Kuala Lumpur/New Delhi: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday that the communications system of the Malaysia Airlines jet that went missing on March 8 was disabled just before it reached the east coast of peninsular Malaysia even as India intensified its end of the multinational search operation.
An Indonesian student displays a message expressing prayers and well-wishes for passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines. Pic/AFP
“We can say with a high degree of certainty that the aircraft communications, addressing and reporting system were disabled just before the aircraft reached the east coast of peninsular Malaysia," he said. From this point onwards, the Malaysia air force radar data showed an aircraft, which was believed but not confirmed to be the missing jet, did indeed turn back and flew in a westerly direction, back over peninsular Malaysia before turning northwest, Razak said. "These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane,” he added.
The aviation authorities of Malaysia and their international counterparts have determined that the plane’s last communication with the satellite was in one of two possible corridors — a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor stretching from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
The Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board the plane. “Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear, we’re still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path,” he said.
Malaysian authorities have decided to end the search operation in the South China Sea and shift the focus of search efforts to the Indian Ocean. Vietnam and Thailand suspended their sides of the search operation.
Meanwhile, India has further intensified efforts to find the missing aircraft with additional naval and air assets being deployed for searching an expanded area in central and east Bay of Bengal, the defence ministry said.
In a related development, Malaysian police have searched the house of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah who flew the aircraft that is now missing. Three policemen arrived at the captain’s house soon after Razak confirmed that the plane was suspected to have been diverted deliberately. The captain's investigation will include his political and religious views and also his hobbies and behaviour with friends and family.