KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — The somber homecoming of the remains of the 20 MH17 victims today is the result of the tactful backdoor discussions and ingenuity employed by Malaysia with the various stakeholders.
It has been a long journey home for the victims and would have been much longer if not for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s move to cast aside diplomatic protocols and engage directly with the warring factions in Ukraine.
The world watched helplessly in the aftermath of the July 17 tragedy, as there was no access to the crash site as it was an active war zone.
While US and Europe pointed fingers as Russia, Malaysia went out on its own to find a way to enter the crash site and recover the bodies and evidence relating to the crash.
Najib’s master stroke was his direct engagement with Russian separatist leader Alexander Borodai, that paved the way for the Malaysian and international teams to enter Donestk to retrieve the bodies and look of evidence.
The agreement with Borodai also allowed Malaysia to take possession of the cockpit voice recorder and the data recorder that were initially feared would fall into the wrong hands.
Yet, despite of all the earnest efforts, it was still a long and frustrating wait not only for the grieving families but for the Malaysian government as well.
The ill-fated flight was believed to have been shot down in east Ukraine on July 17 while enroute to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, all 298 passengers and crew were killed. Most of the victims – 193 – were Dutch, while there were 43 Malaysians, including 15 crew members.
UNWAVERING COMMITMENT OF THE MALAYSIAN GOVT
Malaysia has done remarkably well in managing with the crisis where US and Europe could not do much as they did not want to have anything to do with Bordai.
Credit goes to Najib and other officials for having the bull by its horns right from the start, a stark contrast with their initial response over the MH370 tragedy just four months earlier that drew the ire of many.
Najib personally saw to the matter, delegating Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman as his emissaries to speed up the retrieval of the bodies and crash investigations.
He himself admitted that he had to go through sleepless nights in looking for a solution.
After the bodies were taken to the Netherlands, the Malaysian government continued with its commitment by helping to speed up the Disaster Victim Identification process by dispatching local forensic experts.
While his detractors were quick to deride him, Najib’s achievement did not go unnoticed.
The Wall Street Journal noted in its article “While European governments wrestled with how to get to the site without legitimizing the rebels or risking security, Najib put aside diplomatic protocol and safety fears and sent his team”.
The journal added that Najib had taken a risk that no European leaders would but this has earned him the international community’s admiration for his handling of the MH17 tragedy.
THE NEGATIVE PERCEPTIONS NEGATED
The President of Young Thinkers Association Mohd Rafiq Naizamohideen praised Najib on his finest hour in dealing with the crisis which he considered a Herculean one.
Since the MH370 incident earlier in March, the Malaysian government came under heavy criticism for its poor response and lack of leadership. However, lessons have been learnt and this time around Najib and the authorities reacted fast and decisively.
Mohd Rafiq who is also an Exco member of Umno Youth wing hoped with the return of the remains, the affected families could now move on leaving behind the dark chapter.
NAJIB NEVER GAVE UP
Many communications and dealings took place behind the scene under difficult circumstances but the prime minister persevered to find a way out of the deadlock.
The Chairwoman of the Kedah/Perlis Siamese Women’s Association Datuk Siw Chun a/p Eam said the episode proved Najib’s unwavering stand in finding a solution.
Najib has always been known for his softer side, but this time around he showed his tougher side.
“He has done something that we all should appreciate. Not everyone could have done it”, said the former senator to Bernama.
MALAYSIA IN THE EYES OF THE WORLD
As for a trader in Petaling Jaya, N. Sundaraj, 47, Malaysia’s leadership in finding a solution during the MH17 tragedy has earned the nation great respect.
“We have shown to the world tough we maybe a small nation, we have capable leaders and the capacity to get things done”, he said.
Another businessman from Bangsar, Chong Lye Teng, 32, noted that for once Malaysia was ahead of the major powers in overcoming the initial impasse in Ukraine.
The MH17 tragedy, the second one after the MH370 tragedy, served as a double blow for Malaysia and it tested its people emotions and the capabilities of its leaders.
Today is the national day of mourning for MH17 victims. As for the next of kin of the 20 MH17 victims, for once after an agonising wait there is closure and relief. But for Najib and his government, there is more work to be done in finding the cause of the crash and seek justice for the MH17 victims.