Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, arrives at the reception center and holding area for family and friends of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport Saturday. Pic: AP.

Disappearance of flight MH370 stuns a nation, brings bitterness to a temporary halt, reports Asia Sentinel

The shock of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 seems to have brought a sort of temporary unity to Malaysia, pushing divisive political news and conflict off the radar, at least temporarily.

“This crash has stunned the nation and put politics on hold,” said an ethnic Malay political observer. “There seems to be a sense of anger and outrage and confusion over why anybody would attack a Malaysian plane.”

People “have been sick of the incessant politicking for a long time,” said a businessman source. “It is unfortunate that a national tragedy had to happen for people to push politics off their radar. I can see how my kids are affected and depressed by all this. We have discussed nothing else but MH 370 and how stupid our politicians on both sides of the divide are.”

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak postponed an official trip to Mauritius to focus on the search for the missing craft, the prime minister’s office said. Malaysia‘s reigning king, Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah, issued condolences.

(LIVE: Search continues for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370)

It isn’t sure if anybody actually attacked the plane, of course. A flotilla of ships and airplanes from nine countries continues to search for the remains the Boeing 777-200 that left Kuala Lumpur Saturday night for Beijing but vanished from radar screens. Vietnamese military aircraft spotted two oil slicks in the South China Sea, but there is no indication that they were caused by the plane when it hit the water – if it hit the water. It’s even debatable when it disappeared. Its “black box” apparently stopped sending signals to air traffic controllers 40 minutes into the flight. Other reports say it was two hours into its journey when it disappeared.

In particular, the tragedy and the multiplicity of inconsistencies about the loss of the craft has pushed political stories down the page, including a boiling controversy over the sentencing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim last Friday to a five-year jail term by an appellate court.

The sentencing was stayed on appeal to the Federal Court, the country’s highest tribunal. The verdict was widely believed to have been engineered by forces within the United Malays National Organization to prevent Anwar from registering as a candidate in a Kuala Lumpur suburban by-election that was considered certain to eventually make him the chief minister of the country’s most prosperous and populous state.

Given the fractious nature of Malaysian politics and the stunning turnaround represented by the appeals court overturning Anwar’s 2012 acquittal, in normal times, social media sites and web portals would be bristling with comment and anger.

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