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Missing jet reveals uncomfortable Malaysian truths

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- It's apparently a challenge to find people satisfied with the Malaysian government's performance in its search for flight 370: A mainstream daily newspaper ran a story Monday on praise being lavished by an anonymous Facebook user from Sweden.

The mysterious disappearance of a Boeing 777 with 239 people aboard would test any government, but Malaysia's is particularly strained because its elite are accustomed to getting an easy ride. Decades in power and a pliant media have cushioned them from scrutiny.

Its civilian and military leaders have struggled to provide answers from day one of the crisis, when it took several hours to even declare the plane missing. They said early on that the plane may have doubled back, but took days to say it was military radar that suggested that and days more to confirm it.

In response to criticism, government officials have repeatedly said they must wait to confirm information before they can release it. But that has not prevented them from making mistakes.

On Monday, the defense minister said police visited the homes of the jet's two pilots soon after the March 8 disappearance, contradicting the country's police chief, who had said officers did not go there until a week later. The minister also raised doubts about earlier reports from Malaysian officials that a key data communications system had been turned off before the cockpit spoke to air-traffic controllers — a detail that has increased speculation that the pilots were responsible.

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