Fauziah: You could hear soft cries

Fauziah: You could hear soft cries
I grieve with the families and friends of the 298 passengers and crew. I am sure that the next of kin who lost their loved ones feel like this was just yesterday said Datuk Dr Fauziah Mohamad Taib.
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

KUALA LUMPUR - Datuk Dr Fauziah Mohamad Taib can clearly recall being in the hotel near Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on July 17 last year, where hundreds of relatives were waiting quietly for the final passenger and crew list after MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine. Copies of that list were circulated shortly before 2am.

Once they saw the names, said Dr Fauziah, who was Malaysia's ambassador to the Netherlands at the time, "You could hear soft cries."

Contrasting what happened then with what she had seen after the disappearance of MH370, she found the Dutch reaction very controlled and dignified.

"There was no hysteria, no stamping of feet or loud cries," she said. "There were just these sobs."

And within half an hour after the names were announced, she said, all of them left.

"No one stayed at the hotel, except for one family who had no transport to go home that night, unlike what happened after MH370 disappeared where they stayed in the hotel for months."

Speaking at her home here after retiring in March this year, Dr Fauziah said she grieves with the families and friends of the 298 passengers and crew on the Malaysia Airlines flight that was shot down in eastern Ukraine.

"I am sure the next of kin who lost their loved ones feel like this was just yesterday," she said.

A year after the MH17 crash, there are still issues to be resolved.

Remains of some of the victims, including some Malaysians, are still waiting in the Netherlands to be repatriated, noted Dr Fauziah.

She wondered if the truth about what happened on July 17 last year will ever be known and if the perpetrators will ever be brought to justice.

And she believed more aviation safety measures should be introduced to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Based on what she heard from the authorities in Schiphol Airport, she said, "We need some kind of uniformity and standardisation on routes.

"Some airlines say a route is safe while others say another route is safer. Whom should we follow?"

She remembers Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte asking to speak to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, about an hour after the flight was announced missing, and helping to arrange for that call.

Najib also spoke to US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, she said.

"I think he wanted to tell them that we were going into eastern Ukraine, where the plane crashed, so that they wouldn't be surprised."

Malaysia sent about a dozen men into Ukraine to talk to Alexander Borodai, commander of the separatist forces.

"Malaysia's priority was to bring back the bodies, their belongings and whatever was left of the wreckage," said the envoy.

"And the main priority was also to get the black boxes before someone else could take them.

"There were a lot of rumours, on CNN News for example, that the black boxes had been tampered with."

The rumours were proven untrue once the black boxes were handed over, she said.

And although others were not happy that Malaysia had chosen to negotiate with the separatists, she added, "As a sovereign country, Malaysia had the right to select its own approach.

"It involved our airline and our people. They couldn't set conditions."

However, Dr Fauziah was not optimistic about getting to the truth of what happened that day.

The Netherlands, Malaysia and three other countries are proposing a United Nations tribunal to prosecute those responsible for downing MH17.

This approach, she believed, could show "that there could possibly be no real answer and clear person or persons whom they want to accuse".

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