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.