Stop blaming Malaysia Airlines for downed MH17


by Jahabar Sadiq
Editor
The Malaysian Insider
19 July 2014

No words can take away the great pain that all of us feel for flight MH17. Nothing could have prepared us for what happened on July 17 as much as nothing had prepared us for flight MH370’s mysterious disappearance on March 8.

No country, no airline and no one deserves a single or double tragedy that has struck Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia and Malaysians. And those who died or vanished in either MH17 or MH370.

It goes without saying then that we should not add words to deepen the pain in our hearts for these two tragedies. Malaysia Airlines – one of the world’s safest carrier – lost 510 passengers, 27 crew member and two planes in the space of 131 days.

But no, some people want to speculate and assign blame immediately to our flag carrier and linking what happened to its lacklustre financial performance. Would any airline try to save fuel and fly over a conflict area?

Several journalists in international magazines and business websites are asking that question. Even the PAS Youth leader is asking why the Malaysia Airlines pilot took a risky route and that MH17 should have followed other commercial planes and flown around Ukraine.

Here’s the thing. The route was declared safe above 10,000 metres and MH17 was not operating in restricted airspace, according to a preliminary assessment from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The Flightglobal website said while eastern Ukraine has been the scene of armed conflict, including attacks on low-flying military transports, IATA stated that the airspace in which the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER was flying “was not subject to restrictions”.

Why this condescending attitude that it is Malaysia Airlines’ fault?

Would it be fine if the pro-Russian separatists’ boast that it shot down an AN-26 transport plane was correct? Would it be different if another commercial jet crashed?

“They were the wrong airline in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Vivian Lines, global vice-chairman and crisis-management expert at Hill+Knowlton Strategies in Singapore, told the Wall Street Journal.

But is there ever a right airline, a right place and a right time? Any commercial jet that is brought down by a missile is wrong. It does not matter where.

No one here wants to state the obvious. That the 298 people on board MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17 had nothing to do with the conflict raging 10,000m below them.

Based on American intelligence that says a missile brought down MH17, it is logical to say that the person who ordered or who pulled the trigger to launch a missile had no business aiming it at any plane in the sky.

They don’t own the sky. The passengers and crew of MH17 were entitled to a safe flight over Europe or anywhere else in the world. Why blame Malaysia Airlines for using that route when others use it, too?

This is the typical mindset of people who also blame skimpy clothed women for rape cases. The only cause of rape is the rapist, not the victim. So it is with MH17.

Malaysia Airlines’ business is to fly people to their destinations. It has suffered so much over the years, due to mismanagement and lopsided deals, but it has given its “MH stands for Malaysian Hospitality” experience to all and sundry.

The flight and cabin crew have done exemplary work, so it is illogical that any of them would take such a risk if they were told of potential dangers flying over Ukraine.

It speaks so much for Malaysia Airlines that MH17 was packed and some had to take another flight to Malaysia and thus saved from the tragedy.

It also speaks much about those who question Malaysia Airlines or Malaysia, just because both performed badly in the MH370 disappearance.

Both events are separate. We still do not know what happened to MH370 but we know what happened to MH17. But in both cases, let us not assign blame to the Malaysia Airlines flight crew without any evidence.

The prime minister is right to say we are united by grief but you know what, we as a country should be united by purpose.

The political bickering since election 2008 and election 2013 must be set aside and the government must run the country as much as some politicians should stop taking the opportunity to score cheap political points.

Perhaps it is true that Malaysian politicians from all sides have a unique ability to put their foot in when opening their mouths. That could explain the PAS Youth leader’s appalling and disgusting comments.

We need to nurse Malaysia Airlines back to good health because it carries our flag colours and our name. We need to heal this sick divisiveness in Malaysia and come together to mourn the 298 souls on MH17 and 239 on MH370.

Can we do that? Or are we way past caring and having any empathy? – July 19, 2014.

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