AMSTERDAM - The Government will declare a day of mourning when the first of the bodies of Malaysian victims in the MH17 tragedy are flown home, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He praised the way the Dutch government had organised a very dignified ceremony to receive the victims' remains when they arrived in the Netherlands from Ukraine last week.
Najib said the ceremony allowed the country to grieve together as well as provided the honour and dignity that the victims and their families deserved.
"God willing, we will do the same when the time comes. We will declare the day as a day of mourning for the whole country and I'm hoping to be there to receive the Malaysian bodies when they arrive," he told the Malaysian audience at the dinner he hosted here Thursday night.
They comprised those involved in the MH17 operations, including from the National Security Council, Department of Civil Aviation and forensic experts who are part of the international team at the Hilversum medical military base.
Najib, who met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during his working visit on Thursday, said he had expressed his deepest sympathies and condolences to Rutte and the Dutch people.
He said Malaysians shared their loss and understood what the Dutch were going through, having lost their own countrymen in the tragedy.
"Secondly, I also wanted to make this visit to show our seriousness in finding out what really happened. We need to know the truth," he said.
He noted that he and Rutte had had a very useful discussion and were committed to working closely together as efforts go on to secure the crash site.
He added that if anything good were to come out of this incident, it was that bilateral relations between Malaysia and the Netherlands had grown closer.
"That is the silver lining we can take from this tragic and unfortunate event," he said.
Najib said the international community must stand together, adding that it could not allow such a disaster to happen without the perpetrators being brought to justice.
"Justice has to be done and seen to be done. For that reason, I did what I had to do. Not because I'm not aware of the sensitivity, but uttermost in my mind was that I owe this to the families concerned," he said.
Najib said that without the bodies returned home and given a dignified burial, it would be very difficult for the grieving families to find closure and move on.
He said he had also entered negotiations with the pro-Russian separatists controlling the crash site area because the MH17 black box, comprising the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, must be delivered into Malaysian hands.
He pointed out that they could be a very strong basis for hard evidence which would explain what had befallen the Boeing 777 on July 17.
Najib also said he was very proud of the 26 disaster victim identification (DVI) experts who had shown their professionalism and earned the praise of their Dutch counterparts.
"I would like to say how proud I am of the 26 members of our team, working tirelessly under very difficult and stressful conditions," he said, thanking all those who had contributed in the retrieval of the bodies and black box in Ukraine as well.
He said this few months had been a very tough period for Malaysians, but "God willing, we will pull through."
Najib also noted that Malaysia Airlines (MAS) had been receiving letters since the incident happened but these were not letters of blame towards MAS or Malaysia.
He said people realised that Malaysia and MAS were also victims of a vicious struggle going on in Ukraine, with which they had nothing to do.
"But unfortunately, both the Dutch and Malaysians, and Australians and others, have become victims of a struggle in one corner of the world which we are not party to at all," he said.