PETALING JAYA: Peter Chong, the activist who went missing last week after he had narrated an apparent veiled threat against him, is a close friend of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, captain of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that mysteriously vanished three years ago.
Chong had vigorously defended Zaharie against speculations of possible responsibility over the incident in several interviews with international and local media, in the weeks after the plane disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
He had also attended vigils and other events dedicated to the 239 people who were aboard the missing plane.
In one photograph that had gone public, the two are shown together with Zaharie wearing a t-shirt which reads “democracy is dead”.
Chong’s family reported to the police on Saturday evening that they had not been able to contact him after he was seen leaving the house on the night of April 5.
In a Facebook posting on March 31, Chong, who likes to attend protests and candlelight vigils, had narrated how a motorcyclist accosted him earlier that morning, telling him to be careful as “nowadays a lot of people have suddenly disappeared”.
Chong, 54, had told FMT, in an interview published on March 17, 2014, that he first met Zaharie at a community event in Subang in 2012 and they soon became best of friends.
“He joined in as a volunteer and he was there cleaning and arranging the chairs,” Chong recalled.
“I realised that I had never met this guy before so I introduced myself. He told me that he worked with MAS and it was only later that I found out he was a captain.”
They were both also involved in political activism as Chong was then assistant to PKR’s Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah, while Zaharie, a life member of PKR, campaigned for the party in the last general election in 2013.
In the interview, Chong also praised Zaharie, expressing his utmost trust in the pilot, describing him as a man who loves to share with his close friends the joy of flying.
“If I were to choose a pilot to fly me in the future I’d still choose Captain Zaharie because he is a responsible and honest guy,” he said.
The former Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor had reportedly told The Australian that Zaharie would spend eight or nine hours a day helping in the election campaign when not rostered to fly.
Chong added that Zaharie was “angry at corruption and how the courts were being abused” to allegedly push politically motivated charges against PKR de facto head Anwar Ibrahim who is now serving a five-year jail sentence for a sodomy conviction.
In another interview with the BBC first broadcasted on March 10, 2014, Chong had recalled speaking to Zaharie about a week before MH370 disappeared, saying he appeared to be in good spirits.
“The whole nation and the whole world are waiting for answers,” he had said in the interview.
“What I feel cannot compare to what his family and the families of all the other passengers and crew are feeling.”
The same can now be said of Chong’s own family who are waiting anxiously for word on his whereabouts.
His disappearance comes in the wake of the suspected abductions of Pastor Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth since November last year.
Clips from CCTV recordings showing Koh being abducted in a professional manner by a group of masked men on a public road in Petaling Jaya in broad daylight on Feb 13 have been widely shared via social media.
Chong had reportedly attended a recent vigil for Pastor Koh.
Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 had yesterday requested for an “urgent meeting” with the Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar over the mysterious disappearances of the activists.