … as far as I am concerned, my husband is still on MH370, a flight to Beijing and he has not come back from Beijing yet,” she said.
Malaysia Airlines has not responded to the relatives’ comments.
Meanwhile, two films inspired by MH370 are being touted to buyers at the Cannes Film Festival. A 90-minute teaser for Vanishing Act, showing terrified passengers and a gun being brandished, was shot over six days in India.