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Features : After MH370, MH17 Puts Malaysia To Test

By Ali Imran Mohd Noordin

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — As Malaysians are still trying to come to terms with the fate of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that went missing just over four months ago, on late Thursday they were once again jolted by another tragedy involving the airline.

And Malaysia and Malaysians were once again put to test when it was confirmed that Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people on board had been shot down over conflict-torn Ukraine.

If the analysis based right from the initial reaction shown through blogs, tweets and Facebook is anything to go by, Malaysians were definitely shocked and distressed over the latest tragedy.

MALAYSIANS DON’T WANT TO SEE ANOTHER DISASTER

As the this writer flipped through the updates on Facebook late Thursday, a link ‘Malaysian Airlines (MAS) MH17 crashes in Ukraine’ appeared. This writer could not believe it and chose to ignore it as a spam, linked to some malware sites.

However when a respected aviation blogger, Azuan Ahmad Zahdi (www.azuanzahdi.com) tweeted ‘Please don’t let this be true’ sometime near midnight, this writer’s heart started to pound fast, sensing the earlier link may be genuine.

And the reality descended on this writer when Malaysian Airline’s tweet ‘Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow’ appeared.

And it turned more dramatic when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tweeted ‘I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation’. The heart sank further realising this was no rumour.

It was most heartbreaking when at 4.30 a.m the prime minister announced at a press conference at the Sama-sama Hotel in Sepang what no Malaysians wanted to hear – flight MH17 had crashed in a area near the eastern town of Torez, near the Russia-Ukraine border controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

And once again Malaysia is on the news for the wrong reasons.

MALAYSIAN REACTION

From writer’s observation, during the early hours after the news started to spread in the Malaysian media, many started to pray for a miracle or were hoping that the news was just a rumor.

Facebook icon William Cheah posted ‘Keep calm. Keep speculations at the barest minimum. Keep your mouth shut if you have nothing good to say. Stay united and hope for the best. Most of all, pray for MH17�’ sometime near midnight. The post received 490 ‘Like’ and was shared by 62 other users.

Another Facebook icon, Saiful Nang took a different approach. He changed his cover photo to a banner showing moral support for MAS.

The banner said ‘Although there are few of your planes never arrived, I know you are the victim. Don’t worry, I will still fly Malaysia Airlines’ with hash tag #ItCanHappenToAnyPlane and #AlFatihahMH17.

This banner has received 3,211 ‘Likes’ and shared 182 times.

Shortly after the first report by Interfax, a Russian non-governmental news agency, the news on MH17 went viral on various social media platforms.

Official and unofficial news were shared, pictures of the scene, some of them extremely graphic were retweeted and reposted unfiltered and unverified. Not long after that, the video of the crash site and the flight manifest flashed across the globe.

In a blink of an eye, #MH17 and #PrayForMH17 were top trending on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Also, MAS and Malaysia became the key words for almost all media organisations. Be it CNN, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, Al Jazeera or the Twitter account of leading journalists like Thomas Erdbrink and Ellen Barry and Michael Weiss, as well as airline crash expert like George Hatcher Sr.

AGAIN MANY QUESTIONED THE PLANE’S ROUTE

Some Malaysians were not happy that the plane took a dangerous flight route over the crisis stricken area in the first place.

“It the plane had taken a different path, unnecessary lost of life could have been avoided,” said logistics executive, Abd Roni Awang, 36.

This was answered by Najib in his press statement, that the flight route taken was the usual flight route was earlier declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Also, International Air Transportation Association (IATA) stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions.

A tweet by Flightradar.com, an online flight tracker also showed that there were two other planes nearby MH17 when it disappeared from radar – Singapore Airlines SQ351 (Boeing 777) and Air India AI113 (Boeing 787).

Another tweet condemned some airlines that lied to their customers about flying over Ukraine when data showed their planes have been tracked over the country as late as yesterday.

GLOBAL SUPPORT

In the country’s hour of need, world leaders shared their sympathies with Najib as soon as the news appeared in the media, almost all of them were equally shocked to hear this tragic news and expressed support for Malaysia.

Among them, United States President Barrack Obama, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon too expressed his condolences, calling for full investigation into the tragedy.

Both Putin and Poroshenko vowed to give their fullest cooperation to Malaysia in investigating the incident. Kiev has established a State Commission to investigate the crash while Moscow asked Kiev on Thursday for permission to help with rescue work.

Meanwhile, Obama in his telephone conversation with Najib said that the investigation had to be conducted in a transparent manner.

In an official statement, The White House urged all concerned parties, Russia, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine to support immediate ceasefire to ensure safe and seamless access to the crash site for international investigators and facilitate the recovery of the remains.

— BERNAMA

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