More than 180 hours after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared from radar and triggered an unprecedented multinational search mission, the heart-wrenching suspense took a dramatic turn Saturday.
At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak revealed a trove of new information that virtually made the massive rummage in South China Sea for the Boeing 777 aircraft and the 239 people on board a huge waste of valuable time and resources.
It has turned out that the jetliner did turn back from its last known position on civilian radar and that the unidentified aircraft the Malaysian military radar detected at the north of the Strait of Malacca early Saturday morning last week was indeed MH370.
In addition, the last communication between the missing plane and satellites was recorded more than six hours after its disappearance from air traffic control screens and placed it in one of two corridors both of which are to the west of the Malaysian peninsula.
It is noteworthy that the latest revelation does shed fresh light on the possible whereabouts of the missing plane and will help narrow down the scope of search and thus ratchet up the chances of finding it.
But it is undeniable that the disclosure of such vital information is painfully belated -- more than seven excruciating days after the 227 passengers and 12 crew members lost contact with their beloved relatives and friends.
And due to the absence -- or at least lack -- of timely authoritative information, massive efforts have been squandered, and numerous rumors have been spawned, repeatedly racking the nerves of the awaiting families.
Given today's technology, the delay smacks of either dereliction of duty or reluctance to share information in a full and timely manner. That would be intolerable.
As the leader of the international search and rescue mission, Malaysia bears inescapable responsibility. Other parties that possess valuable data and information, including plane maker Boeing, engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and intelligence superpower the United States, should also have done a better job.
No excuse stands before the fate of the 239 people for any party to slack its duty, spare any efforts or withhold any helpful information for whatever reason. The stake of 239 lives is just way too high.
With time ticking away and the fate of Flight MH370 still shrouded in mystery, it is vital and imperative that the Malaysian side work more thoroughly and efficiently and other major information holders -- not least the Unites States -- be more open and forthcoming.
The 239 lives deserve no less.