Along The Watchtower

Published: Wednesday December 17, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday December 17, 2014 MYT 9:55:45 AM

Seeking the truth over MH17

As a member of the crash investigating team, Malaysia must be included in all aspects of the probe and ensure that no decisions are made without its knowledge or input.

It’s been a week since I’ve been in Melbourne, Australia, for the graduation of a family member and already missing Malaysia - warts and all.

Yes, there seems to be no end to our political verrucas, sprouting around the issues of race and religion.

As for the news involving Malaysia here, the arrest of a 51-year-old Australian woman caught with 1.5kg of crystal methamphetamine at the KL International Airport made the headlines.

The mother of four, Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, who was en route to Melbourne from Shanghai, is expected to be charged under 39 (B) the Dangerous Drugs Act, which carries the mandatory death penalty.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was tragically shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, was also the focus of media attention here last week as Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko arrived for a two-day state visit.

He flew into Australia on Dec 10, just about the same time as trucks carrying parts of the wreckage of the Boeing 777 airliner, rolled into Netherlands via Poland.

The fragments of the ill-fated plane would be reconstructed at the Gilze-Rijen airbase as part of the investigations into the crash in which all 298 people on board were killed, including 193 Dutch, 44 Malaysians and 38 Australians.

The Dutch Safety Board which is leading the probe, released a preliminary report in September stating that the plane was brought down by “high-energy objects from outside the aircraft”.

In an ABC interview on Friday, Poroshenko claimed that the attack was carried out by “terrorists sponsored by Russians”

When the presenter countered by saying that the preliminary report did not finger anybody, he said:

“All the specialists are unanimous about the side responsible for this disastrous attack. And I really hope that in the first half of the next year, the results will be published, making it necessary for immediate action to bring responsibility for those who made this attack.”

Coincidentally, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), released a statement on the same day that Vasyl Vovk, its chief and co-chairman of the group investigating the crash, would propose the publication of the MH17 crash inquiry’s first stage results in the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia.

“We are convinced that a media strategy for covering the investigation, currently being discussed by the group’s participants, will allow them to make a positive decision and the international community will be officially informed of its results in the near future,” Markian Lubkivsky, an advisor who posted on his Facebook account.

Curiously, there was no mention of Malaysia, the last member to be included in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) which originally comprised the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine. Malaysia, by the way, is still awaiting agreement from the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust) for confirmation as a JIT member.

Ironically, it was our investigators who were the first on the ground and it was Malaysia which negotiated with the rebels to acquire the black boxes, arrange for retrieval of the bodies and enable the remains to be flown to the Netherlands.

But it seems that Malaysia was largely left out in the early stages of JIT’s work, especially in the signing of a mysterious “non-disclosure agreement” between Ukraine, Netherlands, Belgium and Australia.

The agreement apparently requires consensus among these countries before information about the investigation is released.

The deal was not reported to the Dutch parliament nor to its media before it was signed in Aug 29, three months before Malaysia was allowed to join the team. Calls to make it public, based on the Dutch law covering freedom of information, was rejected on grounds that “the interest of international relations weighs stronger than making this information public.”

The covert accord raises questions about whether a truly independent enquiry into the world’s worst airline disaster in recent times can be conducted, as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s demand for the wreckage to be brought home to Malaysia “as a matter of right” and his query whether there was something to hide over the cause of the crash, has been expectedly ignored by Australia’s mainstream media.

Such questions remain very much alive in the alternate media though. Melbourne-based film maker Dee McLaclan, for example, has been highlighting controversies surrounding the probe in her Gumshoes News website.

She said from the beginning, all parties should have been suspects, stressing that the downing of MH17 could be anything from a tragic accident to an accident of war, a deliberate attack or a false flag incident to inflame the region. Accusing Australia of being “judicially negligent in a murder investigation” and imposing a possible compromise instead of trying to find the truth, she wrote:

“What if the evidence implicates the Ukraine? This is like having the accused also sitting in on the jury”.

As other commentators have pointed out, MH17 was shot down amid what is perceived to be a proxy fight between the United States-allied North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries and Russia.

As such, Malaysia has a crucial role to play in finding out the truth of what happened, provided it is given full access in the probe. Our members of the JIT must be included in all aspects of the investigation and ensure that no decisions are made without their knowledge or input.

> Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote attributed to Gautama Buddha: Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Columnists, Along the Watch Tower

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