A member of the Malaysian opposition party who describes himself as a “confidant” of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah has jumped to the defense of the pilot amidst speculation that he may have hijacked the plane himself.
South China Morning Post reports:
An aide to a Malaysian member of parliament with strong links to the most controversial figure in the country’s politics in recent times – Anwar Ibrahim – has told the Sunday Morning Post that Zaharie is a close friend and fellow member of Anwar’s opposition People’s Justice Party.
Peter Chong, 51, secretary to People’s Justice Party MP Sivarasa Rasiah, who represented Anwar in his recent sodomy court case, has described 53-year-old Zaharie as a “caring man and a professional and dedicated pilot” who always puts the safety of his passengers first.
Chong, who first met Zaharie two years ago, said they struck up a close relationship and spoke regularly. The last time he spoke to Zaharie was a week before the missing flight took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
“We basically ran into each other so we did not spend much time together, but we said we would meet after he returned from Beijing,” he said. “There was nothing unusual about him that time, and nothing unusual in the recent few months also,” Chong told the Post.
Chong described Zaharie as a “confidant” and “fellow activist”.
“The Malaysian government may play with his political membership with the opposition party, but I think it’s got nothing to do with this. I hope to let the families of the passengers know their lives were in the hands of somebody good,” he said.
Malaysian police yesterday searched Pilot Zaharie’s home after the country’s prime minster Najib Razak announced at a press conference that investigations would refocus on crew and passengers onboard the plane.
During the briefing, the prime minister said that there is a “high degree of certainty” that the data reporting system of MH370 was disabled in “deliberate action by someone on the plane”.
An unnamed source told CNN that Malaysian police also searched the home of Zaharie’s co-pilot, Fariq Abdul, 27, who is known in the past to have invited passengers to the cockpit mid-flight.
Inside the home of Zaharie, who’s worked for Malaysia Airlines since 1981, cops reportedly found a Boeing777 flight simulator that was built by the captain. “One of his reasons to build a flight simulator in his home was to share the joy of flying with his friends,” Chong was quoted as saying.
“People have asked me if that means he’ll also invite other people into the cockpit. The answer I think is ‘no’. The law doesn’t allow it,” he said.
Authorities said police are examining the flight simulator and that for a pilot to own one is not uncommon.
Several tribute pages have emerged praising Captain Zaharie for his “good heart” and passion for flying.
Chong likewise told the Sunday Mirror “I would trust that man with my life. He loves people and being involved in something like that would hurt people. I would not believe he was involved in any way at all. If I went on a plane and was allowed the choice of a pilot, I would choose Captain Zaharie.”