See More on Facebook

News

‘Pulling plug on search ops for missing plane cannot bring closure’

The search for MH370 was suspended in June this year and it is likely to remain the world’s greatest aviation mystery.


Written by

Updated: July 19, 2018

On the fourth anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, Malaysia reaffirmed its commitment to seek justice for family members of those who perished in the tragedy, even as families of the missing MH370 plane are disappointed at the search operations being suspended.

On July 17, 2014, the MH17 plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over a conflict zone in eastern Ukraine by a Russian Buk missile. All 298 people on board were killed.

“Not a single day passes without us remaining ever resolute to seek justice as we owe it to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board,” Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke was quoted as saying by The Star. Loke said the government will not rest until “we bring closure to this tragedy”.

A statement in this regard was also issued by the G7 ministers ahead of the summit between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin earlier this week. It said Russia must “account for its role” in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine and cooperate with efforts to establish truth and justice.

But as with the other Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 lost barely four months before MH17, closures are never easy for those who have lost their loved ones in such a tragic manner.

Flight MH370 had 239 people on board and was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 when air traffic control staff lost contact with it. The search for the missing plane was suspended in June this year, and it is likely to remain the world’s greatest aviation mystery.

KS Narendran lost his wife Chandrika on MH370. He has documented the trauma of losing a loved one in a memoir -“Life After MH370: Journeying Through a Void”.

Narendran spoke to Asia News Network about why the affected families cannot rest till there is a credible explanation for the loss of MH370 and how disappointing was Malaysia government’s decision to not extend the search for MH370.

How has life been after MH370?

To the casual observer, ‘business as usual’ I guess, since the daily chores of existence are upon me unerringly and I think I have responded reasonably well.

I have experienced a multitude of emotions in search of a new ‘normal’ – the rage I have experienced vis-a-vis authorities, the sense of indignity that I and others have felt in the way that families have been dealt with, the struggle with not having answers, and caught between pressing on for answers to MH370 and letting it remain a mystery. Despair, loneliness…It has taken quite a while for the loss of my wife to sink in at an emotional level and any number of times I have simply had to pause, allow for some recollection of a past to come by, linger and then pass.

It has also been an extended period of thinking through what I now seek from life, what seems worthwhile, meaningful. The search has been for what can energise me, sustain me. The idea of ‘us’ has had to be redrawn and this has been a tough task. Keeping things just as they used to be was the way for a while but this amounted to a denial of changed circumstances. So, even the structuring of the day has had to undergo changes over time.

Are search operations a nagging reminder of a tragic memory you are trying to erase? Or is it important to get answers?

I think it is extremely important and urgent to find answers. Affected families cannot rest easy till there is a credible explanation to the loss of MH370 with 239 human beings on board. If something like MH370 has happened once, we have no assurance that it cannot happen again. Knowing what happened may help us prevent a recurrence. It is also extremely important to fix accountability for all actions that led to MH370 becoming untraceable, and for the failed search.

Given that there are many conspiracy theories about MH370, what do you think really happened to the plane? Do you think it was an act of sabotage or terrorism?

This is a tough one. There isn’t much to go by in the public domain for me to take a view that helps reconcile all that we have been told or come across through the press and media.

Having said that, I am inclined to lean on the possibility that the aircraft deviated from its set path to Beijing due to ‘human intervention’. It was possibly commandeered, going by some accounts of the route it took. Terrorism – it is hard to tell though the incident is being investigated. Sabotage? Suicide? I honestly can’t tell. Part of the agony is in not knowing what happened, why, and if people or groups or states were actively involved in the disappearance of a modern, safe and technologically superior commercial aircraft – who are they?

Malaysia officially ended the search operations in June. Does that mean a sort of closure for those who lost their loved ones?

Contrary to expectations, the new government in Malaysia wasted no time in shutting out any possibility of extending the search for MH370 and indicated that a final report on the search and investigation will be presented soon. This was of course deeply disappointing.

The MH370 families had hoped for a fresh eye to go over all aspects/ events leading up to and following the disappearance of MH370, removing the persistent taint of a cover up, a clearer picture of accountability for any gaps found at all stages, and most importantly, a commitment to find the plane and come up with credible answers to explain the plane’s disappearance.

I understand that the government has walked back somewhat and said it might be open to future proposals for search should a case be made out with new information.

Finding itself in the midst of a financial crisis, Malaysia may want to focus on shoring up its economy, and not allow issues such as MH370 to become a distraction.  

The Final Report in essence is likely to tell us this: Sorry, we didn’t find the plane, We don’t quite know what happened. We don’t know who or what was responsible for the plane’s disappearance. Families, sorry again, we couldn’t find your loved ones. We have now been asked to pack up. So, ta-ta. Follow our recommendations. Fly safe. Good luck. Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

I can’t imagine how pulling the plug on a search and investigation that has been unsuccessful so far brings closure to families. For many, many families, concrete evidence pointing to the loss of a loved one is emotionally and culturally an essential component. So the official end of search for MH370 merely extends the notion of prolonged absence of a family member, and the suspension of any reckoning with the reality of loss, and a postponement of final goodbyes. ‘Not knowing’ keeps family members in an information void. This entails a perpetual effort to seek information, and generate satisfactory answers, a process that is tiring but can’t be given up. The futility of it can be infuriating.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Lamat R Hasan
About the Author: Lamat is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

News

India’s cyber legislation is part of a worrying trend

International technology firms face sweeping new regulations in India that have the potential to create major shifts in the country’s cyber landscape. The new pieces of legislation were proposed as 2018 came to a close and require technology companies like Facebook and Google to store user data locally, and would also require these companies to police content and remove material the government of India deems unlawful.  Such content would include messages that threaten the “sovereignty and integrity of India.” The rules requires these companies to take action on such messages within a 24 hour period. Such regulations that require companies to monitor content isn’t unique to India. Vietnam has recently passed similar laws, with similar potential consequences. New rules also mandate that companies reveal the origin of particular messages when that information is requested. If that section of t


By Quinn Libson
January 17, 2019

News

What does Vietnam’s new cyber law mean for online dissent?

Will Facebook kowtow to the Vietnamese government to keep its market share. Facebook is in violation of a Vietnamese new cybersecurity law by allowing its users to post content critical of the communist government on its platform, the Ministry of Information and Communication announced on Wednesday of last week. The news came just days after the law went into effect on Jan. 1. The new legislation requires internet companies to comply with government demands to remove user-posted material it doesn’t like. The law also stipulates that information technology companies—Facebook and Google for instance—may be required to set up local offices and store customer data domestically, a feature which human rights advocates worry might make it easier for the government to track and charge dissidents for their online activities. This new legislation follows a pattern of increasing digital scrutiny by th


By Quinn Libson
January 15, 2019

News

2019 is a year for major Chinese anniversaries

President Xi Jinping delivered a major speech on Wednesday on Taiwan, one of the hottest button issues for the country. The speech took place to acknowledge the 40th anniversary of a the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” a crucial policy statement issued on Jan. 1, 1979 by the National People’s Congress that helped lead to a rapprochement between Mainland China and Taiwan. Xi’s speech sent a stern warning to those that advocate for Taiwan’s independence, including Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who is up for re-election in January 2020, and her supporters. “It is a historical and legal fact, that Taiwan is part of China and the two sides across Taiwan Straits belong to one and the same China, can never be altered


By Quinn Libson
January 8, 2019

News

Preview: A year of elections for Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia will have a busy political calendar in 2019 with voters in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines heading to the polls within the year. Thailand In December, Thailand lifted its ban on political activity that has been in place for the past four years as the kingdom prepares for a general election on Feb 24—the country’s first in eight years. The last election the country attempted, in 2014, was sabotaged by anti-government protesters acted to prevent the Pheu Thai Party and its head Yingluck Shinawatra from returning to power. Pheu Thai went on to be ousted by a coup led by then-army chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha and has spent the last five years under military rule. Since then, the military junta has rewritten the Thai Constitution in a wa


By Quinn Libson
January 7, 2019

News

Ghosn charged with falsifying reports

Ghosn and an associated remain in jail on charges of tax avoidance and falsifying reports. Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., his aide Greg Kelly, former representative director of Nissan, and the automaker itself were charged on Monday with falsifying the firm’s securities reports. Also on Monday, Ghosn, 64, and Kelly, 62, were rearrested by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of underreporting more of Ghosn’s income. Ghosn and Kelly were initially arrested on Nov. 19 on suspicion of violating the law by allegedly conspiring to underreport Ghosn’s executive remuneration in the company’s securities reports by a total of about ¥5 billion from the business year ending March 2011 to that ending March 2015. Prosecutors believe the actual amount of his pay was about ¥10 billion. The pair denied the allegations during qu


By The Japan News
December 11, 2018

News

Air crash investigation could take up to six months

Preliminary report to be out in about a month, as search for black boxes continues. Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said its probe into the crash of Lion Air Flight JT610 may take up to six months, as the search for the black box flight recorders continued into its third day yesterday. A preliminary report of the investigations, however, will be released in about a month, said KNKT chief Soerjanto Tjahjono. A complete study may take up to six months, he added. Dr Soerjanto’s comments yesterday came amid widespread anticipation that divers might have recovered a black box from the ill-fated flight, after news broke that a part of the fuselage was found in the search area earlier in the day. Indonesian Armed Forces chief Hadi Tjahjanto had said a large object, suspected to be a key part of the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet that crashed


By The Straits Times
November 1, 2018