Australia deserves some credit for its role in the search for missing Malaysian airline MH370. It was a flight connected with the interests of China more than any other country, in that its intended destination was Beijing, it first met with trouble whilst over the militarised South China Sea, and of the 239 passengers and crew who lost their lives, 154 were Chinese nationals. Yet, in the search effort that ended in January 2017, Australia’s financial investment was more than three times that of China’s in addition to Australia committing its own personnel and resources. It was good of Australia to do this. It was not acting under any legal obligation.
But what is the status of MH370 today? The official narrative is that the plane turned back, flew over the Malaysian Peninsula, headed north-west towards the Bay of Bengal, then flew south for several hours before crashing in the southern Indian Ocean. Is this correct? Or was this story contrived on the run in order to divert the world’s attention from the truth? Eight years on and with the plane still undiscovered, the weight of opinion is leaning further to the latter, from which it follows, according to that opinion, that a government somewhere watched on throughout the search effort with knowledge that it was all in vain.
Could such a prodigious abuse have been inflicted upon the world? One person who suspected it from early on was Sir Tim Clark, the then president of Emirates. In October 2014, Clark went on the record with his view that someone somewhere was withholding information relevant to the fate and whereabouts of the plane. Most of the writers on MH370 are also convinced it is a cover-up, with some, such as Florence de Changy, author of the most intensively researched book on the subject to date, amazed at the credulity of those who think otherwise.
The writers differ on the identity of the culprit. A fact that is little known, because the officials remained silent on it, is that there was a military exercise that night called ‘Cobra Gold’ involving the USA, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, and this was taking place in a sea that China was claiming for itself, with its island-building already underway. Accordingly, Nigel Cawthorne, in his book Flight MH370: The Mystery, concludes that one of these militaries accidentally shot it down. Richard Belzer, George Noory and David Wayne, in Someone is Hiding Something, lean towards a cyber-jacking, potentially by one of these militaries. Florence de Changy’s surmise in The Disappearing Act is that it was a military accident attributable to either or both of the USA or China. Luc David, in his documentary, MH370: have we been lied to?, does not make direct allegations but discusses Cobra Gold and observes that, despite having lost the most people, China never initiated an investigation of its own.
Jeff Wise, on the other hand, argues in his book, The Taking of MH370, that the plane was hi-jacked by Russian operatives, and for the pseudonymous Chinese writer, Long Wen (real name: Gong Xiaoxiao), there was no culprit at all. His view, in MH370 should be here, is that the plane met with an extreme weather incident that saw it swallowed by the South China Sea in a nose-dive crash that left no debris.
Most of these writers agree that the search was steered in such a way as to send it to the southern Indian Ocean and keep it there. Jeff Wise even offered evidence to suggest that the flaperon found on Reunion Island on 29 July 2015 was planted there in order to further a ruse that the plane had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. Few have any faith in the satellite data from Inmarsat, which gave rise to a ‘likelihood’ that the plane crashed west of Perth. Indeed, when they first received the data from their satellite, Inmarsat thought they had been deceived. ‘One of the concerns we had was in fact this could just be a big hoax that someone had played on Inmarsat,’ said engineer Alan Schuster Bruce in June 2014.
Another curiosity is that Inmarsat afterwards signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. As they state on their website, this happened after a visit to their London offices by Xi Jinping on 22 October 2015.
But the investigation treated the Inmarsat data as unquestionable and refused to consider any evidence that challenged it. For de Changy, this investigation was ‘an insult to human intelligence’, whilst for Sarah Bajc, whose partner was on the plane, it was ‘too incompetent to be accidental… Australia should be embarrassed’.
For all its noble intentions, Australia has been accused by de Changy of disseminating more problematic information about MH370 than either of its two partners in the search, Malaysia and China. If the plane had flown south as the officials said it did, for instance, it should have been detected by Australia’s powerful Jindalee Operational Radar Network, but Australia said that, on that particular night, the radar was looking northward only, and not to the west. It is an explanation that does not sit well with many people.
Another issue concerns Sir Tim Clark. In his October 2014 interview he said the world must not write MH370 off as an unsolvable mystery and he would continue to speak out on the matter. However, he has not spoken since and de Changy reports an allegation that Australia intervened, pressuring him into silence with an element of blackmail. It would be helpful if the head of the Australian search effort, retired Australian Defence Forces chief Sir Angus Houston, would clarify matters such as these.
But in the case of MH370, what can or should be done? One option is for Australia to instigate a new global search, one which cleans the slate and assesses all of the evidence and expert opinion that has been available from the beginning.
It would be a humanitarian mission to bring closure to the families and an opportunity for Australia to finish the job that it started. Working with Malaysia, the host of the airline, an invitation could be extended to all countries affected by the tragedy to join the effort.
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Craig Pett writes at www.pettblog.com
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