'Change of direction was deliberate'
[0530 pm local MYT, Tuesday, 18 March 2014]
Minister Hishamuddin's update included the following points:
- Switch off of Acars: With a high degree of certainty, Acars was disabled just before the aircraft reached the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Yesterday, Malaysia Airlines clarified that the system on MH370 was switched off between 01.07 and 01.37 and this clarification was in conjunction with other agencies. Our position remains that the change of direction was deliberate.
This does not impact the search zones of the northern and southern corridors. The cooperation from supporting countries has been excellent. He added that he has requested US defence secretary Chuck Hagel for specialist help in the search in the southern corridor.
In the northern corridor, we have divided the search area into seven quadrants. Each of the seven quadrants is 400 nautical miles by 400 nautical miles – or 160,000 square nautical miles in total. We have also divided up the southern corridor into seven quadrants. Just like in the north, each quadrant covers an area of 160,000 square nautical miles. The entire search area is now 2.24 million square nautical miles.
- Royal Malaysian Police: the investigation into the passengers, crew and ground staff is ongoing and the IGP [Inspector General of Police] will give updates on any findings.
"The search is bigger than politics," he added. "The aim is to find the plane and this is the top priority."
During the briefing, Malaysian Foreign Ministry's Datuk Seri Amifah Aman confirmed that 25 countries are involved and that they "have responded excellently to our diplomatic notes."
"The operation is complex and we fully appreciate all the cooperation and assistance that has been given. Politics is not important. I do not think that anybody should seek cheap publicity," said Amifah.
The Q&A included the following:
- Northern corridor or southern corridor? "Military primary data and confirmation from international agencies information was used to identify the northern and southern corridors," said Hishamuddin. He added the certain countries have been asked to relook data to help narrow the search zones.
Southern corridor: Indonesia and Australia (which announced a 600,000 sq km search zone earlier) are among those countries searching this corridor, said Hishamuddin.
The northern and southern corridors search zones was identified with international partners, said SAR director Azharuddin.
- Pilot link to Anwar and opposition politics? Hishamuddin said: "We did not bring this issue up. This was brought up by foreign media such as the UK's Daily Mail and CNN. Our concern remains on finding the plane. The focus from day one has been to search and rescue of MH370."
- Electrical fault? SAR director Azharuddin said the team is not discounting any possibility including a loss of cabin pressure and the aircraft must find the aircraft.
- Was the 'turn back' programmed into computer beforehand? Hishamuddin said he could not comment on this. Malaysia Airlines chief executive Jauhari said the preprogrammed flight was for KL to Beijing though "once on the aircraft anything is possible."