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?
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.”
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.