Sunday, July 20, 2014

MH17 TRAGEDY AT 33,000 FEET

What was supposed to be a flight carrying happy holidayers to their destination turned into a tragedy of heartbreaking proportions. Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 plummeted to the ground on Thursday, crashing 40 miles east of the Ukrainian town of Donetsk, killing all 298 people on board. It is here many of them still lay strewn on the smouldering fields in the large area over which the plane crashed — a mangled wreckage that has given rise to disputes. 

There have been some mad speculations and hurried conclusions over the downing of the flight, all of them without any concrete evidence. In the early moments after the plane went down, it was being reported that it had been shot down. Almost immediately attention turned to the fact that the plane was flying over a conflict zone, where pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have been waging an insurgency against the government in Kiev that they regard as illegitimate and oppressive. In next to no time, the western media started pointing the finger of blame at Russian President Vladimir Putin, no doubt after prodding from Kiev, where President Petro Poroshenko has had it in for the Russian premier since Putin’s annexation of Crimea in March. 

Now the cacophony from all the western media is rising in a loud crescendo of how it was Russian-backed, pro-separatist militants who fired at the plane with sophisticated weaponry supplied to them by Russia. We have even heard President Obama and others in Washington echo these accusations, who are all warning Russia about the consequences.

Wait a minute — it has not even been 72 hours since the tragedy occurred and no official investigation has been launched yet. Whilst media reports are alleging that the plane’s black box has been retrieved by the separatists, no one knows for sure. The area where the plane crashed is conflict-afflicted territory and no proper investigative teams have so far made it in to uncover fully what really happened. Sketchy media reports making the rounds on how somebody called “Major” shot down the plane and then boasted about it on social media have not been independently verified. How can the whole western world, the media included, just jump the gun like that? One must also question why the aviation industry allows its commercial jetliners to fly over conflict zones where anything can happen, as this latest incident has so horribly illustrated.
 

What happened is an undeniable tragedy with entire families and the loved ones of many wiped out within seconds, but that does not mean that retribution must be exacted where it is politically convenient. It is well known the dislike Kiev has for Putin and the current tense relations between Moscow and Washington. This tragedy must not serve as a means to play out that rivalry. 

What must be carried out is a complete official investigation as recommended by the UN Security Council, Russia included. The victims of this horrific ordeal deserve nothing less than the truth. If someone did shoot down that plane, the whole force of the law and justice system must come down on the perpetrators. 

However, it is not correct to point fingers before the true facts are established. Malaysia Airlines is going to find it impossible to come out of this episode after another one of its planes went ‘missing’ in March this year, with nobody truly knowing even now what became of it and its passengers. There are many victims of this devastation at 33, 000 feet; it is prayed that their souls find peace and justice.

International outrage has been building over the way bodies were being left to rot in the sun amid claims official observers were not being allowed to access the site, and that evidence had been tampered with by rebels in control of the site.

Ukraine's emergency officials said today that 196 bodies have been recovered in an operation involving nearly 300 volunteers and rebels.

Ukraine and the separatists accuse each other of firing a surface-to-air missile at Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Thursday as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur some 33,000ft above the battlefields of eastern Ukraine. Both deny the charge.

The US has pointed blame at the separatists, saying Washington believes the jet was probably downed by an SA-11 missile from rebel-held territory and 'we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel'.

The latest US intelligence assessment suggests that more than one missile system was given to the separatists by the Russians in the last week or so. But both Russia and the rebels vehemently deny any role in downing the plane.

Despite calls by world leaders for an independent, international investigation into the incident,
armed separatists limited observers' access to the crash site on Friday and Saturday.

'We have to be very careful,' said a spokesman for the 24 international monitors. We are unarmed civilians so we are not in a position to argue with people with heavy arms.'

‘We encountered armed personnel who acted in a very impolite and unprofessional manner. Some of them even looked slightly intoxicated,’ a spokesman said.

'Some of the body bags are open and the damage to the corpses is very, very bad. It is very difficult to look at.'

Courtesy AGENCIES & DAILY TIMES

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