(July 16): Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today expressed sympathy for those who lost loved ones in the MH17 incident a year ago, stressing that the goal now is to bring the perpetrators of the tragedy to justice through the international tribunal.
Posting the message on his blog, Najib said this was to ensure that those guilty of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane on July 1 last year, paid the "unforgivable crime" that claimed 298 lives.
"The end goal is clear – to bring the perpetrators to justice, and ensure they pay for this unforgivable crime, which claimed hundreds of innocent lives.
"By early October this year, Insya Allah, the report by the Dutch Safety Board will be published. At the same time, we will continue to push for the establishment of a full, thorough and independent international tribunal into the incident – for the sake of the families and friends of those who perished in the tragedy," he said.
Malaysia recently presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council, calling for an international tribunal to be set up to prosecute those responsible for shooting down MH17 over eastern Ukraine last year.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had said that Malaysia's call for an international tribunal to be set up was supported by the international community, including the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine, adding that a decision was likely to be reached this week.
However, according to reports, Russia – which is one of five nations with veto power – has dismissed the proposal.
Ukraine and the West say that MH17, carrying 298 passengers and crew members, was shot down in the conflict-torn region of Donetsk by separatist fighters using a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia. Russia has denied the charges, pointing the finger at Ukraine.
Addressing family members of those who died in the incident, Najib said that Malaysia would never allow the victims to be forgotten, adding that he hoped no other nation would have to go through such a tragedy.
"The victims of MH17 were casualties of a conflict that was not theirs.
"To their loved ones – there are no words I can offer to ease your pain, but know that your pain and sorrow are shared amongst all of us. Malaysia wept for your loss, which was our loss too, and we will never let those who died be forgotten. Take comfort in knowing that MH17 brought the country together in an act of unity that would make anyone proud to call themselves Malaysians. May that unity be the legacy of those we lost.
"I remember vividly the shock and anger I felt upon receiving that phone call, and the experience of leading our country through the tragedies of MH370 and MH17, in the space of mere months, are still fresh in my mind. I hope that neither our nation, nor any other nation, has to endure such tragedies again," he added.
The prime minister today referred to his efforts in sealing a deal with the leader of the separatist group in recovering the bodies in the early days following the downing of the jet plane, saying "extraordinary circumstances required extraordinary measures".
"At that time, our foremost priority was ensuring the swift return of the bodies of those on board to their families. It was crucial that this be done in a dignified manner that allowed the families to grieve properly.
"The situation was complicated by the fact that the plane had been shot down over territory that was in the throes of a civil war, and controlled by non-government forces. Engaging with them was necessary in order to ensure the swift return of the bodies."
He said Malaysia was criticised for negotiating with the separatists and some foreign media had said standard modus operandi should be followed.
"However, extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures, and we ignored those disruptive noises – standing our ground and doing it our way.
"We cast aside standard protocol and, within days, had sent representatives from the National Security Council to meet the rebels and negotiate for a safe passage, ensure the return of the passengers’ remains, as well as access to the wreckage and flight recorders that would help us get to the truth of what happened on that fateful day," he said.
Ultimately, Najib added, Malaysia's strong stance and unorthodox approach "got the job done".
However, the "battle" is far from over, the prime minister said, adding that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), consisting of experts from Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Ukraine and Malaysia, had a clearer picture of the possible cause.
"A year on, the battle for truth and justice is far from over, and we continue to provide our full cooperation to – and work closely with – the JIT looking into this tragedy. They now have a clearer picture regarding the possible cause of the tragedy, and are expected to continue their investigation into all possible scenarios until the end of 2015.
"Above all, I pray for the families of those who perished to stay strong in these trying times. Remember that all of Malaysia stands in unity beside you, and we will continue to stand beside you – for as long as it takes – as we work tirelessly in search of truth and justice for your loved ones," he added. – The Malaysian Insider