Flags from eleven countries which represent the nationalities of 298 passengers and crews on-board the Malaysian Airlines (MAS) Boeing 777-200ER (r/n: 9M-MRD) of Flight MH17 which was shot down over eastern Ukraine near the Russian border were flying at half mast. A Royal Netherland Air Force ( Koninklijke Luchtmacht - KLu/ RNLAF) airman plays the bugle to the tune of Last Post in remembrance of the lost souls on-board the ill-fated aircraft.
Among the dignitaries that awaits patiently for the arrival of the two aircraft include His Majesty King Wilhelm Alexander, the King of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Queen Maxima as well as others.
It’s Ramadhan and within the next few days, Muslims around the world would be celebrating the coming of Eidil Fitri. Unfortunately, this year’s festive season might not be celebrated like any of those before.
It was a somber sights with other RNLAF airmen stand at the tarmac awaiting for the honour guards consists of soldiers, sailors, airmen and military policemen of the Royal Netherlands Army (Koninklijke Landmach - KL), RNLAF, Royal Netherlands Navy (Koninklijke Marine - KM) as well as the Royal Military Constabulary (Koninklijke Marechaussee - KMar) who were tasked to brought the coffins of the victims, still without any name nor nationalities, out of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft and the RNLAF Lockheed C-130H-30 Hercules tactical transport aircraft to the massive fleet of hearse which awaits them to bring them to Corporal Van Oudheusden Barracks in Hilversum where the process of identification of the victims will be carried out.
The presence of Australian and Dutch aircraft over Malaysian affair such as this kinds of reminds us to the ill-fated ABDA Command (American-British-Dutch-Australian) defence arrangement prior to the outbreak of World War 2 in the Pacific. Several of Military Aviation of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Militaire Luchtvaart van het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger, ML-KNIL) and RAAF aircraft were involved in the aerial fight over Malaya and Singapore in their last ditch and hapless effort to stem the advance of the Imperial Japanese forces toward the then jewel of British Empire, the so-called Fortress Singapore.
It has been a long way for the global communities especially the families, relatives and friends of these fallen victims to get to this point where victims of this tragic humanitarian disaster received the well earned respect and dignity after being ill-treated by the heartless pro-Russian rebels.
Graphic images of the victims’ bodies being left in the open for days under scorching summer heat and after that being put into body bags and handled with such disrespectful manners into a refrigerated train enraged rational thinking people across the world. For goodness sake, these were people who had nothing to do with the madness of war that rages between the two factions. They were just travelers passing-by to their respective destinations where their loved ones awaits for the arrival which never came.
Nevertheless, one should credited the tireless effort of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak for his risky decision to contact the rebels’ leader, Alexander Borodai, who is also self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Donetsk and negotiated on three main and pressing issues; the repatriation of the victims’ remains, the handing over of the two black boxes as well as the guarantee of safe passage of international investigating teams to Ground Zero, in order to inspect the aircraft’s wreckage.
It was through Prime Minister Najib’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ approach that brought the victims’ remains as well as the black boxes here in the Netherlands.
Malaysia is a small country compared to other superpowers namely the United States and Russia who had the influence over the region but yet have failed to play their part. Instead of pushing for a quick and safe access to rescuers and investigators, these so-called superpowers were locked in useless blame game and busy gathering proxies in this 15 weeks of war of hegemony.
Yet this small nation has played a big role which none other seemingly interested on doing so.
Global communities takes a long breath of reliefs after the refrigerated train left Hraebovo for Kharkiv where the C-17 and the C-130 awaits at the airport for the subsequent repatriation. It is only here, in Kharkiv that humanity finally finds its way. The victims were given full military honours by the Ukrainian authorities. Airmen of the Ukrainian Air Force, in unison and full of traditions, loaded each and every coffin carefully into the cargo bays of the two aircraft. The sights were of complete contrast to the treatment given to these victims, days ago in the rebel held territory.
Whether in Ukrainian-held territories or in the Netherlands, the military honours given to these victims were usually given to those fallen soldiers as could be seen during the conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan and through the Malaysian perspective, during Ops Daulat. Yet, it is important to stress here that all 298 people on-board the aircraft were never combatants and the war that rages on the ground was never theirs. All have nothing to do with the on-going conflict, yet they fell victim to this madness.
It will still be a long way for most of the victims especially from countries outside of the Netherlands. In anticipation of the repatriation of the bodies of Malaysian victims back to their home country, the Malaysian Department of Islamic Development (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia - JAKIM) has been preparing hearses to transport the victims back to their hometown. A prayer would be held for the victims at the Sultan Abdul Samad mosque near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang for Muslim victims before they are being laid to rest.
For us, we have lost not only our loved ones but also a pool of talented and gifted individuals; scientists, researchers, engineers, activists, businessmen, academia etc who had made differences to the world within their respective field of works. Those who were in-charged of this massacre were nothing compared to the victims’ lifetime accolades and achievements. Whoever responsible for this unspeakable crime should be brought to justice and face the consequences for their ruthlessness and lack of regard to the rules of war. For whatever reasons or justifications, whether with or without intention, shooting innocent airliner is definitely a crime. No amount of forgiveness would washed the bloodied hands that had robbed the lives of these victims.
Our prayers and thoughts to the victims’ families, relatives and friends who had perished in the incident. Though it may sound a little more cliche, efforts should be taken to ensure that this sad and heartbreaking tragedy would be the last of such.
One wonders whether there would be a review of policies especially among regulators and controllers over civilian airliners flying over conflict areas or whether it is about time that airliners are being equipped with countermeasures to protect them against Ground Base Air Defence (GBAD) system?
Within the span of four months the two tragedies that struck our flag carriers, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), many new improvements and lessons learned by the global general aviation industries to ensure the safety of air travel. The disappearance of Flight MH370 highlight the need for real-time aircraft monitoring system to indicate any particular aircraft position at any time.
The shooting down of Flight MH17, on the other hand, reminds us that civilian airliners needs to be protected from the dangers that lurks on the ground especially when flying over a hostile, conflict areas. Perhaps, these lessons have already being put into place as could be seen through FAA directive to halt any American flights to Israel following the risks of Palestinian’s rocket attack on the country’s airport.