Brenda Benedict, a Malaysian living in Frankfurt, hopes that by the time you read this, we'll have some clarity on the fate of MH370.
Everything that can be said about MH370 has already been said. Yet, it would be insensitive of me to gloss over this issue and write an article about some cross-cultural conundrum I've faced in Germany. So, against a barrage of information, contradictions, insinuations, accusations and theories, I'm going to condense my feelings, views and feedback into messages for the various parties in this unfortunate affair.
To all onboard MH370: Know that you're loved and cherished. Know that complete strangers worldwide lift you up in prayer. Know that they do this without prejudice, for in adversity, we're all bonded beyond boundaries.
To the families and loved ones of the passengers: I empathise with you. I, too, would demand for clarity if all I get is contradicting information from various channels. I, too, would lose my cool in the arduous wait for some hint of hope. While it's far easier said than done, I can only ask that you remain strong and hopeful for full disclosure and for closure.
To those tasked with locating MH370: You’ve used the word “unprecedented”, and given the peculiar circumstances and its sheer geographical scope, it is “unprecedented” indeed. However, disaster per se isn’t unprecedented in Malaysia, re: Highland Towers. This should spur us to draw up a disaster or emergency management blueprint, detailing information flow among the responsible agencies that is properly corroborated and communicated to the media and affected parties – who takes charge of what, who speaks to the press, etc. This should cover the timely dissemination of the news itself.
I, too, feel the negative press we received in the initial days was uncalled for, but I can understand the frustration that followed when information appeared to come from all quarters, including unauthorised ones, and it was often contradictory. There may have been legitimate reasons for the delay in relaying the news, but it is as much about information as it is about perception. Too many of us grew up on The X Files. Information delayed is information changed, exchanged, destroyed or fabricated. Ditto the use of the word “classified” – it gets people’s antenna up. Communicating status updates in a concise, unambiguous, timely and credible manner might stem rumour mongering and avoid unnecessary anxiety for those affected by the news.
Obviously, everyone now expects swift, thorough and unbiased investigation and reparation for proven mistakes or oversight. This is in no way meant as an affront to anybody’s capabilities. This is simply about acting and reacting responsibly.
To the media: Our business is “selling” news, but at what price? Kudos to the journalists who balance the line between getting the news and being sensitive to the feelings of those affected. However, I watched agape at footage of pressmen hounding the Chinese nationals who came to get information on their loved ones.
As for the foreign press, “freedom of speech” should be practised with a smidgen of temperance. Bandying about words like “fanatical” and wrongly captioning pictures, or airing one-sided interviews that amount to character assassination of those unable to defend themselves, is bad press. Yes, A Current Affair did reveal an allegedly serious security breach regarding passenger entry into a cockpit, which I hope MAS will follow up thoroughly, but it could have spared the sleaze.
To those seeking their 15 minutes of fame: Find another forum to achieve the infamy you crave. Don’t waste our time with stories that are three years old, or by engaging in acts for which the Germans have a brilliant word, fremdschaemen. It means doing things in which other people feel embarrassed for you – and themselves. Simply put: cringe-worthy actions.
To those who post every available update on social media: We welcome anything on possible leads, probable causes, or information on search and rescue, transponders, blips or radar detection. But we owe it to those affected to curb the reposting of non-essential waffle by religious zealots, conspiracy theorists and, worst of all, people who make light of a serious issue.
Finally and most importantly, to everyone searching tirelessly for MH370: Terima kasih. Thank you for putting aside territorial disputes and working together with our local agencies to try to find MH370. Thank you for offering comfort and support to the distraught family members. Thank you for combing through overwhelming information in trying to suss out motives and probable causes. Thank you for keeping us updated. Thank you for sharing your expertise in an area alien to us.
I often cross my fingers that what I write a week before remains relevant by the time it sees print. Today my hope is that by the time you read this, you would have gotten some clarity or closure on the fate of MH370.
Brenda Benedict's prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy.