Malaysia

Hishammuddin under the spotlight as he evades questions from CNN on MH370

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (pic), who has been at the forefront of Malaysia's efforts to locate flight MH370, found himself under CNN's spotlight yesterday after the global news network showed him ducking several probing questions from its senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson.

The acting Transport Minister was at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) on Sunday to visit the 14th Defence Service Asia (DSA) 2014 exhibition when he was asked by Robertson on when the military had informed civilian authorities that the Malaysia Airlines flight had been picked up by its radar.

The CNN video showed Hishammuddin declining to answer the question, saying he was at the PWTC for a walkabout and would be holding a press conference later.

At one stage, Robertson was apparently pushed away by one of the minister's aides and was heard saying "you don't have to push". He was later advised by Hishammuddin's aide to wait for the press conference.

At the press conference later, Robertson repeated the question but this time, Hishammuddin, who is also the Defence Minister, told the reporter that he was at the PWTC for the DSA 2014 event and would only answer questions related to the exhibition.

However, the CNN report said not all questions on MH370 were off limits. This was evident when Robertson asked the minister at the same press conference whether a decision had been made on who will extract data from MH370's flight recorders.

This time, Hishammuddin answered the CNN correspondent: "The Attorney-General is now in the United Kingdom discussing this issue."

Robertson then asked Hishammuddin whether the crew and passengers of MH370 had been cleared by authorities.

"As I mentioned earlier, it is too early to clear anyone until the flight recorder has been retrieved from the aircraft," Hishammuddin said.

"There are questions which can only be answered once the black box has been retrieved," he added.

As Robertson attempted to ask more questions, Hishammuddin cut him off and said in jest that perhaps there could be a separate session with CNN.

The CNN report said it was important to know when the military had told civilian authorities in Kuala Lumpur that its radar had picked up flight MH370 as the matter had become an increasingly contested issue.

On Thursday, CNN had quoted a senior Malaysian government official as saying that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) had scrambled search aircraft at 8am on March 8.

However, Hishammuddin denied the CNN report via a tweet sent out by his communications team the next day.

The RMAF also issued a statement on Friday evening denying the CNN report.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers when it disappeared on March 8.

Today, The Malaysian Insider reported that more than half of Malaysians polled last month felt that Putrajaya was hiding information about the MH370 crisis.

Out of the 1,029 respondents polled in The Malaysian Insider survey carried out by the Merdeka Center, 54% said Putrajaya was not transparent in releasing information about flight MH370 which vanished on March 8.

In response to the question whether they thought Putrajaya had been truthful or had been hiding anything about MH370, 54% of respondents felt Malaysia had been hiding information, 26% said the government had been truthful while 20% were unsure.

On the performance of Malaysian ministers in the MH370 crisis, 21% of the respondents said they were very dissatisfied while 19% were very satisfied.

Despite the criticisms Putrajaya face from local and international quarters since the MH370 crisis, 51% of respondents said they were confident about the government.

However, 45% of respondents said they were not confident about Putrajaya post-MH370 crisis. – April 14, 2014

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