If you are perplexed by Monday's announcement on the missing Malaysian airliner, no wonder. Prime Minister Najib Razak declared that the flight "ended" in the southern Indian Ocean, and the state-owned airline said that "we have to assume beyond a reasonable doubt" that the plane went down in the ocean, far off its course to Beijing. Both announcements were vague; neither said much about why or how.
From the moment the plane went missing, the Malaysian government has been ham-handed in its dealings with grieving families and the global glare of attention. It delayed for hours saying anything after the plane first vanished, and over the next few weeks much of the information it disseminated was conflicting, wrong or misleading.
Such a bizarre disaster would be difficult for any government to deal with, and a fair amount of uncertainty and confusion is expected. But the Malaysian government has shown signs of a deeper malaise that comes from a half century of rule without challenge or transparency. When the prime minister was about to make a statement recently, his spokesperson told reporters there would be no questions.