On the Flight of Speculation

The end for the search of missing Malaysian Airlines Fight MH370 is nowhere in sight. The plane departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia bound for Beijing in the early hours of March 8 before disappearing from radar less than an hour later. Over two weeks of search and speculation has turned out nothing, raising questions over airplane safety, pilot integrity, and airline security. Even after the search area was narrowed to an approximate region in the southern part of the Indian Ocean, it seems that no one — including Malaysian Airlines and the Malaysian government themselves — really knows the whereabouts of the missing plane … or do they?         

It is the latest news coming out of the MH370 story: relatives and loved ones of those on-board the flight, outraged over the Malaysian government’s handling of the investigation, accusing them of withholding information from the public and prematurely arriving at conclusions without concrete evidence. Protestors at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing embody the anger and frustration resulting from the search and investigation. “The Malaysian government cheated us!” says one protestor. “Tell us the truth!” says another.

Is it possible that the Malaysian government is purposefully hiding key information in the search for MH370? It certainly seems so, at least from the public’s perspective. The scarcity of new information coming out of the investigation is perturbing, and the little that has seems to raise more questions than answers. A new theory has also arisen suggesting that the pilot was negotiating with the Malaysian government while in-flight, looking for an unnamed sum in exchange for landing the aircraft to safety. If this theory turns out to be true, then one has to wonder why the Malaysian government has kept quiet on such vital information in the case.

The only explanation that could be given, if the above rumor is true, is that the Malaysian government feared bad public relations, though that grows increasingly unlikely as Malaysia’s image has been so degraded at this point that they really no longer have anything to lose. It also does not make much sense to hide that information now, especially when the black box, if found, would ultimately reveal the truth. Thus, there really is no reason for the Malaysian government — or any organization for that matter — to be hiding anything that would significantly affect the case.

So why is it that so little information has been released when it comes to MH370? The explanation is probably the simplest of them all: there is none. It is just too difficult to find a relatively miniscule object in such a large area, especially considering that the plane will have sunk and drifted in any direction. In the past two weeks, the search area has been moved multiple times, and is only now slowly being narrowed down to one particular region in the Indian Ocean. Past reports of floating debris may or may not be accurate, as no physical evidence has yet to be found. It took two years to find Air France Flight AF447 when it crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, and I would not be surprised to see this search last just as long, if not longer.

Regardless of whether or not Malaysia is hiding something in this case, the issue of government transparency wages on even in our own country. The concept is called “open government,” which according to the White House means, “establish[ing] a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” Yet, we often hear stories of political corruption and government secrecy in our country, especially after last year’s controversy over Edward Snowden, who released classified government documents to the media before escaping the country.

Thus, should our government be completely transparent when it comes to anything that may affect the public? I believe the answer follows the same principles that underlie every democratic nation’s fundamental laws and rights: yes, as long as no one gets hurt. There is no reason why Malaysia would be hiding any significant information about the location of MH370; certainly, doing so would cause much more harm than good. Of course, it would be foolish to say that every government is perfect and pure, but when you are involving every single country in your international search for a missing airplane, withholding information is the last thing you would ever want to do.


Bryce Tham is a first-year computer science major. He can be reached at btham@uci.edu.