The Malaysian government has been criticized for its handling of the investigation into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. It’s been more than two weeks since the plane and its 239 passengers - two thirds of them from China - vanished, with only satellite data calculations indicating it likely crashed in a remote area of the southern Indian ocean.
In Beijing Tuesday, families upset over the handling of flight 370’s disappearance marched toward the Malaysian embassy, one day after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that Flight 370 and all those on board were gone.
Many would dispute that saying the Malaysian government has withheld information from families and the media. Inmarsat, a British satellite company, told Malaysian officials four days after the disappearance that they had hourly signals from the plane. Yet Malaysian officials delayed for three days before acting on that information.
John Goglia spent years with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, investigating plane crashes. He blames Malaysian inexperience with air tragedies.
“In this particular instance, what had come out certainly seemed disconnected. Seemed like [they] didn’t follow any known processes that had been established for years and years,” says Goglia.
Neighboring countries were quick to join the search, but slow to share radar or satellite information with Malaysia about possible sightings. Bud Musser used to fly the same Boeing 777 throughout Asia.
“To save face. To not let the Indians or anyone else know that we have some weak points or that we have some people asleep on the radar,” says Musser.
Malaysia is in a difficult position. Observers say it does not want to anger the economic powerhouse of the area - China - and two-thirds of the passengers were Chinese. Yet, China’s Global Times newspaper is running editorials blaming Malaysia's government. One editorial says: “Malaysia is determined to enter the ranks of developed countries by 2020. But judging from its handling of the MH370 incident, Malaysia’s modernization will take far longer than this.”
Malaysia has a growing tourism industry and last year, 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited Malaysia. But this could change.
There are going to be economic consequences, says Nile Bowie, a political reporter living in Kuala Lumpur.
“I was speaking to some of my Chinese friends in Beijing today and they said ‘We are definitely going to be boycotting Malaysia. We won’t be coming to visit you anymore.’ The Chinese, I think have a ‘group think’ in situations like this and it could lead to a lack of trade between Malaysia and China, at the very worst,” says Bowie.
Many watching the events unfold in Malaysia say the longer the search drags on, the greater the chance that Flight 370 becomes an unsolved mystery.