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
BY JOSEPH SIPALANMarch 10, 2014
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.