LAST_UPDATESat, 21 Jul 2018 4pm

Malaysia To Join MH17 Criminal Probe Team

Pic:BernamaPic:BernamaPUTRAJAYA: MALAYSIA will be made a full member of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 criminal investigation team, Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced yesterday.

The prime minister said the country had been invited to play a bigger role in the recovery and investigation of the ill-fated aircraft, believed to have been downed by a missile over eastern Ukraine on July 17.

“We are known to be objective and professional when we participate in international missions, such as under the auspices of the United Nations and so forth.

“So, there is no reason to doubt that when Malaysia becomes a full member of the team, which I expect (we will be), it would be evident that we will play a constructive role,” he said during a joint press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Rutte, who assumed office in 2010, is the first Dutch prime minister to visit Malaysia.

He was here on a one-day official visit to discuss the ongoing probe.

The Dutch government is currently leading the investigation into the MH17 tragedy, which claimed the lives of 283 passengers and 15 crew members, including 193 Dutch nationals, 44 Malaysians and 27 Australians.

In July, the Dutch and Ukrainian authorities agreed that the bulk of the operations would be carried out by the Netherlands, with assistance from countries whose citizens were on board the flight.

Malaysia had repeatedly asked to be part of the joint investigation team, currently comprising investigators from the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine.

Najib said Malaysia would work closely with the Netherlands and Australia to fulfil their three common objectives, namely, recovering the remains and personal belongings of those on board the flight, conducting a thorough investigation and bringing those responsible for the crash to justice.

“Our priority is to recover the wreckage so that a final report (on the incident) can be issued.

“We have to ascertain what truly happened to the plane beyond any doubt whatsoever. We have preliminary knowledge, but that knowledge has to be backed by solid forensic evidence.

“We are deeply committed to bringing the perpetrators to justice and we must do everything to ensure justice is done and seen to be done.”

Meanwhile, Rutte said it was only logical for Malaysia to play a full part in the MH17 criminal probe.

“Malaysia has lost 43 people in this terrible disaster. The plane was carrying the Malaysian flag so it only makes sense that Malaysia play an integral role in the investigation.”

Rutte said the efforts to seek justice for the aircraft’s downing was unlikely to proceed before the International Criminal Court (ICC), with Dutch prosecutors yet to determine which tribunal would be the most appropriate.

“Well, It seems that the ICC is not best suited for the follow up to this type of disaster.

“What we now have to do is, through the probe by the independent Dutch safety board, to exactly understand what happened. The public prosecutors have to follow on from this and then it has to be decided at exactly which court (the prosecution) should take place,” he said.

He stressed that the Dutch investigators and recovery team will be taking would take every and and every opportunity to go get to the crash site, despite the difficulties in reaching the area, currently controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Last week, he said a small team had been allowed to enter the crash site, where they discovered recovered more remains of those on board. The remains of the victims will be transferred to the Netherlands where they will be accorded full ceremonial honours.

Rutte expressed his appreciation for Malaysia’s cooperation in the ongoing operations, adding that the tragedy had “left deep wounds in the societies affected”.

He also took the opportunity to extended his sympathies to the families of the passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared en route to Beijing last on March 8.

He said a Dutch company was taking part in the search for the aircraft and expressed hope that the families will soon find receive closure.

“Following the MH370 tragedy, the downing of flight MH17 was Malaysia’s second air disaster in a short space of time. As a result, a large number of many families have been living for many months in agony and uncertainty about what exactly happened to their loved ones.

“I truly, truly hope that the search will eventually provide the next of kin with the certainty they need.”

The press conference was held following a private meeting between Rutte and Najib, and a meeting between Dutch officials and the Malaysians involved in the MH17 operations.

In his statement, Najib said he had exchanged views with Rutte on various bilateral matters, noting that two-way trade between the two countries has been growing grown steadily at a rate of 3 three to 10 per cent per annum over the last few years.

He said the Netherlands was Malaysia’s second-largest trading partner in the European Union and one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in Malaysia, with more than RM11 billion invested by Dutch companies last year.

Other matters discussed, he said, included both countries’ mutual concern over the rise of extremism and Malaysia’s holistic approach in dealing with the matter.

“We noted the fact that this is a problem that concerns not only Muslim countries, but also countries with a substantial number of Muslim minorities. We believe that a military solution is only part of the solution. What we need to address are the underlying causes of extremism.”

Najib also thanked Rutte for supporting Malaysia’s successful bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2015-2016 term.

“Rutte’s visit is a clear manifestation that, in grief, there could can be a silver lining. That silver lining is the fact that it has brought our two countries ever closer together.

“We are committed to continuing that strong relationship as we move forward in the context of MH17 and beyond.”

Rutte arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 7.30am before being accorded an official welcoming ceremony at Dataran Perdana here yesterday.

He also attended a luncheon, hosted by Najib and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, at Seri Perdana, the prime minister’s residence here, and later met with the Dutch business community in Kuala Lumpur.