Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Photo: Reuters

Malaysia’s government has described a claim that information about cargo on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was covered up as “demonstrably false”.

A government spokesman said the claim made by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on the ABC’s Four Corners program that the flight manifest had been deleted by “people in authority” was designed to smear his country in the international media.

“The cargo manifest allegation is just the latest attempt by Anwar Ibrahim to exploit [the] MH370 tragedy and damage Malaysia’s reputation for personal political gain,” the spokesman said.

The search for the missing plane off Western Australia.

The search for the missing plane off Western Australia. Photo: AFP

Dr Anwar told the ABC the government must explain in a transparent manner whether information on the manifest was deleted as confidential sources had told him.

“You can’t expect the international community to have this huge search and rescue operation to find the debris … we have to know what is the cargo on the flight,” he said.

But in a statement the spokesman said the government released MH370’s full manifest on May 1, that showed the cargo included four tonnes of mangosteen fruit and lithium batteries.

Malaysia Airlines insists it packed the batteries in accordance with international safety regulations. Lithium batteries are known to have caused fires on other flights.

Dr Anwar, sentenced to five years jail on the rarely used charge of sodomy in March, claimed last month that the Malaysian government was deliberately concealing information that would explain what happened to the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board.

The plane disappeared on March 8 and is believed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean thousands of kilometres off course after running out of fuel.

Financially stricken Malaysia Airlines has announced it is improving its security by installing new equipment that scans cargo being loaded on to flights. Existing screening was carried out by mechanical, physical or other methods, the company said.

Malaysia’s leaders said investigations had failed to discover what happened on board the flight that has become one of the most baffling mysteries in world aviation.

Authorities in Kuala Lumpur and the British satellite company Inmarsat are preparing information for public release that explains the technology used to reach the conclusion the flight ended in the Indian Ocean. The company had previously declined to respond to criticism over the conclusion.