The Malaysian government has been deliberately concealing information about missing flight MH370, the country’s main opposition leader has claimed.
In an interview with Sky News, Anwar Ibrahim cast doubt on official accounts coming from the authorities in his country and accused ministers of a “betrayal of trust” over their handling of the crisis.
Mr Anwar said it was “not only unacceptable but not possible, not feasible” that the plane had not been sighted by Malaysia’s sophisticated Marconi radar system immediately after it changed course.
He claimed the radar would have instantly detected the jet as it travelled east to west across “at least four” Malaysian provinces.
He told Sky: “There is no reason as to why they are not able to detect the flight movement.
“If you can allow this to happen, then it is a betrayal of the people’s trust. You can not rely on an incompetent ministry to decide on our own security.
“They will have to explain. If they can’t, they will have to tell us why this vital piece of information has been concealed from the general public and international community.
He added: “The system is opaque in the sense that they are used to a very compliant media, compliant judiciary, which will only question at the behest of the ruling establishment.
“When the information is available why not cooperate with international authorities and release it?
Mr Ibrahim, who personally knew the pilot of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, has called for an international committee to take over the Malaysian-led operation, saying “the integrity of the whole nation is at stake”.
He indicated it was even possible that there was “complicity by authorities on the ground” in what happened to the plane and the 239 people on board.
His claims came as Australian authorities launched the underwater phase of the search – but they admitted time is running out to detect pings from the plane’s black box recorder.
Mr Anwar said the way the MH370 investigation was handled was “clearly suspect”.
“One fact remains. Clearly information critical to our understanding is deemed missing. I believe the government knows more than us,” he said.
Mr Anwar said it was “baffling” that the country’s air force had “remained silent”, and suggested that it “should take three minutes under SOP (standard operating procedure) for the air force planes to go. And there was no response”.
Mr Anwar’s comments follow a pledge made by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Australia counterpart Tony Abbott that no effort would be spared to give the families of those on board the answers they need.
The two countries are heading multinational efforts in the Indian Ocean in the hunt for debris to solve the mystery of the jet.
Mr Razak, whose government has been harshly criticised by some victims’ families for giving sometimes conflicting information about the flight and for the slow pace of the investigation, described the search as a “gargantuan task”.
But he insisted there would be no let up for the sake of the victims’ families.
He said: “We owe it to the grieving families to … give them comfort and closure to this rather tragic event and the world expects us to do our level best.
“We want to find answers. We want to provide comfort to the families and we will not rest until answers are indeed found.”
Mr Abbott said Australia was “throwing everything at it” to find the plane, which disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.
No trace of the jet has been found almost four weeks after it vanished.
Although Australia is coordinating the ocean search, the investigation into the tragedy ultimately remains Malaysia’s responsibility.