Grief and terror dampens mood

PETALING JAYA - This year's Hari Raya will be a muted affair for Malaysia with the country still coming to terms with a series of tragic events.

As Malaysians continued to pray for the 239 passengers on board Malaysia Airlines MH370 aircraft that went missing on March 8, the country was again jolted on July 17 with the downing of MH17 near the Russia-Ukraine border.

Family members of several of the 43 Malaysian passengers and crew, who were among the 298 on board the national carrier's ill-fated Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight, have said that this year's Hari Raya would be a bleak affair.

"Mummy, this year's Raya and the upcoming ones will not be Raya. I'm not gonna celebrate it without you," read a tweet by Diyana Yazeera, the only child of MH17's chief stewardess Dora Shahila Kassim.

"Everybody is in their fancy baju Raya. I am in my everyday casual clothes," she said in another tweet.

Over in Sabah, residents in six east coast districts will celebrate Hari Raya under close watch by security forces due to a dusk to dawn curfew imposed since July 19 that is expected to be extended till after Aug 2.

The curfew was called following an attack by Filipino gunmen on Mabul island off Sabah on July 12 that killed police marine personnel Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32 and led to the kidnap of his colleague Zakiah Aleip, 26, who remains captive.

In another grim reminder of the security challenges at Malaysia's borders, a bomb hidden in a pickup truck exploded on Friday in Thailand's Yala province just across the border, killing two civilians and wounding 31 others.

Further away in Palestine, Israel's brutal aggression in Gaza saw 20 people including 11 children killed on Friday by an airstrike in the southern part of the occupied territory that was carried out just hours before a humanitarian truce was declared.

The Zionist regime's campaign of violence in Gaza that began on July 8 has killed at least 891 lives, causing mounting worldwide anger including among Malaysians of all faiths who continue to show solidarity and support for the victims.

In a mark of respect to those who perished in the MH17 tragedy, Mal­aysian leaders and state governments have cancelled or postponed their Hari Raya open house events.

They include Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and all Cabinet Ministers.

The 2014 Hari Raya open house celebration organised by the Tourism and Culture Ministry, in Rembau, Negri Sembilan, has also been cancelled.

While the celebration of Hari Raya this year will be a low-key affair, Malaysians are still taking the opportunity to return to their hometowns to reunite with relatives, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic on major highways and roads.