Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Statement by Prime Minister of Malaysia; Criminal Inquiry Launched

Click on this satellite contact map for the article posted by The New York Times. Map courtesy of The New York Times. Information courtesy of the government of Malaysia.

Najib Razak — the prime minister of Malaysia — updated the international press and media earlier today with an official statement on the mysterious disappearance of the Boeing 777-200 aircraft which operated as Malaysia Airlines flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing greater than one week ago.

The full text of his statement is as follows:

“Seven days ago Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared. We realise this is an excruciating time for the families of those on board. No words can describe the pain they must be going through. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them.

“I have been appraised of the on-going search operation round the clock. At the beginning of the operation, I ordered the search area to be broadened; I instructed the Malaysian authorities to share all relevant information freely and transparently with the wider investigation team; and I requested that our friends and allies join the operation.

“As of today, 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft are involved in the search. I wish to thank all the governments for their help at such a crucial time.

“Since day one, the Malaysian authorities have worked hand-in-hand with our international partners – including neighbouring countries, the aviation authorities and a multinational search force – many of whom have been here on the ground since Sunday.

“We have shared information in real time with authorities who have the necessary experience to interpret the data. We have been working nonstop to assist the investigation. And we have put our national security second to the search for the missing plane.

“It is widely understood that this has been a situation without precedent.

“We have conducted search operations over land, in the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean. At every stage, we acted on the basis of verified information, and we followed every credible lead.

“Sometimes these leads have led nowhere. There has been intense speculation. We understand the desperate need for information on behalf of the families and those watching around the world. But we have a responsibility to the investigation and the families to only release information that has been corroborated. And our primary motivation has always been to find the plane.

“In the first phase of the search operation, we searched near MH370’s last known position, in the South China Sea. At the same time, it was brought to our attention by the Royal Malaysian Air Force that, based on their primary radar, an aircraft – the identity of which could not be confirmed – made a turn back. The primary radar data showed the aircraft proceeding on a flight path which took it to an area north of the Straits of Malacca.

“Given this credible data, which was subsequently corroborated with the relevant international authorities, we expanded the area of search to include the Straits of Malacca and, later, to the Andaman Sea.

“Early this morning I was briefed by the investigation team – which includes the FAA, NTSB, the AAIB, the Malaysian authorities and the Acting Minister of Transport – on new information that sheds further light on what happened to MH370.

“Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the aircraft reached the East coast of peninsular Malaysia.

“Shortly afterwards, near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.

“From this point onwards, the Royal Malaysian Air Force primary radar showed that an aircraft which was believed – but not confirmed – to be MH370 did indeed turn back. It then flew in a westerly direction back over peninsular Malaysia before turning northwest.

“Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.

“Today, based on raw satellite data that was obtained from the satellite data service provider, we can confirm that the aircraft shown in the primary radar data was flight MH370. After much forensic work and deliberation, the FAA, NTSB, AAIB and the Malaysian authorities, working separately on the same data, concur.

“According to the new data, the last confirmed communication between the plane and the satellite was at 8:11AM Malaysian time on Saturday 8th March. The investigations team is making further calculations which will indicate how far the aircraft may have flown after this last point of contact. This will help us to refine the search.

“Due to the type of satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plan when it last made contact with the satellite.

“However, based on this new data, the aviation authorities of Malaysia and their international counterparts have determined that the plane’s last communication with the satellite was in one of two possible corridors: a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to the southern Indian ocean. The investigation team is working to further refine the information.

“In view of this latest development the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board. Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear: we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path.

“This new satellite information has a significant impact on the nature and scope of the search operation. We are ending our operations in the South China Sea and reassessing the redeployment of our assets. We are working with the relevant countries to request all information relevant to the search, including radar data.

“As the two new corridors involve many countries, the relevant foreign embassies have been invited to a briefing on the new information today by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry and the technical experts. I have also instructed the Foreign Ministry to provide a full briefing to foreign governments which had passengers on the plane.

“This morning, Malaysia Airlines has been informing the families of the passengers and crew of these new developments.

“Clearly, the search for MH370 has entered a new phase. Over the last seven days, we have followed every lead and looked into every possibility. For the families and friends of those involved, we hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane.”

After the statement was released, a criminal inquiry pertaining to the missing Boeing 777-200 aircraft was opened by Malaysian officials, who declared that “the plane had been deliberately diverted and then flown for as long as seven hours toward an unknown point far from its scheduled route of Kuala Lumpur to Beijing”, according to an article posted by The New York Times.

No fewer than fourteen countries are currently involved in investigating the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

The following are statements from briefings to the press and media since Sunday, March 16, 2014 by Hishammuddin Hussein, who is the Minister of Defence and Acting Minister of Transport:

Wednesday, March 19, 05:30 PM MYT +0800 Malaysia Airlines MH370 Flight Incident – MH370 Press Briefing by Hishammuddin Hussein, Minister of Defence and Acting Minister of Transport

 

Introductory statement

The search for MH370 continues. As I stated at yesterday’s press conference, this is now a truly international effort.

Our focus remains the search and rescue operation. We are working on narrowing the search corridor by:

·      gathering satellite information

·      analysing radar data

·      increasing air and surface assets, and

·      increasing the number of technical experts.

We are also taking further steps to address the needs of the families at this difficult time.

1. Operational update

I will start by giving a brief operational update.

As we have said, the search for MH370 involves diplomatic, technical and logistical challenges.

Accordingly, the main technical team organising the search and rescue operation has been broken into three groups: a diplomatic team, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; an assets deployment and logistics team led by the Armed Forces; and a technical group retaining overall operational control, which is led by the Department of Civil Aviation.

On the diplomatic front, all 26 countries involved in the search and rescue operation have verbally agreed to assist the operations, and Malaysia has written to all countries formally requesting co-operation.

A number of assets which have already been committed are awaiting diplomatic clearance to begin operations. Once we receive formal clearance, we can then speed up the deployment of assets along the search corridors.

As I stated yesterday, although the search is still co-ordinated by Malaysia, our partners are increasingly taking the lead in their own territory and in agreed search sectors. We welcome this, and again would like to thank all our partners for their continued assistance and support.

I can confirm that we have received some radar data, but we are not at liberty to release information from other countries. I appeal to all our partners to continue volunteering any and all information that could help with the investigation and the search for MH370.

Regarding reports that the plane was sighted in the Maldives, I can confirm that the Malaysian Chief of the Defence Force has contacted his counterpart in the Maldives, who has confirmed that these reports are not true.

2. Waypoints

I am aware of speculation that additional waypoints were added to the aircraft’s flight routing. I can confirm that the aircraft flew on normal routing up until the waypoint IGARI. There is no additional waypoint on MH370’s documented flight plan, which depicts normal routing all the way to Beijing.

3. Police investigation

On the police investigation, as the Inspector General of the Police confirmed, the case has been classified under Section 130C of the Penal Code. All passengers, crew and ground staff handling the aircraft are being investigated.

We are sharing all information relevant to the case with all relevant international investigative agencies that require it. We have received passenger background checks from all countries apart from Ukraine and Russia, both of which had nationals on board. So far, no information of significance on any passengers has been found.

Local and international expertise has been recruited to examine the pilot’s flight simulator. Some data had been deleted from the simulator and forensic work to retrieve this data is on-going.

I would like to take this opportunity to state that the passengers, the pilots and the crew remain innocent until proven otherwise. For the sake of their families, I ask that we refrain from any unnecessary speculation that might make an already difficult time even harder.

4. High level team

I would like to announce that in addition to the team that is already on the ground, Malaysia is currently assembling a high-level team that will immediately travel to Beijing. The team will give briefings and updates to the next of kin on the latest situation, and on search and rescue plans.

The team will include representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the Department of Civil Aviation, and Malaysia Airlines.

The team will be led by Lieutenant General Dato’ Sri Ackbal bin Haji Abdul Samad RMAF (Air Operation Commander, Royal Malaysia Air Force), assisted by Ahmad Nizar bin Zolfakar (Director, Air Traffic Services, Department of Civil Aviation) and will include a senior 777 pilot.

5. Concluding remarks

We will persevere. Our immediate focus is the search and rescue operation. We are pursuing every means possible to narrow the two search corridors.

Tuesday, March 18, 05:30 PM MYT +0800 Malaysia Airlines MH370 Flight Incident – MH370 Press Conference on 18 Mar

 

MH370 PRESS CONFERENCE – 18/03/14

Introductory statement

Yesterday I stated that the search for MH370 has entered a new phase, which brings new diplomatic, technical and logistical challenges. Today, I would like to give you an update on the logistical and diplomatic aspects of the search.

The search and rescue operations have taken on a new international dimension. The search is still coordinated by Malaysia, but our partners have taken an increasing role in organising and carrying out operations, both within their own territory and also within agreed search sectors. My colleague the Foreign Minister Dato’ Seri Anifah Aman will give a more detailed statement on our diplomatic efforts in a moment.

On the logistical front, over the past 24 hours we have been working hard with other countries to narrow the search corridors. Our focus is on four tasks: gathering information from satellite surveillance, analysis of surveillance radar data, increasing air and surface assets, and increasing the number of technical and subject matter experts.

On satellite surveillance, I cannot disclose who has what satellite capability, but I can confirm we have contacted every relevant country that has access to satellite data.

On analysis of radar data, in the southern corridor Australia and Indonesia have agreed to take the lead of their respective parts of the search corridor. In the northern corridor, China and Kazakhstan have agreed to lead in the search areas closest to their countries.

On air and surface assets, I have spoken to almost all ASEAN leaders to request further support, including assets with deep ocean surveillance detection capabilities. We are also asking international partners who have assisted us before to take another look at their primary radar data.

1. Operational update

In the northern corridor, we have divided the search area into seven quadrants. Each of the seven quadrants is 400 nautical miles by 400 nautical miles – or 160,000 square nautical miles in total. We have also divided up the southern corridor into seven quadrants. Just like in the north, each quadrant covers an area of 160,000 square nautical miles. The entire search area is now 2.24 million square nautical miles.

This is an enormous search area. And it is something that Malaysia cannot possibly search on its own. I am therefore very pleased that so many countries have come forward to offer assistance and support to the search and rescue operation.

In terms of the deployment of specific assets:

·       Today, the Royal Malaysian Navy deployed two more ships to the southern corridor. This deployment includes a Super Lynx helicopter, which can operate from either ship. This brings the total number of Malaysian ships deployed to the southern corridor to four; with two Super Lynx helicopters.

·       Today, Malaysia also deployed two C-130 aircraft to the Indonesian sector of the southern search corridor.

Other countries are also contributing the following assets:

·       The United States has deployed one P-8 Poseidon, and will redeploy a P-3 Orion aircraft.

·       Australia, as I mentioned yesterday, has deployed three P-3 Orions and one C-130 Hercules.

·       New Zealand is redeploying a P-3 Orion to support Australian search efforts.

·       The Republic of Korea has committed one P-3 Orion and one C-130 Hercules.

·       Japan has committed two P-3 Orions, two C-130s and one Gulfstream jet.

·       The UAE has committed one C-17 aircraft and one Bombardier Dash-8 aircraft.

·       The assets from Korea, Japan, and the UAE are currently in Malaysia awaiting orders from their respective governments.

·       Aside from deploying its assets to the northern corridor, China has also made arrangements with Australia to deploy an aircraft to the southern corridor.

2. ACARS

I would like to clarify what has been said about ACARS and the sequence of events before the air turn back.

On Saturday, we stated that – and I quote –

“Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the aircraft reached the East coast of peninsular Malaysia. Shortly afterwards, near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.”

These findings were drafted together with representatives from the lead international investigators, based on the information available at the time.

Yesterday Malaysia Airlines clarified that we cannot determine exactly when ACARS had been disabled, only that it occurred within a specific time range: from 01:07 – approximately when the aircraft reached the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, and the last ACARS transmission occurred – to 01:37, which was the next scheduled reporting time. That is indeed the case.

This does not change our belief, as stated, that up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, the aircraft’s movements were consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane. That remains the position of the investigating team.

It is also important to recognise that the precise time ACARS was disabled has no bearing on the search and rescue operation. We know that the last known position of the plane as confirmed by the international investigations team was in either the northern or southern corridors, which is where our search and rescue efforts are focused. Our priority has always been to find the plane.

1. Police investigation

I am aware there is a lot of interest in the Royal Malaysia Police investigation into the passengers and crew of MH370. I hope you understand that I cannot comment on the specifics of the investigation, which is still on-going.

I would also like to state that the search for MH370 is bigger than politics. I urge all Malaysians to put our differences aside and unite during this difficult time as we focus on finding the aircraft and the 239 people on board.

2. Concluding remarks

The search for MH370 remains our top priority. We will continue to provide you with operational updates, including further information about assets being deployed, as soon as they are available.

In the last few days we have been intensively contacting our friends across the search regions. The co-operation we saw in the first phase continues in this new phase. In fact, there is even more commitment to assist us in this much larger and more complex multinational operation.

In the meantime our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those on board.

Monday, March 17, 05:30 PM MYT +0800 Malaysia Airlines MH370 Flight Incident – MH370 Press Briefing by Hishammuddin Hussein, Minister of Defence and Acting Minister of Transport

 

Introductory statement

Before answering your questions I would like to give a brief statement, starting with an operational update.

1. Diplomatic efforts

During the last 24 hours, the Prime Minister has spoken to the Prime Minister of Australia and the Premier of China. Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent diplomatic notes to all countries involved in the search and rescue operation.

This includes two groups: first, countries in the search corridors; and second, countries from which we are seeking assistance and expertise.

For countries in the search corridors, we are requesting radar and satellite information, as well as specific assets for the search and rescue operation. We are asking them to share their land, sea and aerial search and rescue action plans with the Rescue Co-ordination Centre here in Malaysia, so that we can co-ordinate the search effort. We have asked for regular updates, including daily reports on both search activities, and details of any information required from Malaysia.

We are not at liberty to reveal information from specific countries. As the co-ordinating authority we are gathering all information as part of the on-going search and rescue operation.

2. Search and rescue operations

Over the past 48 hours, Malaysia has been working on the diplomatic, technical and logistical requirements of the search for MH370. The number of countries involved in the search and rescue operation has increased to 26.

Malaysia continues to lead the overall co-ordination of the search effort. The southern corridor has been divided into two sections, according to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) demarcations.

These demarcations were agreed by the ICAO – of which Malaysia is a council member – before MH370 went missing. Australia and Indonesia have agreed to lead search and rescue operations in their respective regions as demarcated by the ICAO.

Today, I can confirm that search and rescue operations in the northern and southern corridors have already begun.

Countries including Malaysia, Australia, China, Indonesia and Kazakhstan have already initiated search and rescue operations.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Royal Malaysian Navy have deployed assets to the southern corridor. Two Malaysian ships have been deployed: the offshore patrol vessels KD Kelantan and KD Selangor. This deployment also includes a Super Lynx helicopter, which can operate from either ship.

Australia has already moved a P-3 Orion aircraft to region of the Cocos and Christmas Islands. Today, the Prime Minister of Australia confirmed that Australia will send an additional two P-3 Orions and a C-130 Hercules. A US P-8 Poseidon aircraft will be travelling to Perth today to help with the search.

3. Expert involvement

Malaysia has been working with international investigators and aviation authorities since day one.

Yesterday, experts from Civil Aviation Administration of China joined the investigations team.

Today, officials from the French Office of Investigations and Analysis for the Safety of Civil Aviation also joined the team. These authorities are working with Malaysia Airlines and the DCA to refine data that can help with the search.

4. Police investigation

On Saturday 8 March, the Royal Malaysia Police started investigations into all crew members on board MH370, including the pilot and co-pilot, as well as all ground staff handling the aircraft.

On Sunday 9 March, police officers visited the homes of the pilot and co-pilot. Officers also spoke to family members of the pilot and co-pilot.

Police visited the homes of the pilot and co-pilot again on Saturday 15 March. The pilot’s flight simulator was taken from his house with the assistance of his family. The simulator was re-assembled at police headquarters.

At this point, I would like to stress that Malaysia has been co-operating with the FBI, Interpol and other relevant international law enforcement authorities since day one.

5. Malaysia’s response

I would also like to address the speculation that Malaysia has held back information about MH370’s movements.

For the families, I understand that every day prolongs the anguish. I understand because Malaysia, too, is missing its sons and daughters. There were 50 Malaysians on board the plane.

Our priority has always been to find the aircraft. We would not withhold any information that could help. But we also have a responsibility not to release information until it has been verified by the international investigations team.

This responsibility is not only to the families and to the investigation, but also the search and rescue operation. It would be irresponsible to deploy substantial assets merely on the basis of unverified and uncorroborated information.

As soon as the possibility emerged that the plane had carried out an air turn back to the Straits of Malacca, we expanded our search to that area. I would like to reiterate the US investigating team’s statement about that decision: based on the information and data given by the Malaysian authorities, the US team was of the view that there were reasonable grounds for the Malaysian authorities to deploy resources to conduct search on the western side of peninsular Malaysia.

As soon as we verified and corroborated the new satellite information as to the possible last known whereabouts of the aircraft, we recalibrated our search efforts to the northern and southern corridors as announced by the Prime Minister. After my statement we will release a more detailed map of the northern and southern corridors.

6. Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines has set up operations centres in both Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, to care for the families of the crew members and passengers.

MAS has allocated each family a caregiver, who will be on 24hours duty. They have sent more than 100 staff and caregivers to Beijing.

The airline gives daily briefings to the families. They provide counselling sessions. And they contact families that have elected not to come to Malaysia between two and three times a day.

7. Concluding remarks

Over the past two days, we have been recalibrating the search for MH370. It remains a significant diplomatic, technical and logistical challenge. Malaysia is encouraged by the progress made during such a short period of time. We are grateful for the response by the heads of government that we have spoken to, all of whom have expressed a commitment of assistance.

With support from our many international partners, this new phase of the search is underway. Assets are being deployed, and search and rescue operations have begun. I wish to thank our partners from around the world for their continued support.

Sunday, March 16, 05:30 PM MYT +0800 Malaysia Airlines MH370 Flight Incident – MH370 Press Briefing by Hishammuddin Hussein, Minister of Defence and Acting Minister of Transport

I know many of you have submitted questions, and I will try to answer some of those questions in my statement today.

Every day brings new angles, especially as we are refocusing and expanding the search area – and as always, we have a responsibility to release only information that has been corroborated and verified.

We cannot respond to every request immediately, so I ask you to bear with us.

1. Search area

As the Prime Minister said yesterday, the operation has entered a new phase. The search was already a highly complex, multinational effort. It has now become even more difficult.

The search area has been significantly expanded. And the nature of the search has changed. From focusing mainly on shallow seas, we are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries, as well as deep and remote oceans.

The number of countries involved in the search and rescue operation has increased from 14 to 25, which brings new challenges of co-ordination and diplomacy to the search effort.

This is a significant recalibration of the search. The search and rescue operation continues to be a multi-national effort, one led and co-ordinated by Malaysia.

In the last 24 hours, the Prime Minister has spoken to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the President of Turkmenistan, the President of Kazakhstan and Prime Minister of India.

Yesterday the Foreign Ministry of Malaysia briefed representatives from countries along the northern and southern corridors.

At 2pm today, the Foreign Ministry of Malaysia briefed representatives from 22 countries, including those along the northern and southern search corridors, as well other countries that may be able to help. These include Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia.

Malaysian officials are requesting support from these countries – as well as others. This support includes general satellite data, radar playback – both primary and secondary – provisions for ground, sea and aerial search, and assets as appropriate.

We are currently discussing with all partners how best to deploy assets along the two search corridors. At this stage, both the northern and southern corridors are being treated with equal importance.

We are asking countries that have satellite assets, including the US, China and France amongst others, to provide further satellite data. And we are contacting additional countries who may be able to contribute specific assets relevant to the search and rescue operation. Surveillance aircraft are required, and maritime vessels are needed, particularly for the southern corridor.

2. Police investigation

As the Prime Minister said yesterday, up until the time the aircraft left military primary radar coverage, its movements were consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.

I cannot comment on speculative theories as to what might have caused the deviation from the original flight path, as I do not wish to prejudice the on-going investigation.

I understand the hunger for new details. But we do not want to jump to conclusions. Out of respect to the families, and the process itself, we must wait for the investigation to run its course.

The Malaysian authorities are refocusing their investigation on all crew and passengers on board MH370, as well as all ground staff handling the aircraft.

Yesterday, officers from the Royal Malaysia Police visited the home of the pilot. They spoke to  family members of the pilot and experts are examining the pilot’s flight simulator. The police also visited the home of the co-pilot. According to Malaysia Airlines, the pilot and co-pilot did not ask to fly together on MH370.

I would like to stress that Malaysia has been working with international law enforcement agencies since day one.

3. Aircraft maintenance

Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the aircraft was subjected to the required maintenance program: the Boeing Maintenance Planning Document. Checks are done according to this program. The aircraft had been fully serviced and was fit to fly.

4. New involvement

The Inmarsat team arrived yesterday and will support the investigations team, which includes the Malaysian authorities, and the UK and US teams.

5. Concluding remarks

I would like to conclude by reiterating that the search for MH370 has entered a new phase.

The information released yesterday has provided new leads, and given new direction to the search process.

We will provide more detail on the redeployment of assets when it becomes available. Facts must be corroborated and verified before being released.

When possible, we will keep the media fully briefed, but our priority remains the search and rescue operation. To that end, we have been engaged in diplomatic and investigative efforts over the past 24 hours.

In the meantime, I have continuously updated the article I posted here at The Gate with official press statements released from Malaysia Airlines but without feeding into the frenzy of rumors and speculation rampant throughout the world. For additional information — as well as the link to the official discussion on FlyerTalk pertaining to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 — please click here.

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