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MH370 CRASH: Insensitivity that makes no sense

Publication Date : 04-04-2014


It’s frustrating that we know almost nothing about what happened on MH370 and to the plane. So, why inflict more pain on the families of those on board who are already suffering?

Dec 4, 1977. On that day, the world fell apart for many people.

That was when MAS flight MH653 was hijacked and crashed in an estate at Tanjung Kupang in Johor. A minister’s 19th wedding anniversary celebration turned to grief. His widow had accompanied him to the Dewan Rakyat for the first time just days earlier. A family of five was wiped out after a holiday in Penang. A rising ambassadorial star was no more.

For a MAS accounts officer, his scheduled wedding in March was off. No wedding, only tears.

That accounts officer was R. Govindaraju, he was the de facto head of his family and he was 28. And he was a family friend, a neighbour. The family lived off Jalan Sungai Pinang in Penang, a stone’s throw from the part of Perak Road that we were from.

For his family, the tragedy still hurts. There are those in the family who do not want to talk about that fateful day or the events that followed. It’s just too painful to recall.

But one brother did talk. And Mahendran, who was 22 at the time of the incident, talked of the pain.

“It’s been 37 years. But I still feel the pain when anyone mentions his name. It was such a big loss to the family. He was the eldest and he had big plans for all his younger brothers and the family. He had bought a piece of land in Shah Alam and was building a house for us there.

“Everything was shattered when that happened. I miss my brother very much, “ he said.

Which is why he can understand the anguish of the children and the family of those who now wait in agony for news – any news – of the 239 people on board MH370.

Their pain is only too real.

“At least we had closure,” said Mahendran. “We knew the plane had been hijacked although to this day we do not know by whom. And we knew they had all died in Tanjung Kupang. There was a funeral.

“For these people, it must be so hard. They don’t know anything. They cannot do anything.”

Not knowing. That must be so hard – that feeling of helplessness.

Which is why I so admire people like Maira Elizabeth Nari. It must be very difficult for her but the young girl is in touch with reality.

She expressed her love for her father by tweeting him during a football match. Chief steward Andrew Nari’s a Liverpool fan. And she told the world that she would be strong. And yes, she and her family would be all right – because God just loves her father more.

It takes great strength to say that. She’s a real inspiration, this teen. I’m betting she will make a huge success of her life.

You know what? I’m no Liverpool fan but I will be rooting for them to win the title this year, just for Maira and her dad.

Then, there are those who do not understand – or do not care to understand – the feeling of the families. Sadly, some of them are journalists.

I know journalists can be an irritating species, getting in the way of the families as they try to come to grips with their sorrow, as they try to figure out how to carry on in the face of a tragedy but that’s the nature of the job. I must say we care, too.

When the prime minister made his “plane came to an end in the southern Indian Ocean” announcement, many in the media room wept.

One journalist broke down and cried on live television. They had all hoped for good news, not that announcement.

But we can do wrong, too. There is now that unfortunate tweet. MH370 is a national tragedy that brought us all together. It will never be a blessing, not in disguise, not by any stretch of the imagination.

If the man who tweeted that was bad, those British tabloids are worse.

It takes a huge flight of fancy before one can insinuate that a man was a fanatic, or a suicidal maniac who would want to take more than 200 lives with him – and that without a single shred of evidence.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah grew up near Jalan Sungai Pinang too, not far from where Govindaraju’s family lived.

He was a soulmate. I do not remember him but a friend says we played our childhood football together. We were both products of Jelutong English School and Penang Free School. And I do not for one minute believe he could be capable of what these British newspapers seem to be accusing him of.

So I am with his daughter Aishah when she says they are making stories and scripts out of thin air.

“May God have mercy on your souls,” she said. “I will not forgive you”.

She was being kind. I would want God to be merciless – just like those writers.

Mahendran has this to say. “Those people have no evidence, not even a clue. They should not hurt the families further. They are hurting enough as it is.”

I agree. Absolutely.


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