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Crisis in Malaysia
Residents of the state are used to their leaders not answering questions
Thanks to a combination of control over information, intimidation of the opposition and, until recently, stable economic growth, the ruling elite of Malaysia has been in power without a break for almost six decades (starting with the liberation of the British).
If the radar readings spotted the missing plane, this could mean a radical rethinking of previous versions. And only under a hail of questions from foreign reporters, the country's authorities admitted that the last point on the radar showed the plane's course in the direction of the Indian Ocean - and at a cruising altitude, which could mean that it flew a long distance. This raises the question of why this information was released so late.
"The world is finally feeling the frustration we have experienced for years," said Li Yi Mei, a management consultant and former assistant to opposition Malaysian politician.
Ms. Li reported that she was perplexed when Malaysia's Defense Minister Hishamudin Hussein, a descendant of an influential political dynasty, rejected the reporter's assertion that the search for the missing plane was erratic.
“This is a mess only if you view it as a mess,” Hishamudin said at a press conference held before world reporters.
Ethnic Malays, who make up about half of the population, retain virtually all top government posts and receive many benefits from it because of their status as "sons of the earth."
Authoritarian laws help maintain the power of the ruling party - the United Malay National Organization - and keep the opposition gaining strength.
The day before the MN370 flight disappeared, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to five years in prison under the law on homosexuality, which is almost never used. Critics have considered this case an attempt to stop the strengthening of the opposition, while the popularity of the ruling party is waning. Almost immediately after this, the court condemned another opposition politician, Karpal Singh, under the law of incitement to insurrection, which was adopted in colonial times.
"We call it persecution, not accusation," said Ambig Sreenevasan, a lawyer and former head of the Lawyers' Council of Malaysia.
Ms. Ambiga stressed that the government is accustomed to receiving its own, and the crisis that has occurred due to the missing plane makes officials accountable to the public, which is a novelty for them.
For a fairly prosperous country with 30 million inhabitants, which is less well known abroad than its neighbors Thailand and Singapore, the government's convulsive attempts to find the missing plane is an embarrassing and undesirable appearance on the world stage.
The government looks uncoordinated and unable to declare even the basic facts about the disappeared flight. The authorities insisted three days that the baggage was removed from the plane before departure, because five registered passengers were not on board. However, the head of the police later announced that it was a lie: all registered passengers boarded the plane. There were no explanations for these contradictions.
The director of the Merdeka Center, an independent public opinion research company, Ibrahim Sufian, said that the response to the crisis had underlined the lack of clarity in the functioning of the government and in society as a whole.
"There is tolerance for the lack of attention to detail," he stressed. "We have a tendency that we do not ask many questions - and we do not expect serious results."
However, among the critics about the search and rescue operation, there are voices saying that the disappearance of the aircraft was so unusual that probably no government in the world would be ready for it.
“This is almost a unique situation,” said economist Ramon Navaratnam, a Harvard-educated economist, a former senior government official.
Now the Malaysian authorities are stuck in an unenviable position, listening to many questions and having only a few answers.
“They have never experienced such pressure,” Ms. Li summed up. “And now, when the whole world is looking at them, they have nowhere to hide.”
Thomas Fuller, The New York Times
Translated by Mikhail Botvinnik exclusively for EastRussia.ru
Ps Recently, the authorities of the country reported that, most likely, the liner fell in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. None of those who were on board survived. The search for debris is still ongoing.