Conflicting Statements And MAS' Inaction On MH370 Draw Anger And Frustration From Families

Family members and relatives of those onboard missing Flight MH370 remain suspicious of latest revelations, wanting more answers to the ongoing mystery.

Cover image via Reuters

On 6 August, Malaysian PM Najib Razak confirmed that a 6-foot long wing flap discovered on Réunion Island is indeed from the missing Flight MH370

Image via AP

"Today, 515 days since the plane disappeared," he said, "it is with a very heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370."

"I hope that this confirmation, however tragic and painful, will at least bring certainty to the families and loved ones of the 239 people on board MH370," said a somber Prime Minister Najib Razak. "They have our deepest sympathy and prayers."

However, his statement is being met with skepticism from some family members of those onboard MH370, especially after French and Australian officials report conflicting views on the origin of the wing flap.

Serge Mackowiak, a deputy prosecutor in France, did not outright confirm Najib's statement, merely saying that there is a "very high probability" that the wing flap is from MH370 and that more analysis will be conducted from Thursday onwards to confirm the part's origin.

Paris deputy prosecutor Serge Mackowiak holds a press conference on the Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight in Paris, France.

Image via AP / Jacques DeMarthon

"There exists a very high probability that the flaperon indeed belongs to flight MH370," said deputy Paris prosecutor Serge Mackowiak.

Investigators had been able to confirm that the flaperon came from a Boeing 777 due to its "technical characteristics." Furthermore, "technical documentation" provided by Malaysia Airlines representatives allowed investigators to "establish a link between the item examined by the experts and the flaperon from the MH370 Boeing 777 in terms of their common technical characteristics," said Mackowiak.

"The very strong conjectures are to be confirmed by complementary analysis that will begin tomorrow morning (Thursday)," Mackowiak said. "The experts are conducting their work as fast as they can in order to give complete and reliable information as quickly as possible."

The caution was typical of how France carries out air crash investigations. The French agency that usually handles such probes, known as the BEA, can take months if not years to lay out exhaustive conclusions in reports that last hundreds of pages. During the inquiries, they only rarely offer interim assessments and even more rarely comment.

The Australian government, who've been leading search efforts for MH370, is also less certain about the part originating from the missing plane.

An anonymous official alleged that Malaysia was not supposed to make the announcement before getting the evidence to back the conclusive statement.

The Australian government, which leads the seabed search for wreckage west of Australia, is also less certain than Malaysia, saying in a statement that "based on high probability, it is MH370."

An Australian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly, said Malaysia wasn't supposed to make the announcement, and had gone out on its own making a conclusive statement before getting the evidence to back it up.

Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss pointed out that while the French inquiry "has not been quite so conclusive", the Malaysian government had the right to make that call as they are in charge of the investigation

Image via The Guardian

"Of course there are still some i's not dotted and t's not crossed. There is still a very small element of doubt," Truss said.

"The French are being more cautious. But from the Malaysians, the flag carrier of the aircraft, they are now satisfied that the body of evidence is sufficient to say that this is wreckage from MH370."

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) appeared to have confirmed the find, saying that the "major breakthrough" was jointly confirmed by the French, Malaysian, and Australian investigation teams. The company also said that family members of passengers and crew have been informed accordingly. Read the full statement here:

"Malaysia Airlines would like to sincerely convey our deepest sorrow to the families and friends of the passengers onboard Flight MH370 on the news that the flaperon found on Reunion Island on 29 July was indeed from Flight MH370. This has been confirmed jointly today by the French Authorities, Bureau d’ Enquetes et d‘ Analyses pour la Securites de I’AviationCivile (BEA), the Malaysian Investigation Team, Technical Representative from PRC and Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB) in Toulouse, France and subsequently announced by the Prime Minister of Malaysia Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Family members of passengers and crew have already been informed and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected.

This is indeed a major breakthrough for us in resolving the disappearance of MH370. We expect and hope that there would be more objects to be found which would be able to help resolve this mystery.

Moving forward, Malaysia Airlines’ priority will continue to provide latest updates and information to the families and will fully cooperate with the relevant authorities on the investigation and recovery of this tragic accident."

Certainty of the wing flap's origin aside, MAS' statement brought forward another set of problems as family members of those onboard denied having being informed of the confirmation before it was announced and covered by the media.

Intan Maizura Othaman, the wife of air steward Hazrin Mohamed Hasnan, posted the following shot on Instagram, alleging that MAS did not inform any of their family members as they'd claimed in their statement.

New Zealander Sara Weeks, whose brother Paul Weeks was aboard the flight, said the same thing. She found out about the confirmation the same way Paul's wife Danica did - from the media.

Image via The Guardian

Asked if Malaysia Airlines had been in touch, Ms Weeks said: "Don't be ridiculous... I missed a phone call from a reporter saying that it had been confirmed as belonging to MH370. That's how I find everything out, and that's also how Danica finds out."

Paul Weeks with his wife Danica.

Image via Sydney Morning Herald

She also remarked on the contradictary statements from foreign authorities, adding that the family is upset and will need a lot more information from unanswered questions to bring about any form of closure to the matter

Weeks asked, “Why the h--- do you have one confirm and one not? Why not wait and get everybody on the same page so the families don’t need to go through this turmoil?

“After 17 months, we need definite answers. We need to progress, get answers, move toward further answers, and get some closure along the line,” Weeks said.

"We've known it's been missing for 17 months. We know Paul's not with us. All of these people know their family members aren't there. Where are they? We actually want to know what happened. You can't get over something like this without understanding firstly, how can you lose a plane? How? I need that explained to me, because it's just absolutely ridiculous. And how can you not know where it went?" she added.

Families and relatives in China - where two-thirds of passengers are from - are also expressing their anger and frustration, having remained skeptical of Malaysia's confirmation due to conflicting statements from France and Australia

ao Lanfang, second from right, whose daughter-in-law, son, and granddaughter were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, kneels in grief while speaking to journalists outside the company's offices in Beijing, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015.

Image via AP Photo / Mark Schiefelbein

Steve Wang, leader of the MH370 family committee in China whose mother is on the plane, also expressed some doubt in the findings.

"I am not completely convinced that the debris belongs to the missing plane," Wang told CNBC. "The French side's remarks are (only) strong supposition. I don't understand why — once again — the Malaysian side rushed to a conclusion and made such an announcement. Even if the debris ultimately belongs to MH370, this is only the beginning of the investigation. There are many questions remaining. Where is the main body of the plane? What on earth happened to it? Who caused it? Who should be held responsible? Who should be punished? We families demand the answers. This is just the beginning and it will be a long process to figure it all out."

"The French examiners were instead very cautious. They haven't drawn a conclusion," noted Wen Bai, whose 34-year-old son was on board. "How can you jump to the conclusion that the plane has crashed simply on the base of a single piece of debris? It could be pulled from other aircraft," he told Agence France-Presse.
Image via Jeremy Koh

Dai Shuqin, the sister of one of the passengers, was among about a dozen Chinese relatives who held a demonstration outside Malaysia Airlines' offices in Beijing.

"France is being cautious about it, but Malaysia is desperate to put an end to this case and run away from all responsibilities," she said.

Xu Jinghong, 41, said she could not understand why Malaysian and French authorities did not make their announcement together.

“I am very angry - so angry that my hands and feet are cold,” Xu said in an interview during the early hours of Thursday outside her home in downtown Beijing. “The announcement was made without experts from France present. I don’t understand how the procedure can be like this.”

About 20 Chinese passenger relatives protested outside Malaysia Airlines' offices in Beijing, unconvinced that the plane part belongs to MH370 and believing that the whole thing is a "political conspiracy"

They held signs, including one saying "Malaysia hides the truth," and another expressing confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping will help the relatives.

After several hours on Thursday morning, the group was invited into a closed-door talk with airline officials.

Other relatives expressed similar sentiments on social media, saying that the debris must have been planted and that their relative will "come back safe and sound"

"Malaysia wanted to avoid the large amount of payment for the relatives so it announced that it found the debris in Reunion and that the airplane crashed accidentally. We don't believe Malaysia," one comment on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo read.

On a social media group other relatives expressed similar sentiments, saying: "Don’t believe them! They must have switched the debris! We do believe all our relatives will come back safe and sound!"

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement offering their condolences and also demanded for Malaysia to see through the investigation responsibly for the sake of the passengers' families

"We demand the Malaysian side carry out relevant promises, continue their investigation into the cause of the plane crash, go all-out to handle the issues arising from the incident and earnestly safeguard the legal rights and interests of the families of the passengers," the statement said.

Hope of recovering the missing Flight MH370 kickstarted when a 6-foot long plane flaperon was discovered on Réunion Island last month:

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