Five days after flight MH370 vanished without trace, Malaysians were losing patience with the fruitless search effort Wednesday, saying it was a national embarrassment and demanding to know who would take responsibility.
With the world watching, the mood in the Southeast Asian nation was rapidly turning to anger at a torrent of misinformation, mis-steps and contradictions from the flag carrier and officials who appeared no closer to solving the mystery.
“It’s world news, hello! Who is in charge here?,” said Yvonne Ho, 42, an event organiser from the eastern state of Pahang.
The Malaysia Airlines aircraft disappeared early Saturday on an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 passengers and crew on board.
Despite an ever-expanding search coordinated by Malaysia, dozens of aircraft and vessels from different countries, including the US Navy, have failed to find a shred of evidence pointing to the plane’s fate.
“The mood among Malaysians now is moving from patience in the search for the 239 people aboard the missing flight MH370 to embarrassment and anger,” local news website Malaysian Insider said in a commentary.
“The whole world is watching Malaysia now because an aircraft with a wingspan of 61 metres (200 feet) does not fall off the sky or disappear into thin air just like that.”
As rumours swirled in the absence of concrete information, others pointed to more sinister theories, darkly suggesting a cover-up by authorities.
“I’m upset that even with the effort of our country and a few other countries, that… not a single piece of the flight has shown up or been made public by Malaysia Airlines,” said Syed Faris Hakem, 26, a Kuala Lumpur office worker.
“I personally think that they might be covering it up but not sure what’s the reason behind it. This is all due to the lack of and contradicting information,” he said.
– ‘Sloppy and incompetent’ –
Malaysian authorities insist they are giving all available information as promptly as possible, issuing more than a dozen media statements since the disappearance, but they and Malaysia Airlines have repeatedly grabbed headlines for contradicting each other.
Discrepancies include conflicting information about the number and ethnicities of people who used stolen passports to board the plane, and whether some passengers booked on the flight had failed to board.
Freddie Wang, a 53-year-old property consultant, said he was disappointed with the “sloppy and incompetent” manner in which investigations were being carried out.
“The officials seem to be arrogant and show little empathy towards victims’ families,” he said.
Malaysia’s highly active social media sites have crackled with sympathetic expressions of concern and hope for the safety of the missing passengers and crew — which include 38 Malaysians.
But with the mood beginning to turn, the latest confusing report regarding the search added to mounting frustration.
Malaysia’s air force chief General Rodzali Daud on Wednesday denied an earlier report which quoted him as saying the jet had been detected by military radar far from its planned flight path.
He said he was misquoted, but it followed a string of contradictory statements that have called into question Malaysian authorities’ grasp of the situation.
“I think govt is lying about flt chg (flight change) of course, wild goose chase,” a Twitter post said.
Malaysia’s authoritarian Barisan Nasional (National Front) government, now headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has governed since 1957, overseeing decades of economic growth and modernisation.
But it is routinely accused by critics including rights groups and anti-graft organisations of gross civil liberties abuses, corruption and incompetence.
In a blog post, industry magazine Flightglobal’s operations and safety editor David Learmount said there was an “all-pervasive sense of a chaotic lack of coordination” in the search.