Mr Speaker Sir,
1. At about 11 pm on Thursday, 17 July 2014, corresponding to 19 Ramadan 1435 Hijrah, a date that will not be easily forgotten, I received a telephone call from the Chairman of Malaysia Airlines, Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof, about MH17.
2. As it turned out, even before the MH370 tragedy had abated, the unwelcome MH17 tragedy had happened.
3. With divine provision, a tragic event had taken place. The world, in general, and Malaysians, in particular, were shocked by the unexpected tragedy of the reported crash of a Boeing 777-200 commercial aircraft of Malaysia Airlines, Flight MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
4. In less than two hours, I arrived at the MAS operations rooms at KLIA (KL International Airport), along with several ministers. We were briefed by the MAS management on what had happened. Without wasting any time, I was in touch with several world leaders, among them President Obama of the United States, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine.
5. At about 2 am, I decided to send a special team to the crash site.
6. Then, at about 5 am, I called a special press conference to inform Malaysians and the rest of the world about what was happening at that time.
7. For the information of this august house, the flight had left (Amsterdam) at about 12.15 pm local time and was scheduled to arrive at KLIA at 6.10 am Malaysian time. The flight had on board 298 people, comprising 283 passengers and 15 crew. Forty-three of them, including two infants, were Malaysians.
8. Malaysia Airlines confirmed having been informed by the Ukraine Air Traffic Control that it lost contact with Flight MH17 at 10.15 pm local time, about 50 kilometres from the Russia-Ukraine border.
Message of Condolence
Mr Speaker Sir,
9. On behalf of the government and people of Malaysia, I expressed profound sadness over the tragedy that had befallen the passengers and crew of Flight MH17.
10. I also extended condolences and profound sympathy as well, especially to all the family members, friends and acquaintances of the victims. It is hoped that all of them will remain steadfast and resolute in facing this most challenging moment of grief.
11. The government also declared that from 18 to 21 July, 2014, the national flag will be flown at half-mast nationwide.
12. Let us Muslims say the Al-Fatihah and the non-Muslims, observe a moment’s silence.
Mr Speaker Sir,
13. Some important facts for the scrutiny of this august house.
14. Fact No. 1: The total number of deaths. For your information, Malaysia Airlines listed the passengers and crew based on nationality. The updated list as at 18 July, 2014, based on nationality is as follows:
Netherlands – 192
Malaysia – 43 (including 15 crew and two infants)
Australia – 27
Indonesia – 12 (including one infant)
United Kingdom – 10 (including one dual national – UK/South Africa)
Germany – four
Belgium – four
The Philippines – three
The United States – one (dual national United States/Netherlands)
Canada – one
New Zealand – one
This brings the number of people killed to 298, comprising 283 passengers and 15 crew. The number includes 83 innocent children and three infants.
Mr Speaker Sir,
15. Fact No. 2: The MAS flight path is certified safe. As for the flight path used by MAS, I have to explain that the flight path of MH17 was one that was certified safe and approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation or ICAO, as well as Ukraine, the air space of which it traversed. Furthermore, the International Air Transport Association or IATA had also stated that the air space traversed by the flight was safe.
16. For example, 15 of the 16 airlines in the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines used this route to get to Ukraine. European airlines also used the same flight path and traversed the same air space. In fact, several hours before the tragic incident, several commercial aircraft of several Asian nations also used the same flight path.
17. For your information, according to the Wall Street Journal, which quoted a report from Eurocontrol, 400 commercial flights, among them 150 international flights, traverse the air space over eastern Ukraine daily. In fact, two days before the tragedy, 75 flights of various airlines used the flight path that was used by Flight MH17. Even on that day, Flight MH17 did not receive any instruction to alter the flight path.
18. Fact No. 3: MAS flight in good physical and technical condition. As for the physical and technical condition of the flight, MAS issued a statement on 18 July, 2014, verifying that Flight MH17 was in good condition. MAS also confirmed that all systems of the flight were in good working order, particularly the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) and the transponder.
19. Fact No. 4: International Law. The shooting down of the aircraft was not only a cruel act, but one that violated the principles of international law by way of the Convention on International Civil Aviation or better known as the Chicago Convention and which is recognised by the United Nations as per Resolution 1067 (1996).
20. In this matter, the UN had unanimously applied a resolution to urge the separatists to provide unrestricted access to the MH17 crash site in Ukraine. It also called for all military activity, including by the armed groups, to be stopped immediately in the vicinity of the site to enable the international investigation to be conducted in safety.
21. I have instructed the Attorney-General to look into this matter thoroughly to ensure that any action to be taken by Malaysia is in accordance with the international law applied in matters of such a nature.
Malaysia’s Demands and Call
Mr Speaker Sir,
22. For the information of honourable MPs, on 17 July, 2014, several hours after the crash of MH17, officials in the United States and Ukraine claimed that the flight was shot down in eastern Ukraine.
23. If these claims are true, we strongly condemn this inhuman, uncivilised, barbaric, savage and irresponsible act by those who are believed to have shot down the ill-fated Flight MH17.
24. Nevertheless, for the moment, we are not pointing fingers at anyone, until the facts have been obtained.
25. I am made to understand that the region where the tragedy occurred is under the control of a separatist group. Nevertheless, I felt angry and disappointed over two matters:
Firstly, when I was informed that they did not regard the crash site as a prohibited area and did not adhere to the international standard practice of ensuring that evidence is not removed or impaired.
Secondly, the delay in attending to the tragedy, which resulted in the failure to accord the bodies of the victims the honour and dignity they rightly deserve.
26. In addition, Malaysia called on the ICAO, as the guardian of civil aviation security worldwide, to issue a resolution strongly condemning the attack on Flight MH17, as had been done in cases of a similar nature.
27. Furthermore, the shooting down of the Flight MH17 commercial aircraft is a most cruel act and a brutal and violent crime.
Mr Speaker Sir,
28. As stated in Annex 13 of the ICAO Convention, the Government of Ukraine has to assume responsibility to undertake an investigation as to the cause of the crash. A report on the investigation has to be given to the next-of-kin of the victims as provided for in the ICAO guidelines.
29. Of course, Malaysia would offer unwavering support to participate in this investigation. For the record, the Malaysian Minister of Transport, Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, and Foreign Minister, Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman, were among those who had gone to Kiev, Ukraine.
30. Malaysia also welcomes the call for an investigation by an independent international team on the crash, and urges all quarters to cooperate to ensure that the probe can be completed. We demand and support an independent international investigation into the tragedy. Those responsible for this tragedy have to be brought to justice.