Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday his government might reconsider resuming a search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 if new information emerged, while his transport minister announced that a final report on the joint international hunt would be publicized in July.
Ocean Infinity, a U.S. seabed exploration company, on Tuesday ended its search for the airliner after more than three months of using the latest underwater imaging technology to sweep an area of the southern Indian Ocean. The company had signed a “no cure, no fee” contract with a 90-day timeframe in January, a year after Australia, China and Malaysia officially called off a joint search.
“If we find any new information, we may resume the search. But for now, we have to end it,” Mahathir, 92, told reporters after his second cabinet meeting since leading the opposition bloc to a surprise election triumph this month.
Flight MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 12 crew and 227 passengers, most of them from China. The disappearance of the Boeing 777 has been as dubbed one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.
“The coverage area is vast and we have yet to find any evidence,” Mahathir said.
Mahathir expressed regret over his government’s decision, but said “we cannot keep searching for something we cannot find.”
Transport Minister Anthony Loke told a news conference later on Wednesday that the joint international investigation was expected to release its report in July.
“There are many people interested in studying the report, including the never before-released data,” Loke said. “If any experts can provide evidence which can help us track the aircraft, we will revisit the location.”
When asked by reporters if the report would include controversial elements, the minister said: “To me, whatever elements, we will just publish it.”
“I can assure you the final report will be published with full disclosure,” he said. “There will not be any edits or anything hidden.”
In Oct. 3, 2017, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) published a report saying that the plane’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had flown a route on his home simulator six weeks before the plane’s disappearance and it was “initially similar” to the course actually taken by the aircraft.
But aviation intelligence agency Flight Global reported that then-Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai played down the ATSB data, saying that the simulator had contained “thousands of simulations to many destinations.”
Calvin Shim, whose wife was a crew member on the plane, told BenarNews that while he found the theory of a murder-suicide by the pilot hard to believe, he could not totally discount the possibility.
“If he really had suicidal intentions, then I believe the police will somehow be able to find some clue about it through his closest kin,” Shim said. “But the police cleared him as a suspect, I think, in the early days [of the probe].”
Other next-of-kin also spoke to BenarNews and shared their frustrations regarding the new government’s decision to end the search, directing their ire at Loke, the transport minister.
“He has only been in office for a week and has already come to a conclusion to end it all,” said Jacquita Gomes, whose husband, Patrick Gomes, was also among the plane’s crew.
“Has he really sat down and gone through and questioned all the discrepancies and mistakes made by those responsible during the initial search of the plane until this date?” she said.
A few pieces of aircraft debris have been found on Indian Ocean islands and along the east coast of Africa, but the search had cost Malaysia about 500 million ringgit (U.S.$125 million), Loke said.
Officials said Ocean Infinity was expected to get paid up to $70 million if it found the jet or its flight data and voice cockpit recorders, also called black boxes.
Mahathir’s government stopped the search days after finance minister, Lim Guan Eng, said that Kuala Lumpur’s liabilities had ballooned to 1 trillion ringgit (U.S. $251.7 billion), or more than 80 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
On Monday, Mahathir announced he would revisit the terms for a China-backed multibillion-dollar rail link project and also scrapped a planned high-speed rail link to Singapore, citing “huge” costs and a lack of return on investment.