Malaysia hoping to re-launch MH370 search mission in January

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is hoping to resume the search for MH370 in January but this can only happen if Australia and China also agree with expert findings and want to re-launch the mission.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai (pic) said it would be good to re-start the mission during the summer season in the southern hemisphere as calmer waters could make the search easier.

“We have received the green light to negotiate with Ocean Infinity to continue the search and once it has been finalised, the first to know will be the next-of-kin, as I promised them answers,” he said. 

Liow said there had been four meetings with the US-based seabed exploration outfit since September but the three countries involved in the search — Malaysia, China and Australia — had yet to reach an agreement.

Liow said the three parties will first need to ascertain the accuracy of data received from experts in Australia before re-launching the search.

“If we are convinced of its credibility, only then will we continue with the mission,” he said at an event here on Wednesday (Nov 1).

Liow said experts had identified a search area of 25,000 sq km and the three countries involved in the search wished to narrow that even further to a 5,000 sq km search area, which is located north of the previous search area in the Southern Indian Ocean.

He said a special response team headed by Civil Aviation Department director-general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman has also been directed to continue negotiations with Ocean Infinity.

On MH17, Liow said he is happy to have the support of Belgium, Australia, Ukraine and the Netherlands in the joint investigation team which is searching for more answers to the tragedy. 

“The technical investigations have been concluded and now we are looking into the criminal investigations and we hope to receive that report by early next year,” he said.

Liow said a decision had been made to prosecute those responsible for the downing of MH17 in July 2014 at the criminal courts in the Netherlands.

Earlier, Liow presented 40 children of 23 flight crew members that served on both ill-fated flights with a total of RM1.6mil financial aid to continue their studies.

Each of them will receive RM40,000 thanks to the efforts of the Flagbearer Education Association, an organisation set up to provide education aid to the children.

The creation of the fund is a private sector initiative funded by Eu Yan Sang, Genting Malaysia Bhd, Hap Seng Plantations and Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd. 

The association’s chairman, Datuk Anne Eu said the funds will be disbursed in instalments of  RM5,000 on a quarterly basis over the next two years via a trust account managed by CIMB Bank Bhd. 

“The amount will be disbursed to the guardian’s joint bank account until the total amount of RM40,000 is fully disbursed to them,” she said.  

The mock cheque presentation was witnessed by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein, the patron of the Flagbearer Education Association.

Hishamuddin, who is also special functions minister, was acting transport minister during the two air tragedies.