KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — Australia’s former prime minister Tony Abbott has claimed that the Malaysian government had “very early on” believed that the tragic MH370 disappearance was part of what is now an old and unproven theory of mass murder-suicide plot.
Australian portal news.com.au quoted Abbott as telling a documentary that the “highest levels” of Putrajaya allegedly told him within a week of its disappearance in 2014 that Malaysia Airlines pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was responsible.
“My understanding — my very clear understanding — from the very top levels of the Malaysian government is that from very, very early on here they thought it was a murder-suicide by the pilot,” Abbott was quoted saying.
He made the remark in the first part of the documentary titled MH370: The Untold Story by broadcaster Sky News airing this week.
“I’m not going to say who said what to whom. But let me reiterate — I want to be absolutely crystal clear — it was understood at the highest levels that this was almost certainly murder suicide by the pilot. A mass murder suicide by the pilot,” he reportedly added.
Abbott was the prime minister during the MH370 tragedy. Six Australians were among the passengers of the doomed flight.
Abbott's Malaysian counterpart at that time was Datuk Seri Najib Razak, with Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai as his transport minister. Both were from Barisan Nasional, that was shockingly defeated by Pakatan Harapan in the 2018 general election amid accusations of graft and abuse of power.
Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared on March 8, 2014 with all 239 people on board.
Underwater searches for the plane in the Indian Ocean have covered 120,000 square kilometres and cost about A$200 million was subsequently suspended indefinitely in January 2017 until Malaysia accepted a “no-cure, no-fee” offer from US exploration firm Ocean Infinity in 2018.
The three-month search covered 112,000 sq km north of the original target area, without any new discovery when it was called off in May 2018.
An official 495-page report in July 2018 stated that MH370 was deliberately taken off course by a person or persons unknown.
However, Abbott was quoted saying he had “no reason” to suspect a conspiracy.
“I’ve read all these stories that the Malaysians allegedly didn’t want the murder-suicide theory pursued because they were embarrassed about one of their pilots doing this. I have no reason to accept that,” he reportedly said.
He also urged for the investigation to be reopened, if it was allegedly misled by the assumption the pilot was not involved.
“If it is a fact that the furthest reaches were not explored because of assumptions of a pilot who was no longer at the controls, I would say let’s ditch that assumption,” he was quoted saying.
“Let’s assume that it was murder-suicide by the pilot, and if there is any part of that ocean that could have been reached on that basis that has not yet been explored, let’s get out and explore it.”
A report by the Malaysian International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team in 2018 had shown “nothing negative” about the pilot.
Malay Mail is contacting former defence minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, former transport minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and his successor Anthony Loke, and former then Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman for comments.
Just last year, US writer and former pilot William Langewiesche had also returned to the rehashed theory that posited MH370’s pilot as the person who hijacked the Boeing 777 plane in a murder-suicide plot.
Hishammuddin, who was picked as the government spokesman in the aftermath of one of the aviation industry’s biggest mysteries, later called on the masses to not pay heed to Langewiesche’s claims, which he labelled as a mere attempt at capitalising on the issue, adding that the authorities can easily debunk the former’s allegations.
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