KUALA LUMPUR – Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein today jokingly labelled the transport ministry, which he was helming when Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing, as the “ministry of trouble”.
Hishammuddin cracked the joke while answering a question from a participant at the KL International Youth Discourse on what makes a good leader.
Talking about his experience as the acting minister of the transport ministry during the search effort for the missing Boeing aircraft, the minister said it was the first time Malaysia had encountered such an incident.
“I was the minister, the unfortunate acting minister at that time of MoT, ‘Ministry of Trouble’,” he said, poking fun at the common acronym for the transport ministry.
“And this was something that was unprecedented for us. The search began first in the South China Sea and then moved on to the Andaman Sea. We only realised later that the plane had ended up in the South Indian Ocean,” he told the participants attending the discourse at PWTC today.
MH370 vanished three years ago en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. Its disappearance has become one of history’s greatest aviation mysteries.
Hishammuddin told the audience that he believed a good leader must be patient and must be able to make bold decisions at times.
He urged them to learn how to handle crises like the MH370 disappearance.
“I had to face about 220 reporters from around the world, every day at the 5.30pm press conference, to give an update on the search for MH370.
“People had asked me how I could keep my composure throughout the 45 minutes on live television. And I told them that I had faith that I could do it,” he said, adding that international news network, CNN, had sent eight reporters to cover the press conferences.
Hishammuddin said that before going for the press conference that was broadcast live on global television every day, he would pray to God.
“My only prayer during those times was ‘give me the strength so I do not say anything embarrassing to the world’,” he said.
Hishammuddin said when the government was accused of not doing its job in finding the missing plane, he had maintained that they were not in a position of denial.
“That is something I am very proud off when facing the world and 220 reporters.
“We were not in a position of denial. And whatever conspiracy theories must be verified.”
Hishammuddin was made the acting transport minister after the 2013 general elections and held the position of defence minister at the same time.
He handed the transport minister’s portfolio to Liow Tiong Lai on June 2014 following a cabinet reshuffle, three months after MH370 disappeared.