Malaysia’s former chief civil aviation official, Azharuddin Abd Rahman, said Malaysia had not taken the lead in the investigations into the shooting down of MH17 as the country was still occupied with the disappearance of MH370 four months before.
Azharuddin was a key figure in the both MH17 and MH370 investigations as head of the Civil Aviation Department (later Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia).
He said the Dutch government took the lead to investigate the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 jet over eastern Ukraine. Other countries in the initial investigation team were UK and US.
He said international civil aviation rules called for the country of occurrence, Ukraine, to take the lead “but they refused to enter the area of the incident at the disputed region”. (Eastern Ukraine was then held by a separatist movement.)
“We were still occupied with MH370 at that time. And Donetsk was too far away from us,” he said, speaking from the floor at a conference on MH17.
Azharuddin, who was one of those attending the conference, stood up to answer Russian journalist Yana Yerlashova who had asked why Malaysia was not heading the investigations and was not keeping the data retrieved from the MH17 “black box” (flight data recorder).
“You have to tell the public that there are two teams for MH17, but you only mentioned JIT (the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team). The Dutch Safety Board published the full report few years back on what happened.”
Azharuddin said the MH17 blackbox was retrieved by Mohd Sakri Hussin, then senior assistant secretary of the National Security Council, from the eastern Ukraine rebel leader.
“We then handed over the black box to the Dutch government,” he said. All evidence was kept by the Dutch government as the country prosecuting the suspects believed responsible for shooting down MH17.
Azharuddin resigned last year after investigations into the disappearance of MH370 noted that certain standard operating procedures were not adhered to. He now heads a flying academy in Kota Kinabalu as the chairman.