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Criticism against the Malaysian Government on MH370: Warranted or unfair?

If, like many people and Unspun, you find yourself transfixed by the unfolding drama of the search for MH 370, you are likely to see several threads of opinion surface regarding the performance of the Malaysian Government, helmed by Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein.

On one end of the spectrum is the view that the Government is not only doing a terrible job but that they are engaged in some conspiracy to delude and misinform the families of those aboard MH 737 and the public.

On the other end, usually adorned by nationalistic sentiments  and righteous indignation, is the view that the Malaysian Government did its best, and its best was good enough and all criticism was unfair.

This view was recently voiced by Matthias Chang, an advisor to former Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir. In typical Mahathir-esque polemic he not only said that posterity will testify on the side of the Malaysian Government,but that they would have been able to do much more, if not for the White Man and his tricks:

Disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370: The Trillion Dollar Question to the U.S. and Its Intelligence Services | Global Research

Let me state from the outset that I totally agree with the press statements by Malaysia’s Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that “we have conducted ourselves fairly, responsibly and history will judge us for that.”

And to a mischievous and presumptuous question from a correspondent of the Financial Times, Datuk Seri with confidence and integrity rightly said without any fear of contradiction that, “I don’t think we could have done anything different from what we have already done.”  Well done!

Read more here

Where does the truth lie? Unspun, who’s had some experience with helping people and companies cope with crisis-like situations, thinks it is somewhere in between: That the Malaysian government did try its best and was not not trying to delude anyone. But its best was simply not good enough by a very long shot and its natural instincts to be the Keepers of the Temple Secret scuttled whatever good it did.

Unspun also feels that while there may be somewhat of an argument that countries involved in the search, in which the US is singled out by the likes of Matthias (and why not — the US is such a convenient whipping boy), may have been territorial with their secrets and advanced technologies, nobody was really that callous and hard-hearted to deny the families the obligation that countries have to try to ease their uncertainty and pain. Maybe Unspun is naive and too trusting, but the selfishness of others is a logical decoy – it has very little to do with how the Malaysian Government and Hismanuddin handled the crisis-like situation in the aftermath of MH 370′s disappearance.

One fact of crisis-like situations is that the publicity it generates shows everything up in stark contrast. Things are either black or white, you are either a good guy or a bad guy. You are either handling it well or you’re incompetent. Public scrutiny does not appreciate grey areas. And public scrutiny in a crisis-like situation is a fact of life. So blaming the Western media for their reporting is like a stage actor berating the audience for booing what they perceive to be a bad performance.

As such, competent crisis managers train themselves to adopt what some experts call the Dual Track Approach, where you synchronise both the operational responses and communications responses. The key word is “synchronise” because if you do too much and say too little you arouse suspicion and if you say too much while doing too little you invite skepticism; and if you are totally unsynchronised, there will be hell to pay.

When Unspun was cutting his teeth on crisis management practices his trainer used to drum two principles into him. One was that “facts are the only currency in a crisis”. The other was that “No response plan survives its first contact with a crisis” – so the only defence you have is the quality of information you have and the robustness of your decision making process. Both, as you can see, are interrelated.

The Malaysian Government under Hishamuddin’s watch failed to observe both these principles and synchronise their operational and communications responses.

They failed to, operationally, marshall and filter the information to separate facts from rumours, hearsay and plain wrong data. Being in a crisis-like situation is like being in a battlefield, enveloped by the fog of war. It is confusing, it is chaotic, information of all types of quality comes flying at you in all directions. The first task of  crisis manager is to find the facts.

How does one do this in the midst of all that confusion? By calmly weighing each piece of information, sending out scouts or teams to follow up leads. And once you have these facts, what do you do? Before you act, you verify them. You double and triple check to make sure that they are actually facts and not some piece of misinformation. What comes into play then is the robustness of your decision-making process, which depends on the caliber of people you have, whether they have an open-minded mindset and how they perform under pressure.

It is then, and only then, that you are ready to act, which involves making a decision on your operational response, while at the same time deciding on what to say, how to say it as your communications response.

If Hishamuddin had adhered to these principles he would have avoided at least the two incidents that have now become emblematic of the incompetence of the Government. Firstly, DCA chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman’s equating the looks of footballer Mario Balotelli to the two Iranians who had travelled on fake passports. How can anyone say that two olive-skinned, Middle Eastern-looking men could look like a black Ghanian footballer?

And then there is the transcript. The Malaysian Government first said that the last words from MH 370 was “All right. Goodnight”. Now that that it is forced to released the transcripts it now says that the actual words were “Goodnight. Malaysian 370.” The two sentences do not even sound alike and one has double the syllables of the other. How can anyone trust them if they can’t get such starkly contrasted information right?

To be fair, it is never easy for crisis managers to marshall the facts but anyone trained to do so would have had followed the procedures of holding, core and update statements to help them do so.

In crisis management practice, holding statements are made shortly after an incident when you have some of the basic information. It may be a mere confirmation that something has happened, the number of passengers involved, where they are from, the number of the crew, as well as expressions of empathy and a commitment to be open and to share information as they come in. It is OK to say that there are things you don’t yet know at this stage. A holding statement is designed to demonstrate that you care, are human, that you are open and are in control as you know what to do next. It buys you time, feeds The Beast which is the appetite for infant news by the mss media and buys you time to plan for a more considered response in the form of a core statement.

The Core Statement  is a crucial piece of document as it serves as the foundation for all you future updates. Get it right and you have a firm foundation to build on, get it wrong and you get what the Malaysian Government is getting – inconsistent facts that call your credibility and competence into question.

How you put together a core statement is to find and verify – and then double check that they are correct – the facts, before putting them down in the core statement. Information such as the turn back and the last message from MH370 don’t get put into the core statement and communicated to anyone unless and until they have been verified. That way you don’t run into confusion later. It may take you time and reap some criticism but tardiness is a lighter cross to bear than incompetence.

Failing to observe these basic principles alone is enough to damn the Malaysian Government and Hishamuddin in history as a bunch of incompetents. This is not to take into account the other mistakes they have made that have more to do with how they delivered their messages rather that what they delivered.

Having said all this, Unspun believes that Hishamuddin and the Government has been sincere in trying to manage this situation to the best of their ability. The problem is that their best is just not good enough. It is fine for us to extend concessions to ordinary people for their foibles in difficult situations, but political leaders who seek high office and high-ranking officials who have no qualms accepting the silver of taxpayers have a higher onus of responsibility that the Ordinary Joe in the street.

A lot depends on them and they are expected to rise to the occasion when it is demanded. This is a responsibility that they must shoulder. So let’s please do away with the righteous indignation, the  jingoism, the defensiveness and the conspiracy theories and call the situation for what it is.









Raiding the Ban for Popular Votes?

Even though you may no agree with it you could understand the reasons why Malaysia’s censors might want to ban a film like Noah – the ultra sensitive Muslims in that country bristle at any attempts to dick around with the religious texts.

But to brand The Raid 2 is a bit morelthan a mystery. Malaysia has let in ultra violent movies before. There is no religious element to the film unless your religion is violence and its the product of a neighbouring country. So what are the reasons.

We can take it for granted that Democratic Party presidential hopeful Pramono Edhie Wibowo is being opportunistic and nationalistic to question the Malaysian censors. That does not detract from the fact that his question needs an answer.

One can only hope (against all hope?) that the Malaysian politicians and censors have enough wits about them to adopt a more open approach and provide some answers after their disastrous brush with openness over the MH 370 tragedy.

Because, if they don’t they’ll be delivering to Prabowo a golden opportunity to shore up his popularity. (Thx for the spot Andi).

A spat with Malaysia is something relished by many Indonesians and if a spat breaks out over The Raid 2 Edhie will be able to ride the wave of nationalism and Malaysia-bashing.

All not good for Indonesia and Malaysia…unless it is a conspiracy between the powers that be in both countries to advance Edhie’s electoral prospects in the first place…Hmmm…Unspun’s been watching too many conspiracy movies lately.

Presidential Hopeful Criticizes Malaysia for Reported Banning of ‘The Raid 2′ – The Jakarta Globe.

A scene from the ‘Raid 2: Berandal.’ (Photo courtesy of Merantau Films)

Jakarta. Democratic Party presidential hopeful Pramono Edhie Wibowo asked Malaysia explain why the country’s film board had banned “The Raid 2: Berandal,” the ultra-violent but internationally acclaimed Indonesian martial arts film that was released in theaters last week.

“It is very unfortunate that the Malaysian government banned this movie without giving any reason,” Pramono said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The movie was scheduled to hit Malaysian screens on March 28, but as of Tuesday, it had not been shown anywhere in the country. There has been no official statement from the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia on why the movie by Welsh director Gareth Evans had not been screened.

Calls to the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia were not returned — but the film does not appear on the board’s list of approved new films. The Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta declined to comment on the ban when contacted by the Jakarta Globe.

Pramono called on the Malaysian government to view the film as a positive contributor to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) film industry.

“I also demand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actively perform its mediation function with the Malaysian government,” he said.

A Malaysian movie site, cinema.com.my, reported that Malaysian audiences were disappointed by the lack of screenings in the country.

One moviegoer, Nicholas Lim, told the site he was disheartened by the ban because he had enjoyed the first movie, “The Raid: Redemption,” which was not banned in Malaysia. The second film, however, contains more scenes of graphic violence than the first.

“The Raid 2″ was released in Indonesia on March 28. More than 300,000 people saw the film during its opening weekend.


How low can Nurfam go on the MH 370 issue?

How low can you go to kick a decent man when he’s down?

That is the question that must be asked of The National Union of Flight Attendants (Nufam). The union has asked for the resignation of Malaysia Airlines CER Ahmad Jauhari on the flimsy reasoning that theMH370 incident will have a large impact on the airline.


Photo from From Malaysiakini.com


They have not put forth any convincing argument that Jauhari had been incompetent or unfit to lead Malaysia Airlines throughout the drawn out search for MH 370. Yet they have the temerity to ask for his resignation.

Kesatuan mahu CEO MAS letak jawatan

Kesatuan Kebangsaan Anak Kapal Kabin Penerbangan Malaysia (Nufam) menuntut ketua pegawai eksekutif Malaysia Airlines Datuk Ahmad Jauhari Yahaya meletak jawatan atas kes kehilangan MH370 yang masih berlarutan.

Nufam, yang sering bertelingkah dengan Ahmad Jauhari berhubung isu pekerja, yakin bahawa peletakan jawatan CEO tersebut akan memulihkan kembali keyakinan rakyat kepada syarikat penerbangan tersebut.

“(Nufam) percaya ini adalah tindakan sepatunya pada masa ini kerana kejadian ini turut membawa impak besar kepada industri penerbangan di negara ini.

Read more here

Unspun has argued before that Malaysia Airlines under Jauhari’s leadership did the right thing when faced with the crisis-like situation caused by the disappearance of MH 370 (see here) . Perhaps not ideally fast Jauhari nonetheless took the responsibility of speaking at the press conference to announce that MH370 had gone missing, he expressed empathy, shared information and promised to do everything he could. Anyone who is cued to human expression could see that although strained he was ernest, sincere and open in how he handled matters.

MAS also turned on their dark site, and switched their social media assets to crisis mode, an indication that the staff had prepared and trained for such eventualities.

Events after the press conference were a different matter. The search and rescue efforts came under the responsibility of the Government, specifically the Department of Civil Aviation and was taken out of MAS’s hands. That was when things started to go seriously wrong.

Transport Minister Hishamuddin was defensive and unempathetic, as well as appearing reluctant to share information or account for the government’s actions; the DCA chief was uncomfortable wight he media and couldn’t even tell a black footballer from a couple of Iranian where looks were concerned; the Police chief was downright arrogant and the government kept contradicting itself.

Anyone with an iota of critical thinking should be able to discern that MAS did not do a bad job and it could not do anything about the Government ball sing thing up.

So why is Nufam picking on Jauhari instead of Hishamuddin who, as the head of the search efforts must surely the the one to be held accountable if anyone is? Is it because Jauhari has no political clout like Hiham? Is it because he is not related to the PM? Or comes from the Umno Bhramin class? Or that he had been firm against their attempts at pay hikes?

Now is not the time for any organisation to exploit cynical for their own agendas. Not when the pain for the families of the MH370 passengers is still so acute and many of them are still grieving and mourning. There will be a time for reckoning, and when that time comes Nufam, if it is ernest in seeking justice or the well-being of the aviation industry, should have enough integrity and courage to place blame where it is deserving, instead of picking on someone who is vulnerable.








How can the Malaysian Government find closure in the MH370 tragedy?

With Malaysian Prime Minister Najib’s announcement that MH 370 had perished in the Indian Ocean, and with no contending evidence to suggest otherwise, situation is moving toward what Crisis Managers would consider the Closure stage.

It will take some time, as families come to terms with their loss and mourn their loved ones. The task is all the more difficult since there is no wreckage of MH370 to be found. Even the debris spotted by satellite has not been recovered and positively identified.

The Malaysian Government, helmed by Transport Minister, Hishamuddin has had a rough ride through the three weeks between the disappearance of MH370 and Najib’s announcement of the end of the plane’s journey. Their reputation is mostly in tatters. There is almost universal criticism of the way they handled the incident.

If you were advising the Malaysian Government, what would you advise they do to find closure on the issue?

Unspun has some thoughts but would like to hear other opinions weighing in.




Something to like: Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370 Facebook page

If you are family or friend of Captain Zaharie, the pilot of MH370 that went missing more than 10 days ago and feel that much of what is being said about him was unfair, careless or plain sensationalism, what would you do?

You could face the media but that would be a huge strain. The pressure would be enormous, you would be subjected to a public inquisition and a small slip of the tongue could crucify you and reflect badly on the Captain. And even if you are good with the media you could still be subject to misinterpretation and misquotes.

Yet you feel that you need to set the record straight on some matters. In the captain’s case, some media reported that authorities raided his house and confiscated his home-made simulator when apparently the facts are that they want to the house and respectfully asked if they could inspect it. Th family cooperated fully and even helped to dismantle it. It was a picture of cooperation, not of authorities busting into the defensive home of a political fanatic.

What do you do? For Captain Zaharie’s family and friends their answer lies with starting a Facebook Page “Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370“.


It would have been better if they had identified who exactly was hosting the page to give it more credibility but under the circumstances this was enough and they have taken to providing information and clearing the air about misreports and misinterpretations.

FOCZ1 copy
                     Continue Reading

This is smart use of social media during a crisis-like situation and corporations would do well to take a leaf from the Captain’s family and friends for their own crisis moments.

And why not? The Internet now allows almost anyone to own their own media. You could, in short order, set up a blog or reconfigure your webpage, set up a Facebook page and a twitter account, or use your existing one with a particular hashtag to do what the Captain’s friends have just done.

What you can do then is post notes to inform or announce information, or correct misinformation. If you want to go further you could also post your own videoclips and even open up a “press room” where you take the media’s questions and answer them through the net. The journalists would not like this very much as it takes too much control out of them, but what choice do they have if that is the only source of timely information from you?

This is not to say that a corporation should eschew the traditional face-to-face interviews, briefings and press conferences but social media now allows you to have a medium where you too can be a broadcaster to take the monopoly of power from the mass media.

Yet this is something corporations don’t do enough when confronted with emergencies and crises.is it because bad habits are hard to break, or that they feel that they are not engaging enough unless you do things in the real rather than the virtual world?








Does the Malaysian Government evoke contempt for its handling of the MH370 incident?

The answer seems to be an unqualified YES!

Consider these developments that betray the depth of incompetence, internal conflict and egos at play behind the scenes of the Malaysian Government agencies involved in the MH370 search and rescue effort.

  • There were already indications that as early as Monday, Malaysian officials already knew that MH370 had turned back up to the Malacca Straits. They ordered the search to be extended to the Straits. Yet this did not become official until yesterday, when a Malaysian military source confirmed they had tracked the plane to Pulau Perak on the northern end of the straits.
  • Why did the Military take until yesterday to put out the information about the last know whereabouts of MH 307. The fact that they leaked it through a “source” rather than a statement suggests that they were sidelined and prevented from participating fully in the SAR efforts.
  • Because the Malaysian government has not confirmed it, we do not know yet conclusively if the military’s claim is a fact, but it seems probable otherwise the huge search efforts off Vietnam would have come up with something. Now, if it is true then the search for MH370 should focus not only on the straits but also in the Andaman Sea beyond Sumatra.
  • This is clearly turning out to be something too big of the Malaysian Government to handle all by itself. It is a signatory of a treaty where it can call in other countries to help in the search effort and the analysing of information. It hasn’t. national pride is one possible factor behind the reluctance.
  • DCA director-general Azharuddin Abdul Razak, a man clearly uneasy with having the face the media, is clearly anthropologically challenged. He described the appearance of the two men traveling on fake passports on MH 370 as looking like footballer Mario Balotelli, who looks like this:

  • When the photos of the two offending passengers were released they were apparently Iranians who looked like this:

  • See the resemblance? Unspun can’t either, which raises profound questions about the ability of the DCA to differentiate facts from rumours, half-truths and downright misinformation that are prevalent in any crisis-like situation.
  • How many people who checked in did not board MH370? The DCA says 5, the Police chief says 1. Who’s correct? This episode also raises concerns of whether they are even talking to each other, let alone working together to help find MH370 and provide timely updates to the families, friends and the world about the SAR efforts.

These are only some of the horror stories of incompetence and callousness emanating out of Kuala Lumpur. As things stand there is no clear signal of who is in charge of the incident. Is it the DCA director-general Azharuddin Abdul Razak? If so what is he doing allowing the Police chief to contradict him and not coordinating with the military.

With such a level of incompetence and lack of leadership being displayed the families and friends of the victims are rightly getting angry and frustrated with the government. The international media has begun reflecting this. This Morning’s Anderson360, for instance, has corespondent Clancy reporting on the non-cooperation, defensiveness of the Malaysian officials and the paucity and inconsistency of information being provided to family, friends and media.

This reflects very poorly on the Malaysian Government and Malaysia.

When you think about it the only person who can step in now and salvage things is the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. If he is serious about helping the families and friends of MH370 passengers and crew, and of locating the plane in the shortest time possible, he needs to step in, replace the DCA chief or appoint someone competent to be the Incident Commander.

He then needs to call in all agencies and read the Riot Act to them that for the duration of the crisis whatever the Incident Commander says goes. There is no time for consensus nor nursing bruised egos during a crisis. It is command-and-control all the way.

Who should be the Incident Commander? Unspun has no clue, but it must be someone senior enough and who has the full backing of Najib and the Malaysian government to be able to make all the right decisions and have them implemented. Someone who is able to command the respect of the heads of competing agencies and someone who can make decisions yet have the flexibility of an open mind toward approaching problems.

If Najib can make this happen, The Malaysian Government can still salvage its reputation and that of the nation’s in they crisis, in the process bring much needed clarity and proper treatment to the distraught families and friends of the passengers and crew of MH370.

If he can’t or won’t do that then he might as well prepare the nation to be held in contempt and odium as a bunch of Keystone Cops flailing out hopelessly with the world as their stage.

What the IGP-DCA discord does to Malaysia’s image as world waits for news of MH370

One sure way of losing the confidence of the public during a crisis-like situation is when principal players and agencies in the government contradict each other.

They may have very good reasons for believing what they believe but to the public that doesn’t matter. Whether you head the Police or the Department of Civil Aviation you still represent the government.

And when key figures in the Government contradict each other then the public, rightly, starts to conclude that the government is uncoordinated, that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing and worse – that they are at odds with each other.

In such instances the public is perfectly reasonable to wonder if the Government is competent enough to deal with the incident at hand – in this case locating MH370 and its passengers in the shortest possible time.

But managing egos and bureaucratic territorial-ism is a difficult thing, especially in a national-level crisis-like situation. That’s why the US has the Federal Emergency Management Authority and the Incident Command System. The system makes its clear who is to be the Incident Commander and what their duties are and how other agencies should relate to them.

A systematic approach like this is not perfect but it helps tremendously to coordinate the responses of the different agencies.

Hence after the Boston Marathon bombing you have press briefings by the different agencies, standing side by side, updating the public within their area of responsibility and never contradicting each other.

That didn’t happen by accident. It took a well-written procedures, clear coordination and lines of authority and well-trained spokespersons to make it happen.

Each and every one of them had been media trained. The result is that the public sees a government that is coordinated, cooperating with each other and effective, raising their esteem for the government they must rely on as their saviour in difficult times.

And then you have the fracas playing out in Malaysia where the Police chief  contradicts the DCA’s director-general. One wonders if either man had had an iota of media training in their lives, or for that matter any crisis management training at all. And you also wonder if there is any leadership at all where the incident is concerned.

They not only give a bad impression of the Government to Malaysians but to the whole world, whose attention is riveted on the search and rescue efforts surrounding MH370 because of the different nationalities in the passenger list.

The world is watching. Malaysia should do better. But where’s the leadership to make it happen?

IGP contradicts DCA on MH370 passengers | Free Malaysia Today.

Alyaa Azhar | March 11, 2014


Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar says only one person cancelled her ticket because she had mistook the date of the flight.

PETALING JAYA: Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar today refuted claims by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) that several passengers who had checked in did not board the fateful Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

In a press conference today, Khalid revealed that only one person had missed the flight.

“Only one person missed the flight, and it was a lady. She had called Malaysia Airlines to cancel the ticket because she had mistook the date,” said Khalid.

His statement contradicted DCA director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman’s previous statement that five people had purchased the plane tickets and had even checked in their baggage but did not make the flight.

Azharuddin had then confirmed that MAS had removed the passengers’ baggage after the national carrier learned that the five people did not board the place.

However when asked by reporters today, Khalid stressed that no such incident had occurred.

“There is no such thing as five person who did not board the plane. There is no such thing,” said the police chief.

“You take it from me, there were no such thing.”

“Nobody booked the ticket that did not board.”

Four areas

Khalid said that four areas were being looked into, namely, possible hijacking, sabotage, the psychological problem as well as personal problem of passengers and crew members.

Explaining further, he said a passenger might have bought a huge sum of insurance and wanted family members to gain from it.

Khalid added that the police were working with counterparts from 14 other countries and are exchanging information with them.

A discussion was also held with a team of officers from China’s public security office.

“We have been supplied with photographs of 150 Chinese passengers. We are currently going through the profiles of all the passengers,” he said.

When asked on whether there were possible leads of the plane being hijacked, he said: “We are looking into all angles.”

“Give us some time to go through everything,” he said, admitting that the police do not have prior intelligence on activities of terrorists in particular.

Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew, went missing enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing about an hour after taking off from KLIA at 12.41am on Saturday.

It should have landed at 6.30 am.

Don’t let fake passports story waylay the search and rescue efforts of MH370


The most dreaded media question by politicians in the West whenever there is a crisis is:” Will you resign your position to take responsibility for this incident/travesty/failure?”

But that’s the West. Here in the East journalists, even Western ones operating here under work permits controlled by governments, are better mannered and avoid such confrontationist approaches. This is all very good, but sometimes it makes it difficult to ascertain where the buck stops.

Take, for instance, the apparent failure of Malaysian immigration officials to intercept two apparently Asian-looking  men who were travelling under the fake identities of stolen Austrian and Italian passports.

The Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was right to fume to national newswire Bernama: “I am still puzzled how come (immigration officers) cannot think, an Italian and Austrian (passengers) but with Asian facial features.” It is, of course, not impossible that there are Italians and Austrians with Asian features, but they must be a minority and should have tripped off some alarm bells.

The Minister has rightfully called for a probe into the immigration officials at the KL International Airport branch.

Then the narrative takes a strange turn. The Department of Civil Aviation was asked to comment on the Minister’s remarks. The DCA’s director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman declined commenting on the case with the line: “I will not reveal too much on the two passengers still under investigation, as it might jeopardise the investigation.”

That is a strange response because the Immigration Department in Malaysia is under the Home Ministry. Azharuddin could have easily have said: “I cannot comment on the Immigration Department, you’d have to ask the Home Minister/director-general of Immigration about that,” and got away with it. This is because the DCA is under the Transport Ministry, not the Home Ministry. And the Immigration Department is under the Home Ministry.

It is a basic rule of media training, in normal times but especially in crisis-like situations, that you never speak in someone else’s behalf.

But Azharuddin did. So, to a layperson looking in, the lines are now blurred. If there is a failure in immigration procedures and security, whose responsibility should it be? Would it be the responsibility of the Home Minister or the Transport Minister?

Should they take the responsibility because this failure, if it turns out to be one, happened on their watch, or should officials lower down who are more responsible for the failure take the rap?

This question will be floating around in the media for the next few days and, if not handled properly, might escalate as the MH370 crisis, as Unspun wrote in a previous posting, would now be entering Stage 3 – the finger pointing stage.

This matter needs to be handled skilfully so that it would not get to the point that it saps energy and resources away from the main tasks at hand: the  rescue or recovery of MH370 and its passengers and crew; taking care of the families and loved ones and communicating to the public to assure them that everything possible is being done to find MH 370 and the people in it.

DCA keeps mum over minister’s revelation on dubious duo on MH370


A relative of a passenger on the missing Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 watches DCA director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman during a televised news conference at the Everly Hotel in Putrajaya March 10, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

A relative of a passenger on the missing Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 watches DCA director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman during a televised news conference at the Everly Hotel in Putrajaya March 10, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

SEPANG, March 10 — Malaysian authorities today refused to verify a minister’s claims that the two passengers who boarded missing MAS flight MH370 using stolen passports had “Asian” features, saying that they did not want to jeopardise ongoing investigations.Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said that it would be premature for him to comment on the claim, made last night by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“I will not reveal too much on the two passengers still under investigation, as it might jeopardise the investigation,” he said, refusing to entertain repeated questions on the matter.

Ahmad Zahid made the revelation last night when announcing an internal probe on the Immigration Department over the incident.

“I am still puzzled how come (immigration officers) cannot think, an Italian and Austrian (passengers) but with Asian facial features,” he was quoted by national newswire Bernama.

Ahmad Zahid noted that the ongoing investigation is being carried out by a special team led by the department’s director-general Datuk Aloyah Mamat, and will focus on their Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) branch.

To a question on whether immigration officers on duty on the morning the flight went missing had cross-checked the passport details with Interpol’s database, Azharuddin again declined comment, saying that he could not say much on the matter for the time being.

“That is the duty of the investigating team to determine what happened that morning,” he said.

Azharuddin also sidestepped repeated questions on the level of security at KLIA following the discovery of the two yet-to-be-identified passengers on the missing flight, insisting that they adhere to international standards.

“The security deployed now at KLIA complies with international security standards. The DCA has done surveillance and audit of KLIA, and we have been audited by the United States and Australian security offices,” he said.

Speculation of possible foul play in the disappearance of MH370 is mounting after ticketing information showed the duo who boarded using the stolen passports had purchased one-way tickets.

Yesterday, investigations into the plane’s disappearance were expanded to include the possibility that it suffered a mid-air explosion, news agency Reuters reported citing sources.

Flight MH370 has now been missing for more than two days since it lost contact after departing Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing, China on March 8.

There were 239 people on board, including 12 crew members.

Does Malaysia Airlines instil confidence in its handling of MH370 incident?

When tragedy strikes, like it has with the disappearance of flight MH370, the company at the centre of it all comes under intense scrutiny. It must demonstrate that it knows what it is doing and has a difficult situation under control – or lose the confidence of the public and all other stakeholders.

If it loses control of the situation it will plunge itself into a deeper crisis as all the frustration and anger of missing loved ones come to bear full force on it.

Fortunately for the families and loved ones of MH370, however, Malaysia Airlines has so far has demonstrated its professionalism in handling this crisis-like situation. Their burden remains heavy, but they can at least take comfort that CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya and his team know what they are doing.

How can you tell if they are doing a good job?  There are several tell tale signs.

The first is that Ahmad and Malaysia Airlines’ willingness to share information. Perhaps a bit slow off the block Ahmad nevertheless addressed the issue in a Press Conference yesterday where he expressed sympathy for the friends and families of the victims, told the public what they did and did not know yet, and what they are doing. This is the Triple R of crisis communications – Regret, Reason and Remedy.

The other indication of what sort of a company Malaysia Airlines is when it comes to crisis management can be seen very evidently  from how it manages its digital assets because in this age of the super-connected public, they are the first points of contact for most people around the world who are interested in the developments of the search and rescue and recovery of MH370 and its passengers and crew. The digital assets are primarily its website, as well as its social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook.

Companies trained in crisis management usually have a Dark Site prepared for incidents such as MH370. A Dark Site is a “dormant” website that is stripped of all promotion materials and designed to provide information and updates about the incident. It is activated only during crisis-like situations.

If you go to the Malaysian Airlines website you will see that they have stripped their website of all promotional materials, with a prominent “pointer” to the Dark Site.

MAS Website

Click on that and you go directly to the Dark Site where you get the latest information that the company has on the incident.

MAS Darksite

But Malaysian Airlines does not stop there. Go to their Facebook page and you will see the same messages being posted to amplify their message on the website. The Facebook page is also stripped of all colour and the airlines logo is grey together with a grey background, to prevent any inadvertent visuals that may not be appropriate for the mood.


This same treatment is also applied to its Twitter account which is also used to amplify the message on its website.

MAS Twitter

Such coordination and activation within hours of the incident suggests a company that takes crisis management seriously and has drilled its employees to be able to carry out such tasks under the pressure of public scrutiny. It should give confidence to the public that Ahmad Jauhari Yahya and his Core Crisis Management Team at Malaysia Airlines are competent, professional and know what they are doing.

In difficult times like this, such professionalism should be a source of comfort for aggrieved families and friends of the passengers of MH370.


How the media will report the MH370 incident

When a plane goes missing, it is a terrible experience for the families and loved ones of the victims. The uncertainty, the waiting and the frustration of not knowing can be heart rendering. The best we all can do is send our thoughts and prayers for the victims and their loved ones and, in Unspun‘s case, perhaps help people to understand how the media is likely to treat crisis-like situations like this and better prepare them for what they are about to read or see in the media.

Any crisis-like situation like MH370 goes through four stages. Stage 1 is the “Breaking News” stage. Almost all of the information is focussed on “what happened”. In this case the facts are that MH370 disappeared with no telltale signs such as a radio call or signal. This is strange, but speculation would not help. Facts are the only currency in crisis-like situations.Unspun thinks Malaysian Airlines’s CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya has handled the matter relatively well, with the factual delivery of his core statement at a press conference earlier today.

We have been seeing the characteristics of this stage in the media coverage but it has already morphed into Stage 2, which is focused on the “drama” of the victims or their loved ones’ responses, as well as the response of the perpetrator/responsible organization. This is a crucial make-or-break stage for Malaysian Airlines as the spotlight will turn on how they are responding to the situation, and the possible causes of the incident.

Malaysia Airlines will need to constantly update the media and the families of the victims as they will, rightly or not, be judged by how responsive and open they are with sharing information. This is a difficult task if the search and rescue teams do not find the wreckage of the plane soon but it is something that Malaysia Airlines would have to handle with great delicacy.

If Ahmad and his team handle things well they will be able to avoid Stage Three of a crisis: The Finger Pointing Stage. At this stage the media tries to focus on the “Why” of the incident and experts will be trotted out to speculate on who should have done what. Malaysian Airlines may not have the answers as airline incidents like crashes take a very long time to investigate, gather evidence, perform the forensics and come to any conclusions. But this would not stop the media, pundits and the general public from trying to place blame on someone.

After some time the incident will go into Stage 4, which is the Resolution or Fallout stage. The publicity is tuned down a notch as the focus shifts to either funeral services, government inquiries or special hearings. And even if  Malaysian Airlines conducts a successful closure strategy to the incident, the facts and myths of the matter live on in Google and social media, ready to pounce back with a vengeance if the airlines makes any mistakes.

It is a difficult situation and one can only hope that Malaysian Airlines has trained itself well in Crisis Management so that it will be able to provide crucial information and support for the victims’ families and loved ones throughout the incident and maintain enough control of the situation to continue to do so.


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