by Koon Yew Yin
As the mystery and drama over the disappearance of MAS MH 370 continues, it is difficult to find any consolation or solace. 239 lives have been lost and thousands of friends, relatives and acquaintances are grieving.
For now, what stands out is the ugly. Painful to watch and distressing are the only terms we can use to describe how our authorities have responded to this crisis. It is true that this has been an unprecedented disaster but only in terms of the international coordination that is required. It should not be used as an excuse for bungling and mismanagement especially from officials at the highest level.
The initial shock and bewilderment that was experienced when the story broke out is now being followed by questions focusing not only on the plane’s disappearance but also on the conduct of the authorities in responding to the plane loss.
Greater transparency and accountability is the message that needs drumming into our officials and government. Being Malaysians, we have been polite and circumspect in our questioning and criticism. We have been understanding and patient but for how much longer.
Every day since March 8 has brought more confused information from the authorities, more mishandling of the public relations fallout, and more evidence of inconsistencies and incompetence in handling the flight disappearance. This has led to exasperation and concern that the Malaysian authorities are withholding information or have been selective with the information shared with the public and other national authorities, or worse, are not in control of the situation.
What is the root cause of the mishandling and bungling of this mishap which is being beamed live to the whole world to see? Authoritarianism, a paternalistic government, a government that tolerates low standards of competency, a government that cannot take criticism: these and other uncomplimentary reasons are being put forward by analysts to explain the way in which the authorities have mismanaged the investigation.
While I agree with the unflattering views of many foreign analysts, I do not agree with the view of some outside observers that our authorities have anything to hide. What has happened has strengthened my conviction that our authorities are trying their level best to find the plane and bring this tragedy to a closure. Those that have appeared at the daily press conferences should be accused of incompetence and lack of professionalism or of being disorganised or muddled headed in responding to questions. But it is not right or fair to accuse them and the government for not being committed to finding the answer as to why this disaster happened.
A silver lining
On the bright side, if there is a silver lining to this tragedy, what stands out for me is that the pain of relatives and friends is also our nation’s pain. It seems to have taken a huge disaster such as this one to bring the nation together, to unify us in a collective grief and, at least for now, to enable us to put aside our racial and religious differences.
As I read through the daily media reports and almost hourly updates in the social media, what is impressive is the feedback from common people, especially from young Malaysians, which reveals their sense of common humanity, patriotism and love for the country and also their desire to make the country become better for all of us.
A country that can share pain, loss and hurt together is a country that can stand and stay together is the hopeful initial silver lining we can take away. Even if at the end, the cause for the MAS MH 370 disappearance is not fully or satisfactorily known or explained, it has brought out the good side of the country as well as highlighted our shortcomings and shown up what is incompetent and deficient in our national system. But can our authorities and MAS — and ultimately our national leadership — correct these shortcomings before another tragedy takes place. Or is it going to be another case of political amnesia by the BN government?
* The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the columnist and this article first appeared in The Malay Mail Online.