It is “painful to watch” how Malaysia has embarrassed itself before the world with its bungled response to the missing plane, said Koon Yew Yin in In the first few days after MH370 vanished with 239 people on board, Malaysian authorities contradicted one another before the international press, giving conflicting information about the passenger manifest and checked baggage. More than a week later, authorities came out with information they could have told us right away—that the plane was seen on military radar turning back toward the southwest soon after it lost contact with air traffic controllers. Was the government withholding this fact? Or did it just not realize it until days later? Either way, the foreign press is accusing us of authoritarianism, of having “a paternalistic government, a government that tolerates low standards of competency, a government that cannot take criticism.” Frankly, it is hard to disagree. Other countries are just now learning how professional and political advancement in Malaysia depends on connections rather than skill.

That’s not fair, said Leslie Andres in the New Straits Times (Malaysia). Some may criticize, but others have “sung praises of the country and its leadership.” If a few details were held back at first, that was simply “the responsible thing to do” as long as the information was unverified. And bias is at work here. “No matter how clear a spokesman is, if the person hearing the statement (or reading, in some cases) does not understand, does not want to understand, or has a preconceived notion in hand, then that person will not get the correct message.”

Enough with the excuses, said Xinhua News Agency (China) in an editorial. Thanks to the delay in confirming the plane’s westward turn, “massive efforts have been squandered, and numerous rumors have been spawned, repeatedly racking the nerves of the waiting families.” China’s military and others wasted time and money combing the South China Sea for wreckage or survivors. “Given today’s technology, the delay smacks of either dereliction of duty or reluctance to share information in a full and timely manner.” Doesn’t the U.S., the world’s “intelligence superpower,” have access to vital data that can aid the search? Malaysian authorities must be more forthcoming—and the U.S. must help.

There could be a good reason for secrecy, said Narinder Singh in Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed that someone had deliberately turned off the plane’s transponder and communications system before turning the plane, meaning that the plane must have been hijacked. Speculation is focusing on the pilot, a supporter of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Just hours before the plane took off, Anwar was sentenced to five years in jail when a Malaysian court overturned his 2012 acquittal on a sodomy charge. Could the hijacking be political? “Is the military hiding something?” It’s even possible that the air force escorted the plane “to land in a remote location for negotiation with the terrorists.” The need to gain time to bargain for the lives of the passengers is a good excuse for misleading the world. If that’s not the case, though, “Malaysia will be penalized heavily for initiating a wild-goose chase.”