Mar 12, 2014

from the big B: What--Why Malaysia not talking about Missing Flight 370

Malaysia’s lack of transparency and weak institutions have made graft and corruption endemic, making it easy for people to be smuggled in or out of the country, often on stolen passports. The watchdog organization Global Financial Integrity has ranked Malaysia as one of the countries with the biggest illicit outflows of money in the world, while corruption monitoring organization Transparency International ranks Malaysia 53rd in the world in terms of clean government, below many poorer nations with fewer potential resources to combat graft.
At least two of the people on the vanished flight, and possibly more, apparently traveled on stolen passports and may have been migrants using people smugglers to get through Malaysia and on, eventually, to Europe. The head of Interpol, Ronald Noble, has expressed surprise at how easy these people with stolen passports boarded the plane.
Malaysia’s fraught relationship with other Muslim-majority countries and the U.S. has made Kuala Lumpur’s leaders, never very transparent, even more opaque when it comes to intelligence-sharing and counterterrorism. Although no one seems to have determined whether the flight’s disappearance is related to terrorism, do not expect the Malaysian government to be the one providing any answers to the public if it turns out terrorism was involved. Malaysia has long had a relatively liberal visa policy toward Muslims from other countries, in part because it needed foreign workers and in part because this policy had traditionally been popular. (That policy, in part, is why Osama bin Laden recommended Malaysia as a place for terror operatives to meet and for wounded fighters to recover.)
But at the same time Malaysia has maintained a relatively liberal visa policy, it has cooperated closely with Britain and the U.S. on intelligence and security matters. This cooperation has always been extremely unpopular with the majority of Malaysians, and so successive prime ministers have worked hard to conceal it from public discourse. Unfortunately for the relatives of the vanished plane, the prime minister’s natural secrecy seems to have become so normal, for him and other government officials, that he cannot break the habit even in times of horrible tragedy.
Kurlantzick is Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Democracy in Retreat: The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline of Representative Government.

here is a link to the Bloomberg page of the story and very interesting comments that follow: