International search efforts for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 hit a setback after Indonesia failed to give clearance for six foreign aircraft to fly over national airspace into the Indian Ocean on Tuesday in spite of assurances that Indonesia’s armed forces had extended its ”fullest support” to the continuing search.
The Indonesian Military (TNI) issued approval for search planes to fly through national airspace earlier this week, but delays in subsequent sign-offs by the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs forced three countries’ search flights to remain grounded in Malaysia, testing relations between two countries well used to locking diplomatic horns.
Some 26 countries have banded together since March 8 to search for the missing Boeing 777-200ER over a search area spanning some 22 million square nautical miles, and Indonesia has assumed an important role as the gateway country out of Malaysia to one of two search areas. The southern corridor begins west of Banda Aceh and takes in a vast arc past Western Australia into some of the most remote expanse of the Indian Ocean with an average water depth of around 4,000 meters.
The BBC reported on Tuesday that the southern search had been hampered after the central government banned six planes from flying over Indonesian territory.
Four aircraft from the Japanese Self Defense Force, including Hercules and P-3 Orion planes, as well as a South Korean P-3 Orion and a US P-3 Orion were grounded in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
“We were supposed to take off 7 or 8 hours ago originally to head out over the Indian Ocean south of Java and to search a grid pattern for signs of the missing Malaysian airline,” Rupert Wingfield Hayes, a senior BBC reporter in Kuala Lumpur, said on Tuesday. “All of these aircraft are sitting on the ground.
“There is no search, no aerial search anyway, going on from Malaysia [on Tuesday]. The reason for that is that we have been waiting all day for the Indonesian government to give the foreign military aircraft permission to overfly it’s territory and it simply has not come.”
The Malaysian Embassy’s First Secretary Khairul Tazril Tarmizi would not be drawn on the delay in granting clearance, saying on Wednesday only that the Malaysian government’s position regarding Indonesia’s cooperation remained unchanged.
The State Palace said it was unaware of the issue when contacted on Wednesday, adding that it would be discussed at a meeting later in the day. But according to Rear Adm. Iskandar, the TNI had tried to expedite the permits. The delay in allowing the six aircraft to take off was a consequence of the labyrinthine bureaucracy of other government bodies, he said.
While Indonesia’s nebulous bureaucracy grounded search flights from taking off from Malaysia to search into the southern corridor on Tuesday, the Malaysian government said there had been no holdup in Indonesia’s willingness to supply background information held by the country’s intelligence agency on the seven Indonesian passengers on flight MH370.
Only Russia and Ukraine had failed to hand over the results of background checks conducted by national intelligence agencies on Wednesday, according to a tweet by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The countries that did submit reports of their nationals abroad MH370 found nothing suspicious in their investigations. ‘Jakarta Globe’