A prominent Bloomberg columnist wrote yesterday that the global outcry over the loss of flight MH370 has highlighted Putrajaya’s deepest flaws, and all-too-few of its strengths.
William Pesek, in his opinion piece titled "Missing plane will haunt Malaysia's future", said that while six months ago US president Barak Obama had hailed Malaysia as “an example of dynamic economy” and touted its multiculturalism as a model to others, such praise sounds naïve in light of events following the tragic incident.
Referring to the slew of criticism directed at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Putrajaya's efforts in dealing with the crisis, Pesek said: “Fairly or not, since March 8 when flight 370 disappeared on its way to Beijing, Malaysia has lost a great deal of its standing both in the region and around the world.”
The Bloomberg columnist hit out at Putrajaya’s approach to internal dissent and religious tolerance – among others, the conviction of DAP’s Karpal Singh on a sedition charge and the overturning of opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy acquittal, and the silence on efforts by Islamic conservatives to limit who can use the word Allah – and said that the Najib-led administration needs more than a public relations boost to improve its image.
“The country needs nothing less than a political revolution,” said Pesek.
“The flight 370 crisis has fully exposed the dangers of allowing one party to rule a nation for six decades. Since rising to the top job in 2009, Najib has had to divert his attention from revitalising Malaysia's economy to maintaining Umno's long hold on power.”
Pesek added that Putrajaya’s bad handling of flight MH370 was no fluke.
“The fumbling exposed a political elite that's never really had to face questioning from its people, never mind the rest of the world.
“That same political culture created and coddled national carrier Malaysia Airlines. Not surprisingly, even before this, the airline had fared poorly against peers amid growing global competition,” he said.
Pesek’s view coincides with what New York Times journalist Thomas Fuller said just days after flight MH370 went missing.
The Southeast Asian affairs expert said that the lack of coordination between Malaysian agencies and the conflicting updates on the worldwide search for the missing MH370 only shows how out of depth the country's leaders are in handling a crisis.
"But worldwide bafflement at the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has challenged the country’s paternalistic political culture and exposed its coddled leaders to the withering judgments of critics from around the world," he said.
Fuller also referenced the two major court cases involving Anwar and Karpal in his criticism of Putrajaya’s continuing effort to suppress political dissent.
Reuters reported today that the mystery of flight MH370, which disappeared more than a month ago, has sparked the most expensive search and rescue operation in aviation history, but concrete information has proven frustratingly illusive.
Up to 10 military aircraft, four civil aircraft and 13 ships are expected to be involved today with a massive search effort that has so far proven fruitless in identifying any physical evidence of wreckage from the flight.
The search today comes with a renewed sense of optimism, after Australian officials said they had detected two new "ping" signals that may have come from the plane's black box recorders. – April 10, 2014.