Plane search puts Malaysian minister on defensive

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 01:42

Kuala Lumpur: Hishammuddin Hussein`s wife is a princess. His cousin is prime minister, and he`s been mentioned as a possible successor.

But right now, as the face of his country`s effort to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, he is the man who has delivered more than two weeks of frustrating news about one of the most confounding searches in aviation history.
The bespectacled 52-year-old defense minister has come under fire for just about everything that`s gone wrong with the unprecedented hunt from delayed radar tracking data to confusion over when police searched the homes of the missing plane`s pilots.

His handling of the search could affect not only his own future but that of Malaysia`s ruling party, which has been struggling to stay in power after six decades in charge. "He is going to be hindered by the perception (of Malaysia`s) handling of the crisis," said Bridget Welsh, a political scientist at Singapore Management University. "Those who see it negatively will associate it with Hishammuddin."
The tech-savvy minister, who tweets regularly and has a Twitter following in excess of 600,000, tried to overcome some of that criticism Saturday when he read out a handwritten note passed to him at the end of a press briefing that bore the latest clue: A Chinese satellite had spotted debris that might belong to the jetliner.
Hishammuddin`s family connections go even farther than that. His grandfather, Onn bin Ja`afar, founded the ethnic Malay party that has dominated politics here ever since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. His wife, Tengku Marsilla Tengku Abdullah, is a princess from the state of Pahang, north of the main city, Kuala Lumpur.

First Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 01:42
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