Tuesday, 22 July 2014

MH17 - Justice Must Be Served

By Danny Liew Shan Lee

First of all, allow us at DSGC to post our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the tragic downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukrainian airspace on 17 July 2014. 
Just barely recovering from the tragedy of the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, the news struck Malaysians from all walk of lives hardest.  As details of the incident began to filter back to Malaysia, it had the surreal feeling that we were all trapped in a never-ending nightmare.  But unlike the missing MH370, there seems to be a culprit that everyone could point there finger at in this latest tragedy.

Culprit, or Scapegoat?
Almost immediately, western world, led vociferously by the Ukrainian Government began to point fingers at the pro-Kremlin separatist movement that is currently operating in the area as the culprit that had shot down the plane, and by default, Putin-led government as the backer of this atrocity.

They could even point out the specific weapon claimed to be used to shoot down the luckless plane, BUK M1, a Soviet era anti-aircraft surface to air missile system, which in an ironic twist of fate was once offered to Malaysian Armed Forces to be considered for her air defence needs.
This seems to be conclusive, when recordings of intercepted rebel conversation claiming that they had downed a passenger plane shortly after the plane went down was made public by the Ukrainian intelligence services.  This was strengthened by the fact that a rebel commander had put up a comment in twitter claiming responsibility of downing a military transport plane in the area, before being removed once the news was made aware to the media that a civilian transport plane had gone down in the area.

Kremlin’s Response
The pro-Kremlin separatists were soon to deny that they had shot down the plane, claiming that they have only man-portable air defence surface to air missiles, specifically Igla, which they had used to shoot down at least 3 Ukrainian aircrafts during the week immediately before the downing of MH17.  At the same time, they pointed out that the Ukrainian forces does operate the BUK M1 and is capable of shooting down the plane.
Kremlin was quick to shore up their support for the pro-Kremlin separatists.  And as pressure began to mount on Kremlin, Putin was said to have made calls to both Malaysian Prime Minister, DS Najib Razak and Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte to promise swift action to allow rescuers and investigation teams to enter the crash site.

Witch Hunt Begin
As mentioned earlier, the whole world seems to believe that the culprit for the crash to be the pro-Kremlin separatists.  With the international media pouring oil into the fire, there were even calls for retribution against Russia.
No doubt, downing of a civilian aircraft is a casus belli for war.  The precedent had been set during the First World War, when the sinking of RMS Lusitania by the Germans had resulted in the United States to join the war on the sides of British and French. 
However, good sense must prevail as no investigation had been conducted yet on the ground to determine who held the smoking gun.  For this, let’s look into who are the main stakeholders in this conflict.

By and large, Ukraine is set to gain the most from the international outrage against the downing of the plane.  After losing Crimea to Russia in a hotly contested referendum fraught with violence, Ukraine’s image, and that of her military took heavy bashing this year.  While they are facing pro-Kremlin separatist forces, the core of these forces are essentially Russian military forces and complemented by a local militia and defected Ukrainian military units. 
An international outrage against Russia will see the Ukrainian government getting much needed support, and potentially reinforcement if situation escalated beyond control.
However, Ukraine does have a have a history of shooting down a civilian airliner by accident.  In 2001, Ukrainian air defence units manning S200V launchers had launched and destroyed a Siberian Airliner Flight 1812 Tupolev TU-154M civilian airliner.  All 78 lives on board were lost.
It took about a week before they admitted that they shot down the plane, after Russian and Israeli investigators found incriminating evidence pointing to Ukraine.

Pro-Kremlin Separatists
Much like what the Russians did in South Ossetia when Georgia began to openly support American hegemony, the pro-Kremlin separatists took to the arms in what they perceived as foreign threat over their homeland.  Bulk of these militia are untrained, thus are likely to be trigger-happy. 
The trigger point in Ukraine for the militia to rise up was the forced coup against the previous Ukrainian President, Victor Yakunovych, an ardent pro-Kremlin politician.

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to a certain extent is the face of New Russia.  Former KGB agent, he is despised in the West for engineering the secession of South Ossetia into Russia during the Georgian War and getting away of it.  United States and Europe has brokered sanctions on him and his associates, believing that this will hurt Putin.  In fact, the day before the flight MH17 went down in Eastern Ukraine, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of United States Treasury had just slapped a tighter sanctions on Russia for their continued involvement in the Ukrainian conflict.
But Russia’s hands too are bloody.  They had in fact, shot down 2 Korean Air Lines planes when they were still USSR; KAL902 in 1978 and KAL007 in 1983.  Death toll were 2 in the KAL902 incident while all 269 lives were lost in the KAL007 flight.

United States and European Union
Like it or not, United States and European Union are key stake holders in the crisis.  A stronger Ukraine would mean a subdued Russia, and a continuing hegemony for the United States.  This too would translate to potentially a cheaper utility bills for European Union as they are dependent on gas imports from Russia.
As were the Russians and the Ukrainians being guilty of shooting down civilian passenger planes, so were the United States.  In 1988, USS Vincennes as part of US Navy’s convoy to protect the shipping lanes in Middle-East during the Iran – Iraq war had shot down Iranian Air IR655, killing all 290 lives on board.

What is this to Malaysia?
Malaysian Airlines is Malaysia’s pride.  It is our nation’s most recognizable brand.  Thus, the loss of the 298 lives is also a blemish to our pride.
The culprits for this heinous act must be brought to justice.  But we should not accept the accusations thrown by the Western media as gospel truth.  While the world piles pressure on the Russian Government, we too must push for equal pressure on Ukrainian government to allow the release of their records for the day.

Diplomatic relationship with both nations are equally important.  Thus, we must ensure that investigation would be able to uncover the truth for we do not want to throw our support behind those that had murdered our people.

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