Kuala Lumpur: Amid reports that authorities would declare Flight MH370 as "lost", Malaysia has said it has not fixed the date to declare the status of the plane that vanished mysteriously eight months ago with 239 people on board.
Deputy Transport minister Abd Aziz Kaprawi said the government was still negotiating with the Chinese government in making a declaration as to whether the aircraft was missing or otherwise.
A majority of the passengers on that flight were Chinese nationals.
Abd Aziz's remarks came after next-of-kin of the passengers of the missing jetliner expressed deep shock at a recent statement by a senior Malaysia Airlines (MAS) official who reportedly said the plane will likely be declared lost by the end of the year.
"The firm cooperation of the two governments continues. In fact, the search is still on until today," Abd Aziz was quoted as saying in Parliament by the state-run Bernama news agency.
MAS' commercial director Hugh Dunleavy reportedly told New Zealand Herald recently that the company was waiting for the MH370 flight to be officially declared as missing so that compensation could be paid out to the passengers' next of kin.
MAS, in a statement, said it was only a personal opinion and any action would be based on the advice of the technical team responsible for the search operation.
Abd Aziz said the investigation on the mysterious disappearance of the aircraft was on-going and all developments would be announced when the investigators found any new indicator and information.
Voice370, the official name for the next-of-kin group, had expressed shock at the speculative statement of Dunleavy and questioned his intention and authorisation in doing so.
"The official channels of information for the group are the MAS Family Support Centre (FSC) and the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC). Therefore, what is the agenda behind such an astounding statement Phase 2 of the search for MH370 had just begun and such unilateral decision brings intense agony and confusion to family members and makes us lose faith in the search effort," the group said in a statement yesterday.
Voice370 said, to their knowledge, the JACC and the Australian government were in charge of the search operations while the Malaysian government was handling the investigation.
The next-of-kin also claimed that MAS had been attempting to force closure upon the families with some alleging that insurers were behind it.
MH370 with 227 passengers, including 5 Indians, and 12 crew members on board was on its way to Beijing when it disappeared from radar screens about an hour after departing from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8.
The search for the missing plane is being conducted in the southern Indian Ocean.