TIME Malaysia

Search Area for Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane to Be Doubled if Plane Not Found

In this March 18, 2014 file photo, a young Malaysian boy prays at an event for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, at a shopping mall, in Petaling Jaya, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Joshua Paul—AP A Malaysian boy prays at an event for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, on March 18, 2014

The search area for the missing Flight 370 will be expanded by another 60,000 sq km

(KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysia said Thursday that the search area for the missing Flight 370 will be expanded by another 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) in the Indian Ocean if the jetliner is not found by May.

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters that Malaysia, Australia and China, which are leading the search for the Boeing 777 that went missing on March 8 last year, are “committed to the search.”

He told reporters after meeting with his counterparts from the other two countries that so far 61 percent of the 60,000 kilometer (23,000-square-mile) search area has been scoured off Australia’s west coast. The remaining area would have been searched by the end of May, he said.

“If the aircraft is not found within the 60,000 square kilometers, we have collectively decided to extend the search to another 60,000 square kilometers within the highest probability area,” he said.

He said, the two areas together would cover 95 percent of the flight path of the plane, which went missing while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. It dropped off radar, and investigators later figured out that it made a series of turns and headed in a completely opposite direction from where it was heading before crashing into the Indian Ocean.

“We are confident we are searching in the right area,” Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said at the news conference, alongside Liow. “We are confident we have the best search equipment .. if the plane is in the area we will find it.”

He said Malaysia and Australia will continue to fund the cost of the next phase of the search. He or the other ministers did now say how much it would cost.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Revives Detention Without Trial With New Law

The government says it's necessary to fight Islamic militants, but critics say it backtracks human rights in the country

(KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysia revived detention without trial when lawmakers approved an anti-terror law Tuesday that the government said was needed to fight Islamic militants, but critics assailed as a giant step backward for human rights in the country.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act bill was passed by Parliament’s lower house in the wee hours of the morning after hours of debate, with 79 votes in favor and 60 against. The law allows authorities to detain suspects indefinitely without trial, with no court challenges permitted.

The government said the measure was needed because dozens of Malaysians have been arrested since 2013 for suspected links to the Islamic State group. Authorities on Sunday arrested 17 people, including an Indonesian militant, accused of planning to rob banks and attack police stations and army camps to obtain weapons.

Critics said the new law was a revival of the Internal Security Act, which was repealed in 2012. New York-based Human Rights Watch called it a “giant step backwards for human rights” in Malaysia, and said it raised concerns that the government will once again use the law to intimidate and silence vocal critics.

“By restoring indefinite detention without trial, Malaysia has re-opened Pandora’s Box for politically motivated, abusive state actions that many had thought was closed when the abusive Internal Security Act was revoked in 2012,” the group’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said in a statement.

Home Minister Zahid Hamidi, however, said the new law was crucial to curb the rise of Islamic militants. “This is a real threat, and prevention measures are needed,” he said during the debate.

It will take weeks before the bill becomes law, as it needs approval from the upper house and royal assent by the king, but those are considered formalities.

National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the 17 people, aged from 14 to 49, were arrested during a secret meeting Sunday to plot attacks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s biggest city, and in the administrative capital of Putrajaya.

The group was planning to kidnap several high-profile individuals, rob banks for money, raid police stations and army camps for weapons, and procure more firearms from another terror group in a neighboring country, Khalid said in a statement Tuesday.

The senior member of the cell is a man who was arrested in 2001 under the former Internal Security Act and has undergone militant training in Afghanistan and Indonesia, Khalid said. Another key member is a 38-year-old religious teacher.

Khalid said both men were in Syria last year for militant training and returned to Malaysia in December.

“The aim for this new terror group is to form an Islamic state in Malaysia,” he said.

Also arrested Sunday were two army personnel, a security guard who has access to firearms and an Indonesian militant who is skilled in handling weapons, Khalid said.

The government has proposed another new law, to be debated by lawmakers this week, that would empower authorities to suspend or revoke the travel documents of any citizens or foreigners believed to be engaging in or supporting terrorist acts. Other proposals would increase penalties for terror-related acts.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Detains 17 People Suspected of Plotting Terrorist Acts

Two of the 17 recently returned from Syria

(KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysia’s police chief said Monday that 17 suspected militants have been detained for allegedly plotting to carry out terrorist acts in the country’s largest city, Kuala Lumpur.

Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said the 17 were detained Sunday. Khalid tweeted that two of them had just returned from Syria. He didn’t give further details and a police official said a statement will be issued later.

This brought the number of people, believed to be supporters of the Islamic State militant group, who were arrested since last year to 92, the official said.

The latest detentions came just days after the Home Ministry proposed two new anti-terror laws that will reintroduce indefinite detention without trial and allow the seizure of passports of anyone suspected of supporting terror acts in a bid to curb suspected militant activities in the country.

Critics criticized the move as a revival of a controversial security law that was repealed in 2012 and warned the proposed laws could severely curtail civil liberties.

Opposition lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar said in a statement that the new laws could be misused against political opponents.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act bill will allow authorities to detain suspects indefinitely without trial and the decision cannot be challenged in court. The Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries bill empowers authorities to suspend or revoke the travel documents or any citizens or foreigners believed to be engaging in or supporting terrorist acts.

“The draft counter-terrorism law is like a legal zombie returned from the grave of the discredited and abusive Internal Security Act,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Other proposals will increase penalties for terror-related acts, including up to 30 years in prison for those found receiving terrorism training or instruction.

The proposed bills will be debated in parliament this week.

TIME viral

Watch Driving Instructors Get Pranked By a Pro Racer

They think she doesn't know how to drive

Driving tests are supposed to be nerve-racking for new students, but one Malaysian driving school flipped the script and absolutely terrified their rookie instructors.

To prank employees on their first day of work, the school hired Leona Chin, a professional rally-racing driver, to be the unlucky tutors’ first pupil.

Chin, dressed up in a nerdy-looking outfit, spends the first half of the video pretending she’s a hopeless learner. Then, just as instructors are getting frustrated, Chin reveals her true talents—and the reactions are priceless.

“The 3 employees you saw at the end loved it and laughed it off, but the guy in the blue shirt was not too happy. That’s why we didn’t have footage of him smiling,” Izmir Mujab, CEO of the media company behind the video, told TIME.

Read next: Watch Mariah Carey Kill at Car Karaoke on The Late Late Show

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Singapore

See ‘Father of Singapore’ Lee Kuan Yew’s Life in Pictures

Key moments from the longest-serving Prime Minister in world history

Few leaders can claim as great an influence on a country as Lee Kuan Yew can on Singapore. The 91-year-old is considered the founding father of the small Southeast Asian nation, having led it from a colonial trading post into a regional and global financial powerhouse.

Born in Singapore in September 1923, Lee graduated with a law degree from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, but returned to his native country in 1950 despite being admitted to the English bar. He became Singapore’s first Prime Minister in 1959, a position he held until 1990 — making him the longest-serving Prime Minister in global history.

During that time, he guided the country out of British colonial rule and through a union with Malaysia, which Singapore broke away from in 1965, to become fully independent.

Lee became Minister Mentor of Singapore in 2004, a position created by his eldest son, third and current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Here’s a look at Lee Kuan Yew’s life, in pictures.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Releases Opposition Leader’s Daughter After ‘Sedition’ Arrest

Lawmaker and a vice-president of the People's Justice Party Nurul Izzah Anwar, speaks to protesters as they gather to demand the freedom of her father, Anwar Ibrahim, in downtown Kuala Lumpur, March 7, 2015.
Vincent Thian—AP Nurul Izzah Anwar, lawmaker and vice president of the People's Justice Party, speaks to protesters as they gather to demand the freedom of her father Anwar Ibrahim in Kuala Lumpur on March 7, 2015

Critics have slammed Nurul Izzah Anwar’s arrest as the nation's latest crackdown on dissent

Nurul Izzah Anwar, a Malaysian lawmaker and the eldest daughter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, was released Tuesday after being arrested under the colonial era charge of “sedition.”

According to the Straits Times, Nurul Izzah, 34, was freed on bail after making a statement.

Nurul Izzah, the vice president of the People’s Justice Party, had voluntarily gone to the police on Monday to answer questions over an opposition rally, but was detained for a parliamentary speech she made last week, in which she criticized the conviction of her father, who was sentenced to five years imprisonment for sodomy last month, reports the BBC.

Anwar, 67, denies all charges, which have been slammed by human rights groups as politically motivated.

In the speech, Nurul Izzah read out a statement written by her father that questioned the independence of Malaysia’s judiciary.

The Southeast Asian country has parliamentary privilege and so normally lawmakers are not liable for criminal or civil actions over what they say in the house.

Critics slammed Nurul Izzah’s arrest as the latest attempt by the government to stifle dissent.

Prime Minister Najib Razak had promised to scrap the much maligned Sedition Act after protests in 2012. But last year he reneged on the pledge and since then a growing number of politicians and government critics have been investigated or charged under the antiquated law.

Nurul Izzah’s mother, who is also president of her People’s Justice Party, gave thanks on Twitter for her release.

TIME Aviation

Malaysia Airlines Towelette Found on Beach Not From MH 370, Say Officials

A crew member looks out an observation window aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion maritime search aircraft as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean looking for debris from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Reuters A crew member looks out an observation window aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion maritime search aircraft as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean looking for debris from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 on April 11, 2014

Not a single piece of wreckage from MH 370 has been recovered

Australian officials say it is very unlikely that a towelette that washed up on the country’s west coast last summer had been on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Reports surfaced on Tuesday that the towelette carrying a Malaysia Airlines logo had first been discovered on a beach more than 100 miles north of Perth last July.

“It is unlikely, however, that such a common item with no unique identifier could be conclusively linked with MH 370,” said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

MH 370 vanished from radar screens less than an hour after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8 last year and has been missing ever since.

Officials have narrowed the current search zone to a patch of ocean floor 1,000 miles off the coast of Perth, in accordance with calculations derived from a number of electronic handshakes the plane made with a satellite.

However, search and recovery teams canvassing large swaths of the Indian Ocean have yet to find a shred of wreckage from the missing plane.

TIME Aviation

MH 370: Lawyers Say Faulty Beacon Battery May Prove Key to Compensation

The shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion maritime search aircraft can be seen on low-level clouds as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean looking for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Rob Griffith—Reuters The shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force's P3 Orion maritime search aircraft can be seen on low-level clouds as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean looking for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 on March 31, 2014

Report suggests engineering failure responsible for expired beacon battery on plane

The revelation that a beacon battery, which could have served as an underwater locator for tracking missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, had long expired may heavily influence any potential compensation claim, according to lawyers representing passengers’ families.

A report Sunday on the fate of the Boeing 777-200, which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing March 8 last year, revealed the beacon battery, designed to emit pulses in the event of a crash at sea, had expired in December 2012 and was not replaced, Reuters reports.

Kreindler & Kreindler LP, a U.S. law firm representing nearly 20 families against the beleaguered carrier, believes that the expired battery could prove “potentially very significant” in compensation negotiations with relatives of the 227 passengers and 12 crew.

The report, published by Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, suggests that the engineering department of Malaysia Airlines could be held responsible for failing to correctly update a computer system.

In an email to Reuters, Kreindler & Kreindler LP’s aviation attorney Justin Green said, “This airline … even more clearly now may be responsible for the unsuccessful search for this plane.”

[Reuters]

TIME Aviation

The Mystery of Flight 370 Haunts Families and Baffles Experts a Year After Its Disappearance

 

Without a single scrap of debris, the search for the missing jet will likely end soon, taking with it all remaining hope

You can’t blame Jennifer Chong for being a nervous flyer.

Every time she boards a plane, the resident of Melbourne faces the inevitable walk past the cabin’s front row where her husband of more than 20 years, Chong Ling Tan, had been seated on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Twelve months on from arguably the greatest aviation mystery of all time, Chong says those empty seats can still induce panic.

“I start to think that if anything happened, like a hijacking, then he would be the first one who knows because he’s the one nearest to the cockpit,” Chong tells TIME.

Sunday marks one year since MH370 veered off course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and vanished from radar screens. Planes and ships from seven countries have completed more than 300 sorties over vast tracts of the southern Indian Ocean in search for the errant Boeing 777, but not a single scrap of debris has been recovered.

Now just four boats continue to comb a 23,000-sq.-mi. patch of ocean floor 1,000 miles off the coast of Perth, western Australia. Australian authorities are set to finish trawling the designated search area in May.

During a parliamentary address earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledged that officials are beginning to question the value of continuing beyond this point. “I can’t promise that the search will go on at this intensity forever, but we will continue our very best efforts to resolve this mystery and provide some answers,” he said.

But for Chong and hundreds of other distraught relatives, simply giving up translates to abandoning the investigation into how a plane with 239 passengers and crew can simply vanish.

“They’re trying to slowly put the thoughts in the minds of the public and the families, so that they will slowly wind down the search after May because it’s about to money and who’s going to pay,” she says.

Justin Green, a lawyer representing 24 of the victims’ relatives, says the search must continue not just for the families’ sake, but also to improve aviation-safety standards in the future. Green points to the years investigators took to uncover the crucial findings that explained other disasters, such as Air France Flight 447 and TWA 800. “None of the subsequent improvements [to airline safety] would have happened if the countries involved had just given up,” he says.

In late January, Malaysian authorities caught families and aviation experts off guard with a sudden announcement that MH370’s disappearance had been caused by an accident and that no one had survived.

In the absence of facts, myriad theories have surfaced over the past year offering plausible scenarios to explain what transpired. These include that the plane was shot down or driven into the sea by a deranged pilot or passenger. According to experts, no theory can’t be wholly dismissed until concrete evidence proves otherwise.

“With the Malaysian government declaring this an accident, well does that limit or preclude further investigation into these other areas?” asks Mike Daniel, an international aviation-safety consultant based in Singapore. “There’s a difference between an accident investigation as opposed to a criminal investigation.”

Despite talk of halting the investigation or ratcheting down recovery operations, Australian officials remain upbeat that their current search will yield results. “We are cautiously optimistic we’ll find that aircraft,” Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, told the BBC this week. “We know we will find that aircraft if it’s in the priority search area.”

However, experts remain divided over where to look for the plane. Are the four Australian search vessels mapping large swaths of the Indian Ocean’s floor even scanning the correct hemisphere? Some even suggest the plane headed north towards the Caucuses.

“The fact that nothing has been found by the way of debris suggests to me that they’re looking in the wrong place,” said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The current search zone was drawn up in accordance with calculations based on a number of electronic handshakes MH370 made with a satellite during its last hours of flight. But Middleton argues that these assessments are problematic at best.

“These calculations rely on a whole bunch of issues that are not easily verifiable by outside sources,” explains Middleton. “The science is not demonstrably repeatable.”

But without a shred of evidence, crucial questions will remain unanswered. Why were the transponders deliberately turned off? Why did whoever had control repeatedly change course? Why was there no Mayday call? And why have Malaysian authorities been reticent to release the flight’s cargo manifest in its entirety?

In lieu of answers, the public clamors for new technology to track planes wherever they might be, yet there’s little evidence that any advances could have prevented this mystery, given that existing systems were deliberately scuttled in the cockpit. (Pilots need to be able to turn off all onboard electronics in case of fire.)

“I don’t know really what to believe. It’s just so bizarre to me,” says Chong. “One year later and I’m in the same position with no further answers.”

As the anniversary approaches, Chong says she plans to brave another flight from Melbourne, where she moved two years ago, to Kuala Lumpur to gather with other families and call for the continuation of the search. Without answers, she tries to remain hopeful that the plane will one day be recovered, but admits that it’s difficult at times to convince herself that her husband and his fellow passengers will be found.

“I’m still hopeful that they will be able to find the plane,” she says. “But we don’t know when. Maybe in one year, 10 years or 40 years. I’ll be holding out hope until then.”

TIME Aviation

Fading Hope and Little Help for Families of Flight 370 Passengers

A family member cries as she and other relatives pray during a candlelight vigil for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Beijing
Jason Lee—Reuters A family member cries as she and other relatives pray during a candlelight vigil for passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 at Lido Hotel, in Beijing, on April 8, 2014, after a month of searching for the missing aircraft

One year on, the relatives of Chinese passengers face plenty of harassment and grief, but few answers

Just under a year ago, in the parking lot of Beijing’s Metropark Lido Hotel, I met a woman wild with grief. It had been 19 days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared and she was looking, hysterically, for her missing son. A relative took her arm and offered water. “Rest,” they told her. “Nothing is certain yet.”

At the time, the words felt hopeful. Many of the families that gathered in Beijing that month held firm to the belief that their loved ones were out there, alive. But 12 agonizing months later, the plane is still missing and the families, suffering.

Of the 239 passengers and crew on MH370, two-thirds were Chinese. Their surviving family members say the trauma of what happened March 8, 2014, has been compounded many times over, first by the airline and the Malaysian authorities and, more recently, by the Chinese state.

In China, initial anger was directed at Malaysia Airlines’ handling of the crisis. At a protest on March 25, Chinese families marched on the Malaysian embassy, chucking water bottles at the gate. Though large protests are usually verboten in Beijing, local police officers let the demonstration go ahead. “Malaysia Airlines you owe us answers,” read one sign.

Chinese authorities were quick to echo this sentiment. Editorials in China’s state-backed press blasted the airline, and its home country, for what it characterized as a slow and ineffective response. When Malaysian authorities announced that the hunt for survivors was over, Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng spoke out. “We demand the Malaysian side make clear the specific basis on which they come to this judgment,” he said.

In the early days at the hotel, plainclothes Chinese officials circulated among the families, keeping a close watch, but letting them vent. A statement issued by relatives on March 28 even praised Beijing’s response. “Fortunately, we are Chinese, and we deeply feel the solid support given to each family members by the Chinese government,” it read. “Our nation has made every endeavor to search for the passengers, and its determination to find out the truth has become a booster for each family member.”

But away from public view, the authorities turned on some of the families. As the months wore on and they continued to press for answers, they started to be treated like other aggrieved and vocal Chinese citizens — that is, with suspicion and hostility.

When Reuters journalist Megha Rajagopalan checked in with the families at six months, they reported being watched and harassed by Beijing police. Two people were beaten for publicly pressing for information, family members reported. (Beijing police have not addressed the charge.) When families gather at the suburban Beijing office set up to handle their quest for answers, they are warned not to gather in large groups, or else face detention.

At nine months, a videographer for the South China Morning Post met family members who were marching to the Chinese Foreign Ministry to ask for answers. “We haven’t received any information,” Liu Kun, brother of a missing passenger, said. “I found the Malaysia Airlines office but they ignored me, we reached the Malaysian government but they also brushed us off, even our own government doesn’t allow us to find our family members.”

The heartbreaking truth, of course, is that they may not be found and the families’ living nightmare will continue. A year on, certainty looks a long way off.

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