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Malaysia, Australia still committed to search

PERTH: MALAYSIA and Australia remain committed to locating Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went off radar in March.

Search operations continued to focus on the southern Indian Ocean, and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said investigators were hopeful they would find more clues as the mission entered its new phase early last month.

On the last leg of his three-day working visit to Australia, Muhyiddin was briefed behind closed doors by officials from the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) and Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) on the operation’s latest developments.

The meeting was held at the Fugro Survey Pty Ltd headquarters in Geddes Street here.

Fugro is involved in the search with two of its specialist survey vessels — the Fugro Equator and the Fugro Discovery — which come equipped with deepwater search technology.

Muhyiddin said both countries have forked out almost A$120 million (RM343 million) in the joint search operation contracted to Fugro. Malaysian-contracted search vessel GO Phoenix, funded by Petronas, is also included in the mission.

“They explained the new search phase to me in detail. I understand the task is very difficult indeed, since the search area is vast. Investigators have only covered 10 per cent of the 160,000 sq km search area.

“But we are not giving up. The investigators are hopeful and confident with the operation’s current direction. We, too, are hopeful that there will be signs (of the plane’s whereabouts). The Australians, too, had a number of their loved ones on board and I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Australia for its unrelenting commitment,” said Muhyiddin.

Present to brief Muhyiddin was DCA director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.

The deputy prime minister reiterated that Australia was among Malaysia’s closest allies and a friend. On Wednesday, he had called on his counterpart, Warren Truss, to express Malaysia’s gratitude for Australia’s assistance in the tragedy.

“Our history goes a long way, even before Malaya gained its independence. Malaysia truly appreciates the efforts by Australia in these difficult times.”

Australia has been spearheading the hunt for the plane, which is believed to have come down in the southern Indian Ocean, east of Perth, after diverting off course.

On the two nations’ closeness in the face of the MH370 tragedy, Muhyiddin said he met Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett to discuss improving bilateral ties.

“We talked about forging better partnerships in future in terms of economy, education, tourism and trade. We have seen the fruition of our close relationship.

“In education, for example, we have succeeded in creating a research platform, Global Malaysian Studies Network, at the Australian National University,” said Muhyiddin, who is also education minister.


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