KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 — Putrajaya has yet to make a decision on a reward for anyone who succeeds in locating the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said today.
Global pressure to continue the search for the jetliner and the 239 people on board remains after the governments of three countries agreed to call off the search that has gone on for nearly three years without any concrete evidence to its location.
“I have received many suggestions from various quarters on how we should continue our efforts in searching for the ill-fated flight.
“We will go through the ideas and suggestions, but we have yet to make any decision, since there is no credible evidence,” Liow was quoted by the New Straits Times daily as telling reporters in Hutan Melintang, Perak.
The cash reward incentive for a private search was mooted by Liow’s deputy, Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi earlier this week.
The deputy transport minister was reported as telling the local daily that the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China would raise a cash reward to anyone who can find the plane’s main fuselage.
Liow was also reported as saying he will be flying to Australia to welcome returning search parties as they arrive in its western port city of Fremantle on Sunday.
He also reiterated that the MH370 search was only suspended and may yet resume if “credible evidence” ever turns up.
In a statement today, Opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang urged the government for a full and satisfactory response to allegations made in the international media that it withheld crucial data that could help find Flight MH370.
The Gelang Patah MP said the government must immediately address claims made by Australian news website News.com.au that it intentionally withheld key data in an alleged bid to cover up its poor handling of the affair.
“The Malaysian Government must give full and satisfactory response to serious allegations made in the international media that it had withheld crucial data that could help find the missing MH370 from the Australian authorities and independent aviation and data experts involved in the search,” Lim said.
Australian news website News.com.au is one of the international media which had made such allegations, Lim noted.
In an exclusive article, the Australian website said: “If you assumed those tasked with finding this needle in a haystack had been given every piece of information available to solve what is now regarded as the greatest aviation mystery in history, you would be wrong.
“News.com.au can reveal that Malaysia withheld, and continues to withhold, from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and consulting experts, vital radar data containing possible clues to the location of the Boeing 777 — or what is left of it.”
The article also alleged that the Malaysian authorities were negligent in the crucial hours after the plane went off radar.
It quoted two independent investigators of MH370’s disappearance — American Victor Iannello and British Don Thompson — who concurred they have been denied access to data that could more accurately pinpoint the plane’s location.
Thompson was quoted by the website as saying that military long-range air defence surveillance data from eight military sites across four nations, was not shared with the ATSB.
Lim said with many of the allegations left unanswered, Putrajaya must initiate a new search for MH370.
“I call on the Malaysian government to answer the specific question haunting all concerned whether the two-and-half-year search had been looking in the wrong area,” Lim said.
“How can the Malaysian government expect Malaysians or the victims’ families to accept that passengers of the national airline can just disappear into thin air?
“The Malaysian Government should seriously consider funding a new MH370 search!” he added.
Flight MH370 went missing en route to Beijing, China from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014.
Its search was formally suspended last Tuesday after searchers canvassed some 12,000 sq km of the southern Indian Ocean without success.
The move drew criticism from MH370’s next of kin who called the decision “an erroneous expectation, and at worst a clever formulation to bury the search”.