Archive for August, 2014

LAST Friday, when the first remains of the victims of MH17 crash were brought back home, the nation stood still and in silence. It would forever be remembered in Malaysian history that the MH17 tragedy was not just the loss of so many innocent lives, but also the loss of our nation’s “innocence” in a world full of conflicts, regional or otherwise, and in particular, of an ethnic and geopolitical crisis thousands of miles away from home.

Sure, we have our fair share of violent conflicts such as the communist insurgency and the May 13 racial riots, but the totally unexpected shooting down of our sovereign-neutral passenger aircraft, deliberately or otherwise, was unprecedented in many ways to our country.

For one, our country has never been a victim of another regional conflict which we are not involved in any way. Yes, we have sent peace-keeping troops under the UN banner to many parts of the world and had our fair share of casualties as well. But MH17 was an innocent civilian aircraft flying well above the “safe” limit of 33,000 ft. Yet, it was so cruelly brought down, most likely by an advanced missile system and perhaps finished off by cannon fire from a military aircraft.

For many people like myself, Aug 22 was more than just a day of mourning, it was also a day of rage and anger of questioning why so many innocent lives were taken so brutally in a conflict which we played no part in. Our civilian aircraft was targeted, deliberately or otherwise, by an evil force, which must one day pay for this crime against humanity, one way or another and “karma-wise”.

We are a very small but culturally diverse country. Partly due to our own rich diversity and sensitivity to ethnic, ideological (against communism) and other conflicts, we have been striving on our own and via the various associations we belong to, such as the UN and Asean, to maintain our neutrality, to never take sides or be involved in any conflict, except to promote and mediate for a peaceful resolution.

There have been many reports, some speculations while others more educated analyses, of the likely cause/s of the crash. The main problem is getting access to the crash site and recovering all the pieces of evidence needed, not just the black box.

Investigators are only now beginning their arduous task of piecing together what happened and establishing the real cause/s of the crash. Due to the international nature of the conflict involving powerful nations (some with veto-power on the UN Security Council), it is most unlikely that the perpetuators, even if established with proof and prosecuted (most likely in absentia), would be caught and face the penalties the normal way.

If I were a relative or close friend of any of the victims and trying to imagine myself in such a scenario, I would think of how justice could best be served. I would then believe that real justice in dealing with the criminals responsible could only be achieved via an international extra-judicial method such as a high-powered, covert intelligence and military SAS-type operation with the involvement of friendly countries.

A multinational team of specially selected intelligence, logistics and military operatives should be assembled to go after these war criminals in the same manner that Osama bin Laden and his aides were mercilessly taken down in Pakistan on May 2, 2011 by the US government.

For the record, this is only a mere wish and the government is unlikely to agree to such an approach in order to maintain its neutrality and diplomacy with the countries involved. Even if the government were to agree to such an approach, we would not know about it (perhaps until much later) due to the need to maintain strict secrecy of such an operation.

The civilised world must send a clear and unequivocal message to these terrorists, war criminals and evil people that there is no place on this planet that is safe for them to hide away and justice shall be served eventually, one way or another.

The UN already has peace-keeping forces, contributed by member nations, to maintain peace and security and to protect civilians in some war ravaged countries. So why can’t the UN also have a multinational anti-terrorism unit set up to aggressively pursue and exterminate such terrorists and war criminals?

The problem mostly lies in the non-impartiality of some permanent Security Council members (with veto-power) who may define a terrorist or war criminal according to their geo-political expediency.

Nevertheless, the civilised world should work and strive towards such an arrangement and to agree on what constitute a terrorist or war criminal. If the MH17 tragedy can spur such a global development that would bring closure and justice to the case, then the victims did not die completely in vain.

The MH17 tragedy should also serve as a wake-up call to our politicians and NGOs across the racial and religious divide, that playing the ethnic card, like in the Ukraine crisis, is a dangerous game that can have many unexpected and far-reaching negative consequences, often beyond the control of the original players.

It’s like playing with fire, which can engulf an entire community or nation, if left unchecked.

The dynamics and unpredictability of an ethnic conflict can often backfire on the politicians and extremists involved in fanning it, so they better be warned.

Moderates in Malaysia and the world are also responding and rising up to challenge local and global ethnic extremism, which is often linked to acts of terrorism, such as the one that brought down MH17.

May the victims of MH17 rest in peace and may justice be served someday.

The writer, CEO of a think tank and strategic consultancy firm, believes in the principle of the Karma that a vile and evil deed committed by a perpetuator shall eventually return to haunt him with illnesses, death or other tragedies. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com

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