New Malaysia PM Sworn In Amid Crisis, Mahathir Fights On

This handout from Malaysia’s Department of Information taken and released on March 1, 2020 shows Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin signing documents after taking the oath as the country’s new leader at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. FAMER ROHENI / Malaysia’s Department of Information / AFP

 

A staunch Muslim nationalist backed by a scandal-mired party was sworn in as Malaysia’s premier Sunday after a reformist government’s collapse, but ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad, 94, slammed the move as illegal.

The Southeast Asian nation was plunged into turmoil after Mahathir’s “Pact of Hope” alliance, which stormed to a historic victory in 2018, collapsed amid bitter infighting.

Mahathir, who was the world’s oldest leader, initially quit as premier but then sought to return.

He lost in a power struggle however to little-known Muhyiddin Yassin, who heads a coalition dominated by the multi-ethnic country’s Muslim majority and has faced criticism for controversial remarks about race.

The king’s decision Saturday to pick Muhyiddin as premier was greeted with shock as Mahathir’s allies claimed to have enough support, and it sparked widespread anger that the democratically elected government had been ejected.

Muhyiddin’s coalition includes the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party of disgraced ex-leader Najib Razak, as well as a hardline group that wants tougher Islamic laws.

READ ALSO: Turmoil In Malaysia As Prime Minister Resigns

UMNO was the corruption-riddled lynchpin of a coalition thrown out at the 2018 elections as allegations swirled that Najib and his cronies looted billions of dollars from state fund 1MDB. Najib is now on trial for corruption.

Just before Muhyiddin’s inauguration, Mahathir accused him of betrayal and said he would seek a parliament vote challenging the new premier’s support — signalling the political crisis is far from over.

“This is a very strange thing … losers will form the government, the winners will be in the opposition,” he said.

“The rule of law no longer applies.”

A candidate for prime minister must prove to the king, who appoints the position, that he has the backing of at least 112 MPs. Mahathir claims to have that number and believes Muhyiddin does not.

Mahathir’s alliance said parliament should be allowed to re-convene on March 9, as it is scheduled to do, as speculation grows the new government might seek a delay.

Muhyiddin’s inauguration went ahead Sunday morning at the national palace, although Mahathir’s alliance boycotted it.

– ‘Betrayal’ –

Meanwhile public anger is growing at the ejection of the reformist alliance, with the hashtag “NotMyPM” trending on Twitter and more than 130,000 people signing a petition that said the move is a “betrayal” of voters’ choice at the 2018 poll.

Mahathir — who served a first stint as premier from 1981 to 2003 before staging a comeback two years ago — also raised concerns that ongoing court cases against Najib related to the 1MDB scandal could be affected by the change of government.

Mahathir came out of retirement aged 92 to take on his one-time protege Najib over the controversy, and has pledged to bring him to justice.

Analysts said Muhyiddin’s government was in a weak position as it was not clear whether he had a parliamentary majority, and he was a member of a tiny party without a strong support base.

He was a senior UMNO figure for decades before being sacked from the party by Najib in 2015 after criticising the handling of the 1MDB scandal, and then allied with Mahathir to oust them at the last elections.

In a volte-face, he joined hands last week with UMNO in his quest for the premiership — although he is not a member.

In addition, he lacks “the domestic legitimacy or the international legitimacy the previous government had”, Bridget Welsh, an analyst from the University of Nottingham, told AFP.

Muhyiddin once controversially described himself as “Malay first” and Malaysian second, and there are concerns race and religious relations could worsen under his Muslim-dominated coalition.

About 60 percent of Malaysia’s population are ethnic Malay Muslims and the country is also home to substantial ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian minorities.

The “Pact of Hope” alliance had been riven by infighting between factions over who should succeed Mahathir, who had designated Anwar Ibrahim as his successor.

The political crisis began a week ago when a group of ruling coalition lawmakers joined forces with opposition parties in a bid to form a new government and push out Anwar.

In a week of fast-moving twists and turns, Mahathir and Anwar — who have a long and stormy history — briefly locked horns in a fight for the leadership.

They then joined forces again in an 11th-hour bid to stop Muhyiddin, but it proved too little, too late.

AFP

Five Years On, Five Theories About MH370’s Disappearance

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 7, 2015 shows Indian sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik creating a sculpture of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on Puri beach in eastern Odisha state. 
J .K. Jagdev / AFP

 

On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, triggering the biggest hunt in aviation history.

Only a few fragments of the jet have been found, all on western Indian Ocean shores, and search efforts ended last year.

The disappearance has spawned a host of theories — some credible, some outlandish. Here are five of them:

Mechanical failure

Much attention has focused on the possibility of a mechanical or structural failure. Some experts have put forward the theory that a fire could have broken out in electronic components, which produced smoke that filled the plane and led to the passengers and crew falling unconscious.

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The plane then continued on autopilot over the Indian Ocean, where search efforts have been focused, before running out of fuel and crashing, the theory goes.

The idea of a so-called “mass hypoxia event” — “hypoxia” refers to a lack of oxygen — has been supported by a number of analysts.

In a 2014 report setting out details of a search area, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau — which led the main hunt for the jet — said that an “unresponsive crew/ hypoxia event” appeared to fit the final stage of MH370’s flight.

Rogue pilot

MH370 pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah has been the subject of intense speculation, and some believe he may have intentionally taken the Boeing 777 off course and crashed it.

In the months after the plane vanished, media scrutinised everything from his political beliefs to his mental health for clues as to what could have happened.

Unconfirmed reports said he may have been distraught over marital woes or the controversial conviction of Malaysia’s then opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges just hours before MH370 took off.

But family and friends of Zaharie — a highly respected veteran pilot — strongly reject such claims as baseless.

In 2016, Malaysian officials revealed he had plotted a path over the Indian Ocean on a home flight simulator but stressed this did not prove he deliberately crashed the plane.

Terror Plot

There has been a slew of theories — none of them substantiated — that the plane was hijacked as part of a terror plot.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been among those who backed the idea. In a bizarre tweet soon after the plane disappeared, he suggested it was “stolen” and “effectively hidden, perhaps in Northern Pakistan, like Bin Laden”.

He was referring to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US Navy Seal raid in Pakistan in 2011.

There has also been a suggestion that the plane was commandeered to be used as a “flying bomb” headed for US military installations on the Diego Garcia atoll, and was shot down by the Americans. The United States has dismissed this.

Remote take over

Some have speculated the plane may have been taken over remotely to foil a hijacking.

According to reports, Boeing was in 2006 awarded a US patent for a system that, once activated, could take control of a commercial aircraft away from the pilot or flight crew in the event of a hijacking.

One of the leading supporters of the idea is Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who told The Australian newspaper last year — before he was elected — that: “The capacity to do that is there. The technology is there.”

Putin Perhaps?

One of the wackiest theories appeared in an article in New York magazine by US aviation expert Jeff Wise in 2015.

He suggested MH370 was commandeered and taken to a Russian facility in Kazakhstan, possibly an effort by President Vladimir Putin to intimidate the West amid an escalating crisis in Ukraine, or to gain access to a certain passenger or item in the hold.

“There’s no way to know. That’s the thing about MH370 theory-making: It’s hard to come up with a plausible motive for an act that has no apparent beneficiaries,” he wrote.

AFP

Malaysia Frees North Korean Detainee Over Kim’s Death

Malaysia Frees North Korean Detainee Over Kim's DeathThe Police in Malaysia have released the only North Korean arrested in connection with the death of Kim Jong-Nam.

Officials said there was insufficient evidence to charge Ri Jong Chol, but he would be deported over immigration offences.

Nearly three weeks after the killing, Malaysia condemned the use of powerful VX nerve agent in the attack.

The Malaysian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was “greatly concerned” the nerve agent could have endangered the public.

Mr Kim, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, died on February 13 at an airport in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Kim Jong-Nam Death: Two Women To Face Murder Charges

north-koreanMalaysia’s Attorney General, Mohammed Apandi Ali, says two women implicated in the killing of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader are to be charged with murder on Wednesday.

The women, from Indonesia and Vietnam, allegedly smeared a deadly chemical over Kim Jong-Nam’s face at a Malaysian airport earlier this month.

The women, however say they thought they were taking part in a TV prank.

About 10 suspects have been identified by Malaysia as being involved in the killing.

Among them are a senior official at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and a staff member of the state airline.

North Korean Man Arrested Over Kim Jong-Nam’s Murder

north-koreanThe police in Malaysia say a North Korean national has been arrested over the killing of North Korean Leader’s half-brother.

The first North Korean to be arrested over Kim Jong-Nam’s death has been identified as 46-year-old Ri Jong Chol.

An Indonesian woman, a Malaysian man and a woman with a Vietnamese passport had been detained earlier.

Police believe poison was sprayed into Mr Kim’s face as he waited to board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Macau.

South Korea’s intelligence agency has accused the country’s rivals in the north, of assassinating Kim Jong-Nam, saying Pyongyang had wanted to kill him for years but that he was being protected by China.

They also claimed that the young, unpredictable North Korean leader had issued a “standing order” for his elder half-brother’s assassination, and that there had been a failed attempt in 2012.

Kim Jong Nam had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed state, and he had also expressed fears for this safety.

MH17 Downing: Report Says Missile Came From Russia

Dutch, mh17A Dutch-led team of prosecutors that looked into the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, has released its findings, saying the missile came from Russia.

The international team, which gathered evidence for a possible criminal trial, release the report on Wednesday.

The report said the missile was fired from territories controlled by Russian-backed rebels.

An earlier inquiry by the Dutch Safety Board concluded that a Russian-made Buk missile hit the plane, without saying who fired it.

The Boeing 777 broke apart mid-air, while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people aboard.

Prosecutors from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine are also part of the Joint Investigation Team, (JIT).

Earlier this week, Russia produced radar images which, it argued, showed that the plane could not have come from rebel-held areas.

Critics have also pointed out that Russian officials have given three versions of events since the plane was shot down.

A source in the prosecutor’s office told the BBC that they would pinpoint the launch site and identify the weapon.

“If they confirm what we already think we know, that a Buk missile was launched from inside territory, controlled by the Russia-backed separatists, it will be difficult to deny their involvement.”

Many of the families have, however, expressed their frustration over the fact that after two years, the investigators still can’t tell them who was responsible and why.

According to the BBC, Hans de Borst, whose 17-year-old daughter Elsemiek, was on board, says he’s “not expecting miracles”.

Meanwhile, Barry Sweeney, who lost his 28-year-old son Liam, said all he wants to know is, “why?”.

Malaysian MH370: BBC Reader Finds Possible Debris In Mozambique

Malaysian MH370, MozambiqueAviation experts say it is likely that a new piece of debris found on a Mozambique beach is from the missing Malaysian MH370 flight.

On Thursday, a resident contacted the BBC to say that he had found the fragment on the Macaneta peninsula.

The authorities have been notified and the piece will be examined by the official investigation team in Australia.

Experts meanwhile say it is consistent with where previous pieces of debris from the missing plane have been found.

MH370 was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people on board, when it vanished in March 2014.

It is presumed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean after veering off course.

Debris in South Africa, Mauritius ‘Almost Certainly’ From Missing MH370

South Africa, Mauritius, MH370Two pieces of debris discovered in South Africa and the Mauritian island of Rodrigues are almost certainly from the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 jetliner, Malaysia’s transport ministry said on Thursday.

Flight MH370 disappeared in March 2014 with 239 passengers and crew on board, shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing, in one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.

Investigators believe someone may have deliberately switched off the plane’s transponder before diverting it thousands of miles off course, out over the Indian Ocean.

“The team has confirmed that both pieces of debris from South Africa and Rodrigues Island are almost certainly from MH370,” Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said in a statement.

Liow said that the findings support results from a previous examination in March, during which the team confirmed that another piece of debris found in Mozambique was also almost certainly from MH370.

A first piece of the Boeing 777 washed up on the French Island of Reunion in July 2015. Malaysia and French authorities confirmed the flaperon was from the aircraft.

MH370 Searchers Remain Hopeful

MH370 SearchersTwo years on from its disappearance, Malaysia and Australia said that they remain “hopeful” that flight MH370 will eventually be found.

The aircraft disappeared between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board.

Australian-led search teams are combing a 120,000 square kilometre area of the Southern Indian Ocean.

The BBC reports that the investigating team is led by Malaysia and includes experts from the US, China, Australia, France and Britain.

Only one confirmed piece of debris, a part of wing called a Flaperon, has been found, on Reunion Island.

The search for the wreckage is estimated to have cost more than $130m (£92m).

The countries have said it would end once the current search area has been completely covered, likely to be around June.

Dutch Publishes Report On Cause Of MH17 Ukraine Disaster

Dutch Publishes Report On Cause Of MH17 Ukraine DisasterOver one year after the horrible MH17 tragedy occurred in Ukraine, the Dutch Safety Board has published a final report on why the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 broke mid-air in 2014, killing all 298 on board.

The report says the plane crashed as a result of a Russian-made Buk missile.

The missile hit the front left of the plane, as a result of which part of the plane broke off.

The West and Ukraine say Russian-backed rebels brought down the Boeing 777, but Russia claims the missile was fired from Ukrainian-controlled territory.

This report will, however, not apportion blame.

The plane, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in rebel-held Eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014 at the height of the conflict between government troops and the pro-Russian separatists.

The victims included 196 Dutch nationals and 10 Britons.

France Begins MH370 Debris’ Searches Around Reunion

France Begins MH370 Debris' Searches Around Reunion IslandFrance has commenced air, land and sea searches on and around the French Indian Ocean Island of Reunion.

These searches launched by France are coming in the anticipation of recovering more remains that could be linked to the MH370.

According to BBC, Malaysia said on Thursday that a wing section found on the island definitely came from the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight.

However, the French investigators have not confirmed the link which is causing frustration among the families of victims.

France had also dismissed the statements made by Malaysia that more debris had been found.

The Boeing 777, which had 239 people on board and most of which were Chinese, was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 when it disappeared from radar.

A piece of debris that experts believed could be from the missing flight MH370 earlier arrived Paris, France’s capital, from the Island where it was found.