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MH370 CRASH: When grieving gives us grief

Publication Date : 31-03-2014


In Beijing, you can see families of MH370 passengers chanting, ‘Malaysian government cheated us’. It is understandable that they are grieving but some of their reactions are over the top.

On Tuesday, I bought doughnuts at a rest area on my way to work. They were for my colleagues who were working hard the night before when the prime minister announced that the latest analysis of satellite data revealed flight MH370 had ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

As I exited the rest area, Suria FM was playing Tiada Lagi Tangisan (No More Tears) by Misha Omar and tears welled in my eyes.

I sobbed all the way to the office. I may not have any relatives or friends on board of the flight that went missing en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8 but my heart felt for those who had.

It was a delayed reaction. On the night Najib Tun Razak announced that flight MH370 had ended in the southern Indian Ocean, I was in the office and I told myself not to allow emotions to take over.

It was not easy especially after reading the tweets of Maira Elizabeth Nari, the daughter of Andrew Nari who was the MH370 chief steward.

“I just don’t know what to say about it. God loves you more, daddy. God loves them more,” tweeted the teenager after Najib announced that the Boeing 777 – with 239 souls on board – had “ended its flight”.

Under the Twitter handle @Gorgxous_ (which Twitter has suspended), Maira tweeted: “I don’t know what to say, what to think. I feel so lost, so blank. I’m just so tired. Goodnight, daddy.”

Maira’s tweets to express her agony over her tragic loss sharply contrasted the images I saw on CNN of the angry Chinese nationals.

“Live” in Beijing, you can see wailing families of MH370 passengers linking arms and chanting, “Malaysia, return our relatives, Malaysian government cheated us” as they marched to the Malaysian embassy.

It is understandable that they were grieving but some of their reactions that I saw on CNN were over the top. I asked a Malaysian living in Beijing why the Chinese national families of the MH370 passengers had so much anger towards Malaysia.

“It is complicated to explain their mentality,” she said.

“On one hand, they think China is so strong that they can bully others. On the other hand, they have a bit of low self-esteem/self-abuse. They think people like to bully them.”

Some Malaysians reacted negatively to the reports about the angry response from the grief-stricken families in China over Malaysia’s handling of MH370.

I also found it a bit difficult to sympathise with the grieving Chinese nationals. It was as if there was a great cultural divide on how Chinese nationals and Malaysians grieved.

“How’s your sister coping?” I asked a friend whose niece was on board MH370.

“She is heartbroken especially as her daughter has a five-year-old daughter. But they (her family) accept it as they say it is fate.” said the 40-something Chinese Malay­sian.

“But aren’t they angry with the Malaysian government?” I asked.

“No, it is fate,” he said.

Sometimes the media gives a false impression of an event, so I asked my Beijing-based colleague Tho Xin Yi about the situation was at the Lido Hotel where the Chinese nationals were staying.

“From my impression watching CNN, is it that ALL of the families have an over-the-top anger towards Malaysia? Is my impression correct?” I asked Tho.

“A few opinion leaders – the same people who speak every day and represent the families – will chant ‘tell us the truth, give me back my loved ones’ and the rest will follow,” she said.

“But it is interesting to note that when the opinion leaders chant ‘Malaysia is a murderer’, not everyone will follow. The majority will fall silent.”

To make matters worse, “a handful of mainland celebrities, many with millions of Weibo followers, have played a part in encouraging the public to vent their anger at Malaysians”, according to a South China Morning Post report.

“Chen Kun, a mainland film star with 70 million Sina Weibo followers, has said he would boycott Malaysian products and tourism until the Malaysian government ‘takes down their clown-like mask and tells the truth’ about MH370,” according to the English newspaper based in Hong Kong.

I’ve never heard of Chen Kun, so I shall not comment.

It seems Zhang Ziyi has also lashed out at Malaysia. “You are wrong for failing to respect the universal ... quest for truth,” she wrote a day after Najib announced that the Boeing 777 went down in the Indian Ocean.

Since she’s gorgeous and I have a big heart, I shall forgive her, however.

The South China Morning Post report continued: “Zhao Chu, a columnist with 10 million Sina Weibo followers, cited more constructive ways of venting anger.

“If you really care about the Chinese passengers on board, you should pressure the Chinese government into better co-ordinating with the Malaysians and make explicit demands.”

I hope cooler heads will prevail if not Malaysians will be asking: “Apa lagi Chinese nationals mau?” (What else do the Chinese nationals want?).


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