Op-Ed

Flight MH370 “Overlooked Clues”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

By Gregory Clark

Tokyo – (PanOrient News) While the global media have been searching for clues to explain the March 8 disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 they may have overlooked by far the mostly likely possibility - a deliberate decision by the pilot to make his plane disappear.

A week after the plane's disappearance several Malaysian commentators began to suggest the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, could have been under enough emotional strain to make such a decision. He was known to be an ardent admirer of the prominent Malaysian politician, Anwar Ibrahim, to whom it is said he was a distant relative. Late on March 7, he had attended a court hearing at which Anwar was sentenced to five years imprisonment on the dubious charge of sodomy. Just seven hours later Shah was at the controls of flight MH370, destination Beijing.

To some Malaysian commentators this sequence of events was significant. But at the time their suggestions that Shah might deliberately have crashed his plane were dismissed as too bizarre to be true; in any case they were soon drowned out by the rush of theories about hijackers and other possibilities. But now that it seems clear that there were no hijackers - that Shah was in full control of the plane and there seem not to have been any other problems to cause the plane's disappearance - those earlier suggestions begin to make sense. The latest reports that Shah may have made in-flight telephone calls add to the suspicion.

Other clues are the elaborate moves by the pilot to evade radar, and the choice of a remote southern Indian Ocean location to disappear. He may also have left a note explaining its motives, though that would have been confiscated during the search of his house by authorities immediately after the plane disappearance.

We can also presume that the Malaysian authorities probably also realized early on the likelihood that Shah was seeking to make a political statement. This could explain the evasions and delays that upset the foreign media, but which in the Malaysian context were inevitable as the authorities tried to decide how to present a situation filled with political danger, corporate responsibility and embarrassment for themselves.

Malaysian politics are not known for clarity and cleanliness. The ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) has been in power for 56 years, and is determined to remain in power. Anwar, known for his competence and who earlier had been deputy prime minister, had come to be seen as a rival for the top job. In 1998 he was hit with charges of corruption and sodomy.

After serving six years in jail on the dubious corruption charge - much in solitary confinement - he was then arraigned on the sodomy charge. Here he was acquitted, but the March 7 court decision to overturn this acquittal so he could be sent back to jail coincided with preparations for an election which could well have seen his Peoples Justice Party begin seriously to challenge UMNO. Shah could well have decided that he had to get revenge on the authorities that had caused such injustice to his hero.

Anwar has rejected this suggestion, but then again would he want to incriminate such a loyal supporter? Everything we now know about that fated flight points to deliberate actions by a pilot determined to frustrate and confuse the authorities. Even the plane's final moments could have been part of that determination - a pancake ocean landing in the most remote part of the globe so as to guarantee there would be no wreckage, nothing, to assist the authorities in their search. Revenge, pure and deadly.

While our aviation authorities have been warning us constantly about the danger of hijackers it seems they have overlooked a far greater danger - pilot psychology.

Photo: Gregory Clark, a former Australian diplomat and commentator, is a long resident in Japan.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of PanOrient News.


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Op-Ed