The tragic and outrageous shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on its journey from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over Ukrainian airspace on Thursday is a direct consequence of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Even while offering solace to the family of the dead, the international community needs to fix the responsibility for the firing of the missile that brought down MH17 that was flying at 33,000 feet above sea level, with 298 people on board.
The blame game has already started among the Ukrainian government, the pro-Russian rebel forces fighting the separatist war in the eastern part of the country, and Russia itself. There have been previous instances of Ukraine’s military aircraft getting shot down in the same region. It is surprising that MAS and some other international carriers have been sticking to this dangerous airspace all these weeks and months and only now have decided to steer clear of the zone. The Ukrainian rebels, the prime suspects, were perhaps targeting another Ukrainian military aircraft expected at that time; they even claimed they were in possession of missiles and had shot down a military aircraft.
Big powers playing proxy, aiding rebels to defeat the incumbent is not new and the US did the very same thing through her CIA in funding and arming the Taliban – including anti aircraft Stinger missiles -to oust the Russians in Afghanistan. As an aftermath, the Taliban has arms and deadly Stinger missiles even till to day. Now it seems it is the Russian’s turn to suffer a similar odium. Russia should put an end to separatist rebels group. We should not forget that history is full of examples where countries have created groups for their benefits but later on these groups have created problems for these countries. Even Malaysia helped the Moro separatist in Southern Philippines at one time and now the same group is creating trouble in Sabah and things have back fired big time for Malaysia, while I’m writing this piece there is even a curfew being declared in the east-coast of Sabah. What goes around sure comes around…
This ghastly tragedy could not have come at a worse time for us in Malaysia. Hardly four months ago, MH370 mysteriously went missing while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Even debris has not been found till to date and there is no clue on what happened to it.
The fallout of the war in Ukraine, in which Russia has played a controversial role, has now become an even bigger international issue with the shooting down of our MAS aircraft. Some countries have already called for the United Nations to play a more decisive role in ending this conflict and also taking charge of the investigation. There were a couple of other aircraft quite close to the site where MAS flight MH17 was shot down. Russian President Vladimir Putin was reportedly in the air at the same time. An Air India aircraft carrying Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a diversion to avoid this zone. Tragedies such as this only revive the demand for international aviation organisations to take a more active and dynamic role in tracking or monitoring flights in the interests of the safety of passengers. Airlines will have to accept such a monitoring mechanism sooner rather than later. The Ukrainian authorities have already begun a probe and have taken note of some Twitter posts purportedly put out by the separatists who they say are to blame. The immediate need is to order a full-fledged international investigation into this tragedy, as demanded by our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, perhaps headed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Unfortunately, no remedy is available to Malaysia or to MAS whose plane has been shot. Further, one wonders whether there is any remedy available to crew and passengers’ relatives. What can be done by the United Nations to avoid such attacks in future? It appears that United Nation is simply a helpless watcher, just as it is in case of Israeli attack on Palestine’s Gaza residents.
In this tragedy, we all must stand together as Malaysians. But again I say, what goes around sure comes around…