Was someone sleeping on the job?


Anwar said that during his tenure as finance minister, Malaysia procured one of the best radar systems on the market. He said it would certainly have been able to track Flight MH370 as it flew into the Indian Ocean.

P Ramani, FMT

Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri deserves commendation for being honest enough to admit he was wrong when he told Parliament the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) had assumed Flight MH370 was under orders to return to KLIA and therefore did not react to the extraordinary blip on its radar.

But his candour, though admirable, cannot stop concerned Malaysians from harbouring doubts about the integrity of the country’s national defence system.

Retired First Admiral Mohd Imran Abdul Hamid told FMT it was inexcusable for RMAF chief Rodzali Daud to wait nearly two days before revealing that the blip appeared on radar about a half hour after the plane reportedly veered from its course.

“It looks like they noticed the blip only after reviewing their radar monitoring records,” he said.

Imran, now a PKR member and MP for Lumut, said it was normal practice for the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) to furnish RMAF with details of incoming commercial planes a day in advance.

“So there is no way an alien object could be flying in our air space without being noticed by civil and military radars,” he added.

A former RMAF radar expert agreed. Speaking on condition that his name be kept confidential, he said that whenever an unidentified object is detected in Malaysian air space, the first step under normal RMAF procedure would be to find out from DCA whether there had been contact between it and the object.

“In an adverse situation, the military will try to establish communication with the plane provided it can get the plane’s communication frequency,” he said. “If this fails, the next step is to scramble our fighter jets to ascertain whether it’s a friend or foe.

“In usual practice, a fighter jet will command the plane to leave Malaysian airspace rather than shoot it down. Other countries may opt for a more offensive method, which can lead to international criticism.”

In the event of a hijack, he said, the RMAF chief, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the National Security Council would be alerted and some secret protocols would be invoked.

An interesting piece of information about Malaysia’s radar capabilities emerged recently in a CNN interview with Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.