Monday, July 21, 2014

Diplomatic justice...

I read many postings by Malaysians on the social media urging the government and world leaders to take a tough stance against Russia after pro-Russia rebels allegedly shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that killed 298 people on July 17.

While the pro-Russian rebels and Ukraine blame each other for the incident, Moscow is being accused of not doing enough to ensure that authorities have proper access to the crash site.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbot is the lone voice thus far demanding a tough action against Russian leader Vladimir Putin. US President Barack Obama is happy for the rally of support he gets from all over the world for economic sanction on Russia be intensified.

Our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, however, is a man of diplomatic amid mounting pressure by some quarters that the government should issue a statement condemning Russia and Putin. They will have to wait for the outcome of a special Parliament session Wednesday but I think 'condemning Putin' is most unlikely.

Malaysia and Russia have been enjoying positive bilateral relations over the years - people to people and government to government. Although trade declined slightly to US$1.7 billion in 2012 from US$1.83 billion in 2011, efforts were being taken to increase the trade. There was about a five per cent drop in bilateral trade in 2012 mainly due to decline in several big deals but Moscow was taking many initiatives to increase the trade level.

The Soviet Union established diplomatic relations with Malaysia on 3 April 1967, and the Trade Agreement was signed. In November 1967 the Soviet Trade Representation was established. In 1970, the first group of Soviet students came to study Malay at the University of Malaya.

Ties between the two suffered when Malaysia declared its support for Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion throughout the 1980s. However, relations recovered following the conflict's end, and both countries have since put aside historical disputes and worked to repair diplomatic, economic, and military ties.

Since Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, relations between Russia and Malaysia have improved significantly. Former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad met Gorbachev several times.

In 2002, Mahathir made his visit to Moscow. He stated that Russia could be a rival to the US and Israel and he praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and his opposition to Western interference in other sovereign states.

In 2007, Malaysia and Russia sent the first Malaysian to the International Space Station, as part of the Angkasawan program for the Malaysian National Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). It was a project under the government-to-government offset agreement through the purchase of Sukhoi SU-30MKM multirole fighter aircraft for the Royal Malaysian Air Force. It was a success, as Sheikh Muszapfar Shukor became the first Malaysian in space.

Everybody’s talking tough about MH17, from the Malaysians to the Americans to the Europeans. But it’s one thing to point the finger at Putin and/or the separatists, another to bring the perpetrators to justice.

In recent weeks, separatist forces have downed numerous Ukrainian planes, and it is likely they thought MH17 was another. This means the incident falls under the rules of war. Under those rules, all combatants have a duty to distinguish between military and civilian objects.

Even if they thought the plane was a military object, as communications transcripts suggest, the separatists could still be found guilty in the International Court of Justice under a rule that says combatants must take all reasonable precautions to verify that a target is a military one before they attack. It appears the perpetrators failed to do this, though just who brings them to justice, or when, is for now an unanswerable question.

Guilty or not, let’s put it this way. Putin isn’t issuing direct orders but he has paved the way for the separatists to work their chaos, partly through direct action and partly by turning a blind eye. While it’s extremely doubtful Putin ordered this attack, many defence experts believe he provided the separatists with sophisticated surface-to-air missiles.

Russia has moved military equipment across the Ukrainian border in recent weeks, and it’s believed that all of the Ukrainian aircraft shot down during that time were done so with Russian manufactured air defence systems.

It is thought that the Russian surface-to-air missile known as “Buk” was used to shoot down MH17. These missiles are launched from trucks, and there are reports Russian trucks were recently seen crossing the Russia-Ukraine border. One of them was even said to be missing a missile.

It is unclear whether Russian military figures orchestrated the attack that downed MH17, but as a general point, it is known that Putin strongly sympathises with the separatists. The Russian President continues to be infuriated by Kiev’s leanings towards western Europe and its institutions.
But in the global court of public opinion, the verdict appears to be rendered. Vladimir Putin is guilty. The Russian president could once claim a semblance of a role as a global statesman.

But with the downing of a commercial airliner by what US and Ukrainian officials suggest was a Russian missile supplied to pro-Moscow rebels, Putin is facing a personal barrage of worldwide condemnation that threatens to result in further sanctions on Russia if it does not rapidly change course in Ukraine.

Australia has raised the prospect of banning Putin from a meeting of the Group of 20, the world’s most powerful nations, in November if he does not exert more pressure on the rebels who left corpses strewn on the ground for days, contaminated the crash site and hampered an international investigation.

Britain, meanwhile, openly accused the Russian leader of sponsoring 'terrorism'. US Secretary of State John Kerry, appearing on multiple political talk shows Sunday, called this a 'moment of truth' for Russia.

Particularly in Europe  - a continent long leery of going too far to pressure Moscow over its support of separatists in Ukraine - initial shock was quickly gathering into outrage and action.

On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron held a joint phone call on Russia. A Downing Street spokesman said that the three leaders agreed that the European Union 'must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday'.

Now, some Malaysians are suggesting that a demonstration should be held at the Russian Embassy in Jalan Ampang. I am not sure if its a good idea but what's the gain when Putrajaya - in taking the pain in MH17 - still wants to maintain that strong diplomatic relation with Russia.

Its not about punishing the people of Russia but their leaders must foot the responsibility in assisting the international investigation team, return the remains of the victims to Malaysia, identify those responsible for shooting down the plane and punish them severely.

Malaysia, just like many other countries, will not sacrifice its good diplomatic relation with Russia. Even the US will not go to the extreme in imposing sanctions on Russia as it will not only harm its two-way bilateral relations but will open the door to a new international conflict.

Soviet Union is no longer there but Russia is still a formidable force, economically and militarily. Malaysia only wants justice for the dead, and any effort to seek justification will not bear any bad stigma to diplomatic ties.

Yes, we are saddened by the incident. We are still reeling from MH370 mystery. However, the truth has yet to prevail for MH17. Whether its Russia or Ukraine, someone has to take up the full responsibility and deliver justice to the victims.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gaza, Ukraine, MH17: Reflections on an Unforgiving Day

We ate supper to the news that Malaysia Airlines MH17 had crashed in Ukraine. We had breakfast to the news that Israel had invaded Gaza. An airliner crashing is perhaps more impactful than an invasion.

We have all wondered, when we hear of a crash, or even in quiet moments on board an aircraft ourselves, what living our final moments in a plane plunging to earth, knowing that we will die, would be like. An invasion is harder for some of us to empathize with.


Most of us have never invaded a country nor been in a country while it was invaded. But it shares this much with a plane crash: Your life is in danger, and your fate is out of your hands.

We don’t even know for certain what happened to the plane or how far the invasion will go. But no reasonable person looking at today could argue that we are the masters of our fates. At one point in the afternoon, it was announced that the White House had been placed on lockdown, which meant that a significant security threat had been found. It turned out someone’s lost backpack caused the whole episode.

Our job is to find order in the apparent disorder, even if meaning is fleeting. There are two things we can point to. First — tragedy aside for the moment — the plane crash had to do with the struggle for Ukraine, between the right of Russia to be secure from the West, the right of the Ukrainians to determine their own fate, either as one country or two, and the right of Western powers to involve themselves in these affairs.

Gaza is about the right of Israel to have a nation, the right of the Palestinians to have a nation and the right of Western countries to involve themselves in the matter.

Both issues are matters of competing national rights, not dissimilar from one and other. The Russians have historically experienced multiple invasions from the west, all of them devastating, some of them through Ukraine. Ukraine means “nation on the edge,” or what we could call a borderland.

Usually under Russian domination, it is now independent. But for Russia, it is the buffer between the kind of armies that invaded Russia in 1941 when the Nazis came. The names of many of the cities that are spoken of now are the names of the cities in which the Soviet army fought. For the Russians, this is the borderland that can’t be given up.


Yes, no one is planning to invade Russia now. But the Russians know how fast intentions and capabilities change, and they wonder why the Americans and others are so concerned with having a pro-Western government in Kiev.

For the Ukrainians, who have rarely experienced sovereignty, this is their opportunity to chart their own course. For them, the Russians’ need for a buffer is another way of saying Russian oppression of Ukraine. Of course, not all living in Ukraine see this as oppressive.

They see the Ukrainian government as oppressing them, by tearing them away from their Russian roots. For western Ukrainians, these Russophiles are thugs trying to destroy the country. For the Russophiles, it is hypocrisy that Ukraine demands that its right to self-determination be honored, but it has no honor for the right to self-determination of the Russophiles.

It is a question of national self-determination, which is one of the foundations of modern Euro-American civilization and always becomes complex when competing nations all claim that right. Does Russia have the right to assure that it will never again have to live through an invasion?

Does it have the right to do that at the expense of Ukrainian self-determination? To the extent that the West has involved itself, can it be said that Ukraine is truly free to determine its future?

And so an airliner was shot down and some 300 people died. It is hard to draw the connection between the abstract discussion of national rights and the debris and lives strewn around, but there is a connection. The plane would not have crashed if the question of national interest and national self-determination was not so important to so many people.

The same issue caused four children to be killed on a Gaza beach and a man to be blown apart by a mortar round in Israel. The Israeli Jews claimed a homeland in today’s Israel. They were occupiers, but there is not a single country in the world that wasn’t, in some way, founded by occupiers. Almost everywhere, there was someone there who was displaced or absorbed to make way for the current occupants.

Every nation that exists was born out of some injustice. Consider the United States and Native Americans and slavery. Both were fundamental to America’s birth, but the right of the United States to remain intact is not questioned. Look at Europe and the way it was reshaped by armies. Perhaps that happened centuries ago, but is there an expiration date on injustice?

At the same time, there was someone there before Israel. They were not annihilated as in the case of some nations that disappeared with the arrival of newcomers. They are still there, in Israel, in the West Bank and certainly in Gaza. This is the borderland between Israel and the Arab world, and it is filled, particularly in Gaza, by people who are claiming their right to a state. Some who want the creation of that state to include the annihilation, expulsion or absorption of Israel.

There are others who want a two-state solution. They are not really as thoughtful and reasonable as they would like to believe. A state divided in half by Israel would be peculiar to say the least. Could Gaza, a small place packed with people, and a distant West Bank ever become economically viable?

And could the Israelis ever trust the Palestinians not to open fire on Tel Aviv from the few miles that would separate it from a Palestinian state? The Arab state would be an economic impossibility. The Israeli state would be at risk. Westerners are filled with excellent advice as to what the Palestinians should do and what the Israelis should do.

But as with Ukraine, the Westerners are playing with peripheral issues, things that don’t affect them personally and existentially. US Secretary of State John Kerry is attempting to do good. But if he fails, his children won’t live with the consequences.

And therefore, an endless and pointless debate rages as to who is right and who started the war in an infinite regression that goes back to times before any living Jew or Palestinian. This is the same as in Ukraine. Ukraine’s history had been shaped by its relation to Russia.

A debate can be held as to whether this was just. It really doesn’t matter. Russia is there and needs things, Ukraine is there and needs different things, and the West is there providing advice, which if it fails won’t directly affect it.

What ties Ukraine, Russia, Israel and Gaza together is that they are all fighting for their lives, or interests that are so fundamentally important to them that they cannot live without them. They are fighting for their nation and for that nation’s safety in a world where unspeakable things happen and where the only ones who will defend you are your family, friends and countrymen, and where all the well-wishers and advice-givers will quietly take their leave if dangers arise.

There is nothing easier and cheaper than advising others to get along. These conflicts are rooted in fear, and fear is always a legitimate emotion.

Others would have approached today by saying that the Russians are evil or the Ukrainians really the oppressors, the Israelis killers or the Gazans monsters. We are sure we will hear from many condemning our moral equivalency, by which they will claim that the only truly moral position is theirs.

But this is not a moral equivalency that argues that Ukrainians and Russians, Israelis and Palestinians should therefore sit down and recognize that they really haven’t got anything to fight over.

This is a moral equivalency that says these people have a great deal to fight over, but that it is their fight, and that — as when the Romans began wiping out Europe’s Celts — it will be settled by steel and not by kindly advice or understanding. The problem between these people is not that they don’t understand each other. The problem is that they do.

Read this, Mr Moron and Ms Critic!

MALAYSIA Airlines, its crew and passengers and the civil aviation system are the objects of this crime and tragedy. The finger-pointing should not be at them, but at the criminals - James Fallows of the New York Times.

Why must it always take others to see logic in such a tragedy when some Malaysians themselves are so profound of making stupid and illogical allegations?

This is a good piece for those stupid Malaysians:


Almost as soon as the news broke about the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine people began to ask: What was a commercial aircraft doing over a conflict zone in the first place? Was this disaster somehow the airline's fault?

The answer is no — but to understand why, you have to look at the complex realities of modern commercial aviation.

Malaysia Airlines, already world famous because of the still-missing flight MH370, appears to have been following all normal safety rules. And the rules governing airline flights over danger zones, including Ukraine, reflect the balance between the risks inherent in any flight and the efficiency on which the world airline system depends.

In principle, every airline flight can minimise travel time, emissions, fuel burn and overall cost by taking the most direct point-to-point route.

In practice, everything about commercial aviation involves making adjustments to that ideal direct routing, all of which is managed by the international air control system.

Before a flight, an airliner's crew coordinates with company dispatchers about any necessary deviations from the desired route. During flight, they make further adjustments — to avoid thunderstorms, for example.

They often request route shifts to the north or south, or changes of altitude, to find smoother air or more favourable winds.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has jurisdiction over American pilots and airlines, and its international counterparts maintain constantly updated "special notice" sites of airspace to avoid.

The administration's current list urges great caution for flights over hot spots like Yemen, North Korea and Syria, and it prohibits low-level flights (below 20,000 feet) over some sites in Somalia and Iraq.

Since April, the FAA has flatly prohibited all flights by American carriers over the Crimean region of Ukraine — but not over the region 200 miles to the north where the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down (although some foreign airlines, like Air France, had already adopted prohibitions on flying over Ukraine more or less entirely).

Such explicit prohibitions are critical, because the entire aviation system works on the premise that unless airspace is marked as off-limits, it is presumptively safe and legal for flight.

The airlines want to minimise cost and time by going as directly as possible, and they rely on regulators to tell them where they cannot go.

Before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 took off on Thursday, its crew and dispatchers would have known that a few hours earlier Ukrainian authorities had prohibited flights at 32,000 feet and below across eastern parts of their country, "due to combat actions... near the state border" with Russia, as the official notice put it, including the downing of a Ukrainian military transport plane earlier in the week.

Therefore when they crossed this zone at 33,000 feet, they were neither cutting it razor-close nor bending the rules, but doing what many other airlines had done, in a way they assumed was both legal and safe.

Legal in much the way that driving 63 in a 65-mile-per-hour zone would be.

And safe, not just for regulatory reasons, but because aircraft at cruising altitude are beyond the reach of anything except strictly military antiaircraft equipment.

During take-off and landing, airliners are highly vulnerable: They are big, they are moving slowly and in a straight line, they are close to the ground. But while cruising, they are beyond most earthbound criminal or terrorist threats.

This is why, even during wartime, airliners have frequently flown across Iraq and Afghanistan.

The restricted zone over Ukraine was meant to protect against accidental fire or collateral damage. It didn't envision a military attack.

After each crash, disaster or terrorist episode, it is natural to point fingers and say, Why didn't we foresee that specific threat? Thus one attempted shoe bombing leads to a decade of shoes-off orders in security lines.

The truth is that air transportation, like most other modern systems, could not operate if it fortified itself against every conceivable peril.

Malaysia Airlines, its crew and passengers and the civil aviation system are the objects of this crime and tragedy. The finger-pointing should not be at them, but at the criminals.


The New York Times News Service


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rotten comment!




10524320_672280429509033_6330754499165726562_n

The wife of Komtar assemblyman Ng Wei Aik described Malaysia as a rotten and scary country following the alleged shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

Yuki Tan shared the link of the story from Malaysiakini with her comment stated that Malaysia was a scary country.

10533557_672280462842363_424420106054374994_n

Then she posted another message saying that “What kind of rotten country is this!!!”
Netizens had been attacking her for her insensitive postings forcing her to take down her post.

Later, she apologised on her Facebook with her message “I would like to apologize over my personal statement describing Malaysia following the unfortunate incident of MH17. It is not my intention to hurt the feeling of a lot of Malaysians… Sorry! Let’s pray for MH17!”

Source: Stop The Lies

Russia, Ukraine have no right to the black box!

Neither Russia nor Ukraine should have the black box of the Malaysian Airlines MH17. Being the prime suspects for the 'downing of the plane', I think we must protest any move by Moscow or Kiev to keep it.

The black box must get to the hands of international investigation team that comprises our representatives. Should it falls into the hands of Russia or Ukraine, they are free to control the contents or tamper with it.

I am not pointing fingers at both countries but since the plane was 'shot down' in the zone of Russia-Ukraine military conflict, and with the 'fact' that only Russia and its anti-Kiev ally have the weapons that could reach the altitude MH17 was cruising, my doubts keep rising.
The black box of the Malaysian airline MH17, which was shot down in the conflict area in Eastern Ukraine, has been sent to Moscow for investigation reportedly. The Malaysian plane had fallen from a height of 10,600 metres and all passengers on board, including the crew died in the tragedy. Parts of the aircraft, human remains, money, gadgets and passports were spread across the region of Grabovo and Rassypnaya in Eastern Ukaraine. Rebel militia found remains of more than 100 people in the intial few hours of the rescue operation. Russia and Ukraine have both denied involvement. All parties are investigating into the crash of MH17. 
President Vladimir Putin, who called Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak yesterday, was also not certain as to whether the plane was shot down or just crashed.

Russia brushed off international criticism on Friday to throw blame for the MH17 plane crash back on Ukraine and the West.

Worldwide opprobrium was poured on to the Kremlin for supporting separatist rebels, who stand accused of sending down the Malaysia Airlines jet.
But Moscow denied any ties to the attack, claiming it was the victim of a political vendetta.
Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, accused Washington of a “criminal decision” to back Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, in waging war against pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
“Frankly speaking, I believe that this disaster will sober up those who have very clearly placed their bets on a war,” he said.
President Vladimir Putin called for an immediate ceasefire and an “objective international investigation” into the causes of the crash, after having said on Thursday that Ukraine was to blame because the tragedy happened on its territory. 
The US and its European allies were also looking at Russia with askance, with some believed Moscow had a hand in the incident.


European governments, jolted by the downing of the passenger plane over eastern Ukraine that killed nearly 300 people, are contemplating a major expansion of sanctions on Russia as early as next week.

European Union leaders decided in recent days to expand the penalties to a broad new category of people and companies. But the apparent shooting down of a plane carrying more than 200 EU citizens has intensified a desire to act quickly and forcefully, including sanctions against oligarchs with ties to the Kremlin.
In Brussels, some diplomats described the incident as a game-changer. "It would have major consequences if it was certain it came from the rebels— major consequences," said one official. President Barack Obama, at the White House, called the tragedy "a wake-up call for Europe."
How far the bloc will go, however, will depend in whether the 28 countries can agree on a position.
The EU, whose sanctions have generally fallen short of the tougher measures imposed by the U.S., has been hampered in part by a disagreement among members. Some southern European nations, led by Italy, and others including Hungary and Bulgaria that depend on Russian energy, have resisted harsher sanctions.
I was also drawn to this statement by a United Nations body that governs civil aviation that it had no authority to designate eastern Ukrainian airspace unsafe before the Malaysian airliner was shot down Thursday.

As incompetence as the world body itself, the International Civil Aviation Organisation gave the most stupid and 'unbelievable' excuse for failing to declare a 'no fly zone' over the airspace where MH17 was allegedly shot down two days ago.
“One of the more contested areas (of discussion on various forums) is whether we declared the airspace safe,” said International Civil Aviation Organization spokesman Anthony Philbin Friday.
“But it’s always the responsibility of our (191) member states to issue warnings regarding any potential hazards to the safe operation of civilian air traffic".
States also have the responsibility for conducting accident investigations, Philbin noted.
“It’s always the sovereign states that have the authority over investigations.” 
And why were many parties, especially US and Europe having a 'hunch' about Moscow's 'dirty game on Ukraine and MH17'?

This could explain:
A London-based reporter for Russia's state-owned English-language channel RT quit Friday in protest at its coverage of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine.
Sara Firth is the second person since March to publicly resign from RT, formerly known as Russia Today, over its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
"I resigned from RT today. I have huge respect for many in the team, but I'm for the truth," Firth wrote on her Twitter account @Sara__Firth.
The Kremlin-funded channel, which provides a staunchly pro-Russia version of events, told AFP that Firth "has declared that she chooses the truth; apparently we have different definitions of truth".
However, do we have other suspects?

The US, probably? What about Israel?

Friday, July 18, 2014

My regrets... and al-Fatehah

Regrets are as personal as fingerprints!

Mohd Ghafar Abu Bakar, the chief steward who was among 298 passengers and crew members of MH17 that went down in Ukraine yesterday, will be fully-missed by friends, family members and relatives.

I was supposed to see him on a few occasions between February and before Ramadan but due to heavy daily schedule, we didn't get the chance. We had not met since 1977 after MCE. We were together since Standard One at Masjid Tanah English School.

Among my colleagues who share sadness and sorrow over the incident are those of Batch 77, 78 and 79 of Sekolah Menengah Sains Johor, Kluang.

A jovial person and a joker, Mogab's (that's what we called him) last word to me during a phone conversation a few days before 'puasa' was '...bilo nak jumpo ni bro, nanti takdo peluang lak, hawau kau!'.

Yes, I will miss you... we will miss you.

Al-Fatehah to Mogab and others.

Who shot down our plane?

          

We demand explanation, not only from Russia but also from Ukraine!

It was a war zone, anyway, but are commercial planes allowed to fly above it?

At such height, the weapons used to shoot down the plane must be one of the most sophisticated. Who could have fired it?


I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.

A passenger plane with 295 people on board has been shot down as it flew above eastern Ukraine, according to aviation sources.
The Malaysia Airlines plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was travelling at an altitude of 10km (6.2 miles) when it was shot down, Russia's Interfax reported.

The Boeing 777 was brought down by a Buk ground-to-air missile, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior ministry quoted by the news agency said.
The adviser said the 280 passengers and 15 crew members who were on the plane are all believed to have died.
A spokesman for Malaysian Airlines, still reeling from the loss of flight MH370 in March, confirmed it had lost contact with flight MH17, which departed from Amsterdam at 12.14pm local time.
The flight disappeared from radar as it flew over Ukrainian airspace, the spokesman said.
Sky's Katie Stallard, in Moscow, said media reports suggest the plane came down in the Donetsk region, where there has been recent heavy fighting amid continuing tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
Data from Flightradar24  suggests the plane had just passed the city of Kremenchuk when it disappeared.
Several videos apparently filmed in the area, none of which Sky News has been able to independently verify, show plumes of thick, black smoke rising high into the air.
An aviation source told the Reuters news agency the wreckage of a burning aircraft had been found on the ground.
Aviation expert Major Charles Hayman told Sky News: "It's highly likely this aircraft was flying along a fault line between Russian and Ukrainian defences.
"It’s possible the Ukrainians flapped a bit, thought it was hostile and shot it down.
"Perhaps it was confusion at the Ukrainian air defence centre.
"It looks like someone failed to recognise this was a civilian plane and shot it down."
A spokesman for Boeing said it was aware of reports of MH17's disappearance, while a Foreign Office official added: "We're urgently working to establish what has happened."
 Ya Allah! What actually took place?