Malaysian political opposition leaders lashed out at the government Sunday over its handling of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, warning it should not use the crisis to crack down on political parties.
“Recent allegations in certain media that the pilots had a role in the disappearance of MH370 plane is totally speculative and it is irresponsible to make insinuation without verified information,” Tian Chua, vice president of the opposition People's Justice Party, known as Keadilan, said in a statement.
There were media reports that the missing plane's pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was an active member of the opposition party. NBC News confirmed with Tian Chua that the captain became a member roughly one year ago.
Tian Chua said the government shouldn't use the jet’s disappearance “as a pretext or opportunity to implicate or frame” opposition parties.
"We have consistently denounced violence and any form of terrorism," he added.
Malaysian authorities on Sunday said they were investigating all crew and passengers on board the flight, as well as any engineers who may have been in contact with the plane. They have not pinned blame on any single person or group, and on Saturday Prime Minister Najib Razak stopped short of calling the disappearance a hijacking.
The prime minister said the Boeing 777-200's transponder and communications were turned off and the aircraft veered from its flight plan as a result of “deliberate action by someone on the plane.”
Police visited both the pilot and co-pilot’s houses on Saturday, and officials said they might have to hold back information in order to properly execute the probe.
With Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah under scrutiny, a friend told the South China Morning Post that the pilot was a "caring man and a professional and dedicated pilot" who put the safety of his passengers first.
Peter Chong, 51, secretary to People's Justice Party MP Sivarasa Rasiah, told the Post he does not believe Zaharie was to blame.
"I think that's not fair because nobody knows what's happening," Chong told the Post. "That's why I decided to come forward and speak."
First published March 15 2014, 10:55 PM