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Anwar: Are they trying to 'protect' the black box?

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail's trip to the United Kingdom to determine the ownership of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370's black box arouses suspicion that Malaysia is out to ensure it does not fall into the hands of foreigners.

This raises the possibility that Malaysia does not want other countries to access the data before it does, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim ( left ) said today.

"They are worried about protecting the black box. This is interesting," he said in a recent interview with Malaysiakini .

Anwar said Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had dismissed the importance of the custody of the black box, saying there was “no question” information in the black box would be released.

"To me, in this case, anyone should be able to read the black box... So you can sense this concealing of information, but protecting what?”

Putrajaya had led slip that Gani (right) had gone to the UK last week to confer with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on the ownership of the black box.

Currently, the plane is believed to have ended its journey in the Indian Ocean and Australia is leading the task to find the black box. This has sparked questions about the ownership of the black box and its valuable data.

Malaysia's responsibility for the investigation is based on the Chicago Convention of the ICAO.

When an accident or incident takes place in international waters, the country where the aircraft is registered is in charge of the investigation, although it can delegate this responsibility to another country, upon mutual consent.

International scrutiny needed

Meanwhile, Anwar also called for the formation of an independent international commission to immediately investigate the plane’s disappearance, stressing that this was necessary as current investigations led by Malaysia had “lacked transparency".

"First it was incompetence, now ineptitude, which I think relates to the opaque system of government. There should be an independent international commission so we can get the truth."

Hishammuddin announced yesterday that the cabinet was mulling the formation of an international panel to show transparency.

This is on top of three domestic ministerial committees formed to probe and coordinate the investigation into the missing Boeing 777-200ER aircraft.

However, Anwar said, there was no reason to delay the appointment of the international committee, which would go some way to restoring the credibility Malaysia lost over the initial bungling of the investigation and search.

"To regain the lost trust and confidence in the country, and to show we have a leadership that is competent and willing to make the necessary adjustments and changes, they should appoint an international commission."

Anwar is sceptical of what Malaysian investigators would find, and said different forms of investigations proposed domestically had been rejected by the government, including a Royal Commission of Inquiry, Parliamentary Select Committee and even a debate in Parliament.

"They are having ministerial investigations which will be nothing. Probably they will choose some fall guy, some director, and that will be it.

"But it involved MAS, KLIA, the air force, the Transport Ministry, and of the course the prime minister and how he dealt with it."

Opaque system

The sporadic, and often inaccurate, release of information surrounding the investigation has also fuelled speculation the government was deliberately hiding something, Anwar said.

"If we were to handle it, of course we would handle it differently – we have to be transparent, we cannot lie to the international community."

The failure to release the cargo manifest was just one instance of the government withholding, or concealing, information vital to the search and rescue operation.

"It is so essential in the search, but it is not a national secret, it is not a security matter."

Even the Australian government had not been given the details of the cargo on board MH370, Anwar said.

"Frankly, under this system which is opaque, which is corrupt, I don’t think they can come out with anything substantive. I have absolutely no confidence in the system.

"But they continue; they don’t care. Dictators never learn."