Malaysian mystery: The government’s response cost precious time

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It is difficult to comment on the missing Malaysia Airline plane which disappeared on March 8 without appropriate sensitivity.

Even if the aircraft were to be found somewhere on solid ground, the passengers, crew, family members and friends of all aboard would have nonetheless suffered the horrible trauma during the interim period of not knowing.

That outcome becomes increasingly unlikely as time goes by. If the aircraft had been hijacked, the criminals by now would likely have made themselves known, either to seek ransom or to claim political credit.

The Malaysian government has shown itself to be grossly inadequate to handle such an event. It withheld critical information from international parties seeking to learn the plane’s fate and, in the process, wasted precious time that could have been used to find the plane. On Monday the government even changed its account of the sequence of events.

The minute the flight left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, its intended destination, the affair ceased to be a Malaysian matter, however, and became international in character. That is not to say that Malaysia should have handed the disappearance over to the United States to solve. In fact, the country with most at stake, after Malaysia, is China, whose citizens were the bulk of Flight 370’s passengers.

Now 26 nations, including the United States, are engaged in the quest to find some trace of the plane. There is reason to believe evidence will turn up someplace. If the plane went into the water, remnants will eventually float to the surface and be found.

Most people can only sympathize with those who are desperately seeking to know what happened to their loved ones. In the meantime, international authorities need to lean on Malaysia and other countries which do not exercise appropriate vigilance over aircraft that enter their territory.

This is not an area where carelessness or indifference is acceptable. In an age when international travel is commonplace, the safety of each individual, regardless of country of origin, depends on the standards and accountability set by every nation.


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