14 March 2014

Yeah? You And Whose Army?

I am loth to speak of the recent disappearance of MH370. The barrage of pseudo-intellectual drivel and vitriol shows to me once again, that we are simply not ready for public opinion serving as an influence towards government policy and practise. We have in overwhelming volume, public opinionatedness in guise of public opinion.
As we speak, much of the accusation has been proven wrong. Ravenous snarling at MAS for having sent families of the victims to India, engines that talked to ground stations 4 continuous hours after being declared as missing, taking the authorities to task for not deploying our submarines for search and rescue, after condemning them as being unable to submerege at at that,  dissing the Director General of the Department of Civil Aviation, and what have you amidst all that you have not, are acts of open burning amidst the haze of misinformation following a tragedy. The very amplitude of ridicule makes evident that we live amongst way too many charlatans passing off as moulders of social and political thought.
Let me speak of Search And Rescue. Of the 18 years as an active duty pilot, one of the greatest consumers of my standby time was serving as SAR crew in various squadrons throughout the country.
I was a mere copilot not yet into my second year in my first flying squadron in Butterworth when dear Major David  ditched inadvertantly while attempting a night rescue at sea. His copilot, one of his crewmen and four combat rescue personnel were lost in the incident. That was my first direct involvement with search operations, and in the air force we have the wealth of experience we do not desire when it comes to SAR. Even one friend lost is a friend far too many to lose. The media frenzy and condemning of an aircraft that has saved countlessly more lives than it has been blamed for taking are just one of the many ills that accompany the territory we operate in as an air force. Throughout my remaining years, I gained greater familiarity with SAR through the various incidents we SAR pilots face, actual and in SAR exercises with neighbouring countries' military arms.
This was every day life in service, and now, in this civil incident, the rigours of what follows an air mishap is in the public's eye and many prove graceless in facing matters that they cannot grab and bend with their own hands because we have all become accustomed to being know-it-all critics even when it comes to events outside of our circle of experience. We have forgotten how to trust, to let someone else who has the burden of responsibility by office, to do his work while we wait. Too much conspiracy, too little faith, and the sinking inability to acknowldge the constricting finity of our personal prowess are rapidly eroding our civility.
A layman who has not been on a search operation cannot imagine the weight of the yoke that lays on the shoulders of the SAR Mission Coordinator nor the trickle down psychological burden on the minds and hearts of all those involved in the search. The first truth that all in the mission must acknowledge is that despite all that you possess and all that you can deploy and all that you think you may know, none of these that you put your trust in will guarantee results.
What will then? Persistence. Absolute and blind persistence, against all hope, against all the unwarranted and unfriendly words hurled at you as you return time after time at day's end empty handed, in searching and searching again, in the same area even, till something yields.
On that long and injurous road there will always be some wiseass trying to prove that he can do the job better than you. Shamans, bomohs, politicians, pilots and even senior officers who will try to commandeer the operations according to their unenlightened wisdom and "talk" with the SAR MC. Everyone wants success. But worse, everyone wants the bragging rights should such a sorrowful event break into sunny skies and tearful reunions, so as to say, " I told them to. I told you so."
SAR is not merely a jigsaw puzzle. It is a jigsaw of contradictory messages. That's actually common. Even in the most straightforward incidents of SAR, such as a fighter pilot eject shortly after departure, the muddle can get confusing. You can have an incident so close to home base, yet be so far from finding your friend in timely fashion so as to allow the abatement of anxiety before it cuts raw. Yet in these instances even, you will be the red carpet roll out for snake oil salesmen and witch doctors who will tell you they had a vision of an enormous hand reaching out from the sea to slap the aircraft into its deadly waters or into a mountain or wherever their infusions inspire them to make such wild claims.
The worst transgressions in SAR are interference and speculation. Just log on to facebook or the online news portals and watch the most irresponsible orgy of mudslinging imaginable amidst a time where sacredity, reverence and surrender should be the prime movers of what not to say rather than the airing of gracelessness that it has proven to be.
I do not know if reality tv is to blame for the current attitude I see with regard to the criticism of our leaders, however they may have been elected, but it does not paint a pretty picture of Joe Public nosing in where he cannot lend any improvement to the situation.
The truth is very simple, and I repeat, a layman who has not been on search operations has no idea of the enormity of the burden upon the SAR Mission Coordinator. None of you who fall into this category has any idea of the barrage of information and misinformation that has to be dealt with and verified before they are taken as leads along which to launch a search. None of you have any time frame estimation on these workings. You just think you have the right to know and to know yesterday. If anything is not forthcoming, you scoff at it as the witholding of information. In these circumstances, disseminating information that isn't verified is the worst thing thing to do, indeed smacks of utter irresponsibility. Better to hold fire till evidence vindicates the information. In this age of instant gratification, the idea of waiting for information may be utterly impalatable and alien, but wait you must. There is nobody's hand that you can force, and you cannot secure a better way forward should matters be in your hands anyway. Hence, the question is, you and whose army?
The individuals at the helm are not pulling things out of a hat. SAR Manuals have been promulgated and ratified, and upon DISTRESFA, the final stage of the SAR phases, adhered to. There are methods, search patterns, Most Probable Points to figure out, assignment of assests and what not, all of which have already been determined. Nobody is doing anything by memandai mandai. Interference and speculation not only disrupts the SMC's work, but serves to mask the emergence of truthful and valuable leads. He must follow through with his plans, and wait for results before reassessing the plan and formulating a new plan based on the latest data. The questions you think they have not considered have been pored over and over and yielded naught. Do not be so presumptuous as to think you are better than the trained professionals who are giving their all into a meaningful resolution to this void.
What we all need to learn is a bit of respect. You cannot get respect for your opinions with the way you insult the leadership of the day  based on information you neither have nor can verify. I really don't care about who it is who heads which ministry, but down on the ground is the working man and woman who are making sacrifces in the interest of matters bigger than you have the misfortune or gumption to handle. When the east coast towns went under the floods, these are the examples of the working people who went out dutifully to rescue flood victims to higher ground while their own homes were being ravaged by the wicked waters. Yet, there was no sparing of bloodletting on the social media.
In essence, you don't have to like the people who have to face the crowd, especially if you think he has not been legitimately elected, but taking a swipe at everyone because your personal preferences did not come to fruition in GE13 does not extend you the rights to tarring all and sundry with the same brush. In real life, rarely does the spokesman reflect the labour of the man at the end of the line anyhow. On closer look, in this national tragedy, I do not see the critics convincing anyone they can do a better job themselves should this cartload of misfortunes fall into their laps. The very brand of their criticism itself casts a long shadow on their capabilities were they to trade places with those who have to suddenly face this unprecedented dilemma of global proportions. And you would send offensive submarines out for search and rescue? Why on earth speak of things that you have already condemned as being incapable of submerging? So now they are deployable because it's the "current" thing to say? Make up your mind one way or the other, but this switching of sentiments proves you as being no better than the office bearers you seek to usurp. If all you can do is jeer at things you cannot rectify, exactly what does that make you? A better citizen?
Spare a thought for the many on the ground, in the air and on the waters who are attempting to literally spin gold out of straw. Spare us all the hypocrisy of calling for prayer with your right hand while you condemn the very avenue by which those prayers have a hope of being answered with your left.
That, or volunteer your eyes to the search parties.


  1. Hi,
    I want ask for you permission to republish this post in rentaka blog.

  2. Ellow Mumuchi!! Frequent visitors are entitled to tea and ginger biscuits. :)

  3. Dear Mr Rentaka
    You're my guest here, so be my guest with republication.

    1. Hi,
      Sorry for the late notification, got a little caught up this week
      Nevertheless, this is the link to the republish article


      On behalf of the Rentaka editorial team,
      I would like to say thank you very much for the consent.
      We hope to do this again in the future!


  4. Sir,
    I've only just discovered your blog. I feel so small because there are many things I take for granted... never giving thought to the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform.
    More should read what you've written, especially the smart-alecky keyboard warriors.
    Truly, I despair at the comments left on news portals. The tragedy of it is many don't even know how ignorant they are.
    Bless you and please keep on blogging.

  5. Dear Anura
    I have been lurking here in the shadows for a while now, so it comes as a surprise that my blog gets "discovered", LOL!!
    There is no need to feel small, and if you do it probably foretells of good and greatness to come which will not endanger your humility.
    In all probability, we may even discover in days to come that perhaps there was a grand conspiracy in all this. However, presuming there is one and knowing there is one are two very different things. Way down at ground level, there are people who cannot afford the distraction that the clamouring conspiracy theorists feed and recycle, because they ,must keep searching against their better sense of impossibility and hopelessness. They too will have sleepless nights wondering, if they had spent 5 more minutes, or looked a hundred feet lower, or done whatever an inch differently, would things have turned out differently? These are the men and women who are giving all they've got. We need to remember them more than the lost words of idiot ministers and the keyboard warriors who unwittingly feed the egos of the very people they slur.

  6. Sir, I will charge you for two words that you used in your article. One for teh tarik. One for roti canai....

  7. Dear Sir,
    The frustrations you have are totally understandable. For a country like ours, where our armed services have so little(no fault of theirs) we do so much with what little we have. Indeed it is a big ask and I would say they the men and women in uniform, have done well!!!! Being formerly operational on the B777, I am as perplexed and baffled as the next guy to this continuing saga!!!!As always safe flying and blue skies!!!!

  8. Dear Major Daud bin Sulaiman
    Teh tarik and roti canai with you is always a repast. I look forward to it, and be ready to be winched back into your ride home :P

  9. Dear Jeevan
    It is a good thing belonging to a fraternity that has displayed the utmost wisdom in proving that there are times when silence speaks more eloquently than clamouring.
    The world seems to forget that air operations, both military and civil, are nigh watertight. A relaxed composure is the fruits of having all other aspects and cycles already secured. The media of the entire world runs guilty of making suggestions as if this were an indisciplinary event in a public school.
    Thanks for dropping by, and may you be CAVOK at all times.

  10. Dear Rentaka Team
    You are welcome at all times, and have a virtual cuppa teh tarik kaw kaw punya on me.

  11. hobbit1964,

    I find it a little hard to understand your writings (blame myself for it). I believe many Malaysians understand and appreciate the hard work put in by those SAR teams on the ground. It is the weakness of the leadership, whether real or perceived, that they are disgusted with.

    1. Dear Suci Dalam Debu
      I am not exactly a government aye sayer myself. However, I feel that what marks the boys from the men is knowing when to call our leadership to task, and when to stand with them. I did not write this to exonerate the ministers, nor to outline the SAR process. What is pertinent here, dear Suci, is that this is not the tracking of a FedEx parcel.
      The criticism that has been hurled so far stands no taller than to identify those who stay partisanly against the establishment no matter what happens to this country. For instance, the air force sector operations controllers have been accused of sleeping on the job, both by local and foreign media. The reason nobody has answered to those accusations is that an explanation would not elucidate the layman. That's just one example of useless press noise.
      It is no surprise that foreign media took Malaysia through the wallows, but for our own people to join them is what I find a little too juvenile. We have to be better than those we seek to criticise rather than just turn out to be a newer version of the same old herd that they are. We must remember that in every aviation incident, we have procedures to follow. It's not subject to the inventiveness of the DG-DCA or whomever seeks his 5 minutes of tv time. I agree that we looked bad at first. That's how it is, always. The air force, which makes every base practice SAR twice a year and practice Pre-Accident Plans also twice annually, one on base and one off base, knows with utmost certainty that the first thing that follows a crash is information warfare. So all I am saying is, let's not blame the guys who were there to take the fall. They stood up, knowing our pillorying crowd was but waiting with eggs in their hands.
      All the same, I owe you an apology, in that I do not write coherently. I say most humbly, I am sorry.

  12. I too do not understand some of my fellow malaysians who sunddenly became 'aviation experts'. Most of them got my brunt. I too would like permission to post your article to some malaysian friends and family who were those ' aviation experts'.

    Thank you for being a very special member of the aviation fraternity. May Allah keep you and everybody safe. Thank you again.

    1. Thank you Fazillah, for dropping by. I am surprised at this influx and a bit embarassed as this is my venting arena and not a page for eloquent enlightenment as in Malaysia Today.
      I've gone bright red at being called a special member of the aviation fraternity as I know very well that my only specialty is that I struggle to remain in said fraternity.
      Please be free with this article. If this brings you peace and empathy, then Allah be praised and you be blessed too. Thanks for speaking up for us.

  13. There is a lot of hoax and irrelavent comments and criticisms out there. But they are what they are and not a criticism of our good people working hard on the ground, but a reflection of the kind of missteps historically and in this tragedy worthy of criticisms. Eg. Authorities releasing printing errors of the 2 iranians photofits is the kind of error they cannot afford to do as it only invites speculation and a negative reflection of professionalism. Lets not lump all forms of criticisms to be the same or tell people they have no right to comment just because they are not experts in the field. If one is uninformed then correct them and everybody learns. I fear this drive to connect all forms of criticisms of our authorities, including valid ones, to be criticisms of the rest of the good people in service and our country as a whole, will discourage people from keeping the authorities accountable. It is not about trusting anyone who can do the job better, but ensuring those calling the shots do their job well. Malaysians just got to learn how to verify info before sharing them as with thinking more critically. Not by speaking only if they are deemed experts in the area but to be able to engage and speak openly and have conversations going without it being labelled as anti gov or it demoralising our servicemen.

    1. Anonymous,
      Much of what you say holds so true. We as the electorate must hold the leadership of this country accountable. I see where you are going with this and your direction is laudable and in need of no vindication. While we are on this path, why not a little walk further down its lane?
      So, accountability is a fine aim. However, take a good long look and see that most of those who rally the crowd or rather rouse the rabble, are those fallen from that very pantheon they seek to chastise for giving them the short end of the stick. It isn't about having been punished for not playing ball. They were part of the game for quite a while!! Sometimes misplaced bets run less than proiftable and then to cry foul does not set one apart as a beacon of truth. Intentions become questionable for as long as one has an axe to grind. Comprende?
      I am sorry sir. I really believe that as a prerequisite to criticise or comment, one needs some substantial facts as the base from which to make such comments. Else, you're a contributor to the problem and not an alleviating buoyancy to the solution.
      The more complicated the field of expertise gets, the more dilute the liberties of non-experts become in raising impertinent questions because at that point you constitute noise, harrassment and interference. You're best done without, in an area that demands all energies, all that humanity can afford to give. And then some.
      I think there is a gross misidentification of those who seek to hold the leadership accountable with those who do not have the exacting and intimate knowledge with which to hold anyone, least of all themselves, accountable. Therefore, the "lumping" that you caution me on actually runs both ways rather than streams in guise of the altruistic drive for an egalitarian and accountable society that belongs to the information age which on no account should be misconstrued as the age of the informed. By now you would have seen that none of the sources of news that Malaysians have looked upon as Earendil have been proven substantially credible either.
      I too, want accountability on the part of the government, having served her for 26 years. I have seen first hand the ravaging abuses thereof, over that entire span. Believe you me, that I am not one to let them off unjutsifiably. In this blog, I vent for my own sanity and it is the invalid criticism of those who seek to wax lyrical while devoid of melody that I have so listed.
      But to be critical, one needs all one's faculties. lest one run the risk of being relegated a mere critic.
      Have yourself a good day sir. Continue your pursuit, as in all good intent, I trust that thou art not far from the kingdom of heaven.

  14. I believe majority of the people appreciate what the authorities and the people on the ground do for MH370. We are grateful for the sacrifices made by all. Yang bising tu saja cari publisiti murahan.

    1. Dear other Anonymous
      I agree.
      There is a time for everything under the sun. Now it's for reverence. Thank you for being here.

  15. I think the throwing of accusations is a normal reaction these days. People always need a bogeyman to blame. It lessons the feelings of loss for many.
    Just as there is no such thing as a victimless crime, then people need someone to blame for any loss even before the facts are available. They don't really care who it is or the reason behind it all as long as they can pin the blame on someone.
    In the case of MH370 there is a long list of potential bogeymen. The length of the list will frustrate many who want to narrow it down so they can believe they have blamed the right person - long before the plane's final location has been determined, let alone the flight recorders found and other evidence gathered. They are quite happy to hold a lynching to assuage their feelings and whoever heard of the truth being allowed to get in the way of a good lynching?

    1. Ah Tim!!!! Fancy seeing you here, more than four years after the invite!!!
      But you hit the nail on the head with this scenario being fraught with bogeymen. You have seen even in a rehearsed SAR event we can overlook the target. This is an insane field. I guess that's what spawns the lynch mob :P

  16. Mr. Hobbit, me too re-publish, can? (plato.debacon)

  17. Dear Miss de Bacon
    With a nom de plume such as that, none can withold permission. Proceed unhindered.

  18. I have so much going on within this cranium of mine it will absolutely rupture into debris. First, this may sound arrogant but the masses will hardly be able to digest your oeuvre either intellectually or linguistically. Second, I'm writing this from the phone therefore thought flow is faster and not coordinated. I will mention your scribings in my blog and hopefully remind myself of how patient I need to be of the lesser mortals.

  19. Thanks for your visit Miss Subrata Roy.
    I am actually surprised that the masses seem to have passed by this spot, but yes this is not digestible fare for most.
    I understand that your blog is for books and I am not a writer with proof of publication :). But let that not stop this post from finding its way into your halls.